Achieve the MDGs, a better life for billions of people

Achieve the MDGs, a better life for billions of people

By Helen Clark

For those living in poverty, the Millennium Development Goals have never been abstract goals or mere aspirations, but are the path to a better life. In short, progress towards the Millennium Development Goals is an important milestone in our quest for a more just and peaceful world.

(NY) In less than 100 days, world leaders will meet in New York for a special Millennium Development Goals Review Summit ( The path set at this Summit will help determine the direction that progress towards the Goals will take.

For those living in poverty, the Millennium Development Goals have never been abstract goals or mere aspirations, but have been a path to a better life: a life with access to adequate food and income, basic services education and health, drinking water and sanitation services, and the empowerment of women. In short, progress towards the Millennium Development Goals is an important milestone in our quest for a more just and peaceful world.

So the stakes are high. In September 2010, the goal that world leaders should strive to achieve during the Summit is to agree on a concrete program of action that can lead us successfully to 2015.

There are a number of tried and tested policies capable of ensuring progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. If these policies are supported by strong global partnerships, the world can achieve the Goals.

International assessment

"To accelerate and sustain progress, development strategies must be locally controlled and must be based on a broad national consensus"

Based on a series of studies conducted in 50 countries, including more than 30 in-depth studies specially commissioned for this purpose, the UNDP Evaluation identifies what has worked in achieving the MDGs and highlights the common problems that hamper progress, both nationally and internationally.

Based on this analysis, we propose an eight-point program of action to accelerate and sustain progress towards the Millennium Development Goals to be achieved in the next five years.

We hope that this evidence and this agenda to accelerate the pace towards the Goals will positively influence the outcomes of the Millennium Development Goals summit in New York in September 2010.

While any action program must be tailored to the unique context of each country, our analysis and experience to date allow us to highlight eight common areas and opportunities for priority action.

Support country-led development

"Boosting agricultural production can reduce poverty and improve food security at the same time"

To accelerate and sustain progress, development strategies must be locally controlled and must be based on a broad national consensus. This is much easier when a country's institutions are accountable, responsive, and have the capacity to implement policies and programs related to the Millennium Development Goals.

Albania, for example, approved an additional Goal, Goal 9, to strengthen good governance and improve accountability. This implies reforming state systems of public administration, legislation and policies to improve their functioning and obtain development results.

Development partners can help by supporting inclusive development planning that reflects the perspectives of the poor and marginalized; and also supporting the strengthening of local and national capacities needed to mobilize resources, deliver services and make evidence-based policy decisions.

Inclusive economic growth

Evidence indicates that the rapid reduction in poverty and hunger is the result of economic growth that creates jobs and focuses specifically on agriculture in countries where large numbers of people live off the land. A fair distribution of income, assets and opportunities also helps.

"Measures must be implemented to reduce the burden of domestic activities and free women to generate income"

In the developing world, 2.5 billion people depend on agriculture for a living. Boosting agricultural production can reduce poverty and improve food security at the same time. To be more productive, farmers need fertilizers, seeds, extension services, guarantees regarding land rights, and access to markets.

Ghana is a good example of what has worked in this area. This country has managed, through a nationwide fertilizer subsidy program, to increase its food production by 40%. This initiative has contributed to the 9% hunger reduction in Ghana between 2003 and 2005.

Increasing agricultural production also requires improvements in rural infrastructure. It would also help if the global series of trade talks ended in a way that was favorable to poor people and poor countries.

In recent decades there has been a drastic reduction in the share of official development assistance for the agricultural sector. However, the agreement reached by the Group of Eight in L’Aquila in 2008 to invest in global food security was a very positive step in curbing that trend. Now it is imperative that the associates fulfill the commitments assumed in L’Aquila in a timely manner.

Improve opportunities for girls and women

This will be a determining factor for the advancement of all the Millennium Development Goals. Evidence shows, for example, that children born to women with some form of school education are more likely to survive their fifth birthday, receive adequate nutrition, and be immunized and enrolled in school.

For example, in Vietnam, a country that I have recently visited, the children of mothers with primary education have a mortality rate of 27 deaths per 1,000 live births, while for those whose mothers lack education the rate rises to 66 deaths per 1,000 .

The empowerment of women and girls should be a top priority and should include measures that reduce the burden of domestic activities and free up women to generate income, care for their children, and send their daughters to the home. school, in addition to offering them greater political autonomy.

Some countries are addressing the latter issue by introducing constitutional quotas for women. One noteworthy case is Rwanda, which has the highest proportion of women parliamentarians in the world: more than 50% of elected officials in the Chamber of Deputies and 35% in the Senate are women. In addition, women make up 36% of the Cabinet of Rwanda.

