More could be done to achieve the Millennium Development Goals

8 February 2013

CHILD MORTALITYIn 2015 the current global effort in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will come to an end. But the problems that the UN and countries such as Sierra Leone are trying to tackle, will sadly remain intractable.

The expected reduction in the very high incidence of unnecessary deaths, caused by poverty, childhood diseases, adult morbidity and illiteracy is unlikely to be achieved by 2015.

And unless genuine and concerted strategies are put in place to seriously address poverty, corruption and the mismanagement of public funds, both childhood and adult mortality in Sub-Sahara Africa will continue to rise.

With poor health care, illiteracy, hunger and a government that cares very little about the condition of its people, talk of economic development will remain an academic discourse in many Sub-Saharan countries.

But the UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) – Carlos Lopes, believes that the problem of underachievement of the MDGs is due to poor statistical analysis.

Is he right?

The UN Under-Secretary General made an urgent appeal to members of the UN-mandated High Level Panel of Eminent Personalities in Liberia last weekend, on the post-2015 Development Agenda.

He said that any development framework that eventually replaces the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), must pay due attention to the availability and use of viable data.

Cholera Outbreak Guinea 2012According to APO, Mr. Carlos Lopes made a personal, though insightful analysis of why some of the MDG targets could not be fully attained by African countries.

He suggested that the absence of up-to-date data for clear measuring mechanisms, might even have obscured achievements in some countries.

“The success of the post-2015 agenda will hinge on how effectively it tackles the data constraint” that many African countries face.

But Mr. Lopes went further to agree with many critics in saying that these countries could probably have achieved more of the MDG targets, if desired development outcomes had been accompanied by specific means of implementation.

His comments come at the time when the 2015 deadline for the current Millennium Development Goals has led to a flurry of activities, on what the post-2015 development agenda for Africa should look like.

“A successor framework to the MDGs must rectify the current focus on development outcomes without enablers” Mr. Lopes recommended. He explained that this could help to avoid what he likened to someone “identifying a destination without providing a roadmap”.

Filthy freetown 2012He said that although it is important that countries have the latitude to develop their own roadmaps, some generally accepted enablers of development – such as peace and security, institutional strengthening and infrastructure development “can be instrumental in unlocking the binding constraints to development at national and regional levels”.

He called on the Panel Members to take a closer look at the MDGs, as they plan for a new framework, because “the lesson learnt from the MDGs provide a good basis for designing an even more effective development agenda for the future”.

Lopes who has taken every opportunity to stress on the importance of viable data for development planning since he became the Executive Secretary of ECA last September, criticized the failure of MDGs to “anticipate the data challenges associated with monitoring their achievement”.

Freetown Streets becoming rubbsih dump“A number of indicators (of the MDGs) are simply not being monitored due to data limitations and weak institutional capacity for data gathering and analysis”, he said, adding that this had forced countries to use customized targets and indicators to their specific contexts and constraints.

He also pointed to some significant shortfalls of the MDGs, such as their inherent appearance as a-UN-prescribed agenda.

This consistently led to weak ownership, accountability, little or no attention paid to service delivery and quality, as well as over reliance on donor funding for the achievement of most of the goals.

Hillary Clinton with Liberian presidentHowever, Mr. Lopes also revisited some of the successes of the MDGs, such as leveraging economic and political support, framing the policy discourse, informing national development frameworks and influencing global partnerships and development financing.

Earlier, on 31 January 2013 Mr. Emmanuel Nnadozie, Director of the Economic Development and NEPAD Division at ECA, unfolded some of the findings from the African Regional Consultations on the Post 2015 Development Agenda, jointly spearheaded by ECA, in collaboration with the African Union (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

He said that the consultations are pointing toward a development framework that emphasizes economic structural transformation, technological innovation, quality education and a broadened and fast-tracked approach to human development.

lactating motherHe said that the regional consultations showed that “Africa is playing an active role in shaping the post 2015 development agenda, and working towards crafting a unified position on this issue”.

A final continent-wide consultation is planned for Tunis, Tunisia in March of this year to validate the existing Outcome Document that will form the basis of an African Common Position. This will be presented at the 6th Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in Abidjan Cote d’Ivoire in March 2013.

It would be then considered and adopted at the 21st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in May 2013.

The African Union will be presenting whatever ‘Common Position’ emerges, to inform the discussion during the 68th United Nations General Assembly in September 2013.

The High Level Panel of Eminent Persons met in Monrovia from 30 January to 1 February 2013 to provide independent recommendations on what international development framework might succeed the MDGs, after their expiration in 2015.

The meeting was co-chaired by Ms. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia, Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – President of Indonesia, and Mr. David Cameron – Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. 

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