Increase investments in health and education

Rapid improvements have been made in the fields of education and health care in countries where there has been adequate public investment accompanied by the elimination of user fees. Countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, Nepal and the United Republic of Tanzania, for example, experienced strong increases in primary school enrollment after the elimination of user fees.

New global partnerships have increased mass immunization, the distribution of bed nets and antiretroviral drugs for people living with HIV / AIDS, and specialized assistance in childbirth.

For example, between 2000 and 2008, 700 million children were vaccinated against measles worldwide, reducing mortality by 68% during the same period.

We know that these interventions work. What we need now is a concerted effort to put them into practice and ensure sustained results, even in times of economic recession.

Expand social protection and employment programs

The cash transfer programs Bolsa Familia in Brazil and Oportunidades in Mexico have increased enrollment and school attendance rates, as well as reducing child labor. Their successes in education were achieved with the help of cash incentives for enrolling children in school.

Rather than being seen as a drain on the national budget, social protection should be seen as a critical investment to build resilience to face current and future crises, and to preserve hard-won development gains.

Expand access to clean energy

Expanding access to energy has a multiplier effect on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. It increases productivity, reduces pollution-related deaths, brings lighting to homes, schools, and hospitals, and frees women and girls from time-consuming household chores like grinding grain.

Expanding access to energy in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Senegal has created income-generating opportunities for women, thus reducing the time they spend collecting firewood or fetching water, and other household chores.

In an age of carbon constraints, growth based on reducing the carbon footprint is also vital for all countries. To achieve this, it is essential to reach a climate agreement that generates significant funding for low-carbon development and energy solutions. We must not allow this issue to be removed from the international priority list.

Mobilization of national resources

Improving national resource mobilization is essential to accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, whether through improved tax collection, broadening the tax base or through other innovative methods.

Resources also need to be well spent. Countries should periodically evaluate and adjust their budgets to get the most out of their investment of public money.

Commitment of the international community

The international community must honor its commitments to provide development assistance, as well as to improve aid predictability and effectiveness.

Predictable, targeted assistance will act as a catalyst to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and help countries build the capacities and programs they need to attract private investment and likely new sources of finance to tackle climate change.

The gap between development assistance planned for 2010 and that promised at the Gleneagles meeting of the Group of Eight in 2005 amounts to about 0.05% of the sum of gross national income of developed countries in 2010. This gap can and should be reduced, even in these difficult times. Some countries are meeting their commitments, but others are not.

UNDP and the acceleration framework

We trust that Member States negotiating the conclusions of the Millennium Development Goals summit will agree on a program of action that reflects the evidence of what works and includes bold initiatives in the eight priority areas identified in the International Assessment.

UNDP country teams are currently testing a Millennium Development Goals accelerator tool to complement this evaluation report. This plan can help governments, United Nations country teams and other development partners to identify where the real obstacles to progress lie and which policies could be most effective in overcoming them.

During my first year at UNDP, I have been very impressed by the ambition of people throughout the developing world to transform their perspectives.

It is important to celebrate the achievement of the Goals. For example, the United Republic of Tanzania has been able to increase its enrollment rate well above 90% since 1991; South Africa has halved the percentage of people without access to safe water, poverty rates have fallen by half in Egypt since 1999, and Bangladesh has reduced the maternal mortality rate relative to the live birth rate by 22 % Since 1990.

Delivering on the promise of the MDGs

Thus, progress has been made since the Millennium Development Goals were announced a decade ago, but that progress has been uneven across the Goals and across regions and nations. If we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, 2010 must be the starting point for five years of accelerated progress.

It is true that the global recession, the food and energy crises and the challenges of climate change and natural disasters in general have complicated the road to 2015. But these obstacles will not prevent us from achieving the Millennium Development Goals if we all decide together that we want to achieve them .

We must not miss out on opportunities to move forward now by limiting our ambition and throwing our heads in despair in the face of obstacles. Stronger global partnerships can accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Achieving the Goals means offering a better life to billions of people. The decisions our countries, communities and organizations make are essential to fulfilling the promise of the MDGs.

Written by Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Program - June 24, 2010 - Spain-UNDP Fund


Visit the website of the “Hit Poverty” campaign, with UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors Didier Drogba and Zinedine Zidane.

Read an executive summary of the International Assessment What does it take to achieve the MDGs?

Read International Assessment What is needed to achieve the MDGs? (in English).

Video: Global Voices - Whats so different about the Global Goals? (June 2021).