Friday, December 28, 2007

A dim light on MDGs

A dim light on MDGs
By Editor
Friday December 28, 2007 [03:00]

We are now almost at the mid-point of the 15-year period in which to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). And as we approach this mid-point, data are now becoming available that provide an indication of progress during the first third of this 15-year period. The results are, predictably, uneven in many areas of these Millennium Development Goals. It cannot be denied that since 2000, when world leaders endorsed the Millennium Declaration, we have seen some visible gains here and there, even in areas where the challenges are greatest.

These small achievements demonstrate that success is possible but that the Millennium Development Goals will be attained only if concerted additional action is taken immediately and sustained until 2015. All stakeholders need to fulfill, in their entirety, the commitment they made in the Millennium Declaration and subsequent pronouncements.

These results, these limited achievements highlight how much remains to be done and how much more could be accomplished if all concerned lived up fully to the commitments they have already made.

More generally, the lack of employment for young people, gender inequalities, rapid and unplanned urbanisation and high HIV prevalence are pervasive obstacles. We still have a lot of challenges that have to be addressed.

We still have unacceptably high numbers of women dying each year from treatable and preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth. If current trends continue, the target of halving the proportion of underweight children will be missed, largely because of slow progress in this area. We are still losing many of our people from AIDS, and prevention measures are failing to keep pace with the growth of the epidemic.

A large percentage of our population lacks basic sanitation. In order to meet the Millennium Development Goals target, an additional large number of our people will need access to improved sanitation over the period 2008 to 2015. If the current trends continue, we are likely to miss the target.

And to some extent, these situations reflect the fact that the benefit of economic growth in our country have been unequally shared. As Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection director Fr Pete Henriot has correctly observed, the economic growth and single digit inflation our government talks about has only benefited the government, investors and not the ordinary Zambians. We have failed to provide employment opportunities to our youths.

In order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, we will need to mobilise additional resources and target public investment that benefits the poor.

Clearly, achieving these goals is possible and rapid and large-scale progress is feasible. But this progress is only possible when strong government leadership is in place and appropriate policies and strategies that effectively target the needs of the poor are combined with adequate financial and technical support from the international community.

And during the mid-point year, the international community needs to support the preparation of these strategies and to accelerate implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. In general, strategies should adopt a wide-ranging approach that seeks to achieve pro-poor economic growth, including through the creation of a large number of opportunities for decent work.

This, in turn, will require comprehensive programmes for human development, particularly on education and health, as well as building productive capacity and improved physical infrastructure. And enhanced public accountability is necessary to support all these efforts.

Success in achieving the Millennium Development Goals cannot be achieved by us alone without the assistance and cooperation of developed countries. Developed countries need to deliver fully on long-standing commitments to achieve the official development assistance target of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income by 2015.

It requires, in particular, the Group of Eight industrial nations to live up to their 2005 pledge to double aid to our countries by 2010 and the European Union member states to allocate 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income to official development assistance by 2015.

Aid has to be improved by ensuring that assistance is aligned with the policies we have adopted, and that flows are continuous, predictable and assured and not tied to all sorts of things with continually shifting goalposts.

We say all this because since their adoption by all United Nations member states in 2000, the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals have become a universal framework for development and a means for developing countries and their development partners to work together in pursuit of a shared future for all.

And as we have already pointed out, there have been some gains, and success is still possible in many areas. But all these also point to how much remains to be done. There is a clear need for our political leaders to take urgent and concerted action, or the great majority of our people will not realise the basic promises of the Millennium Development Goals in their lives.

The Millennium Development Goals are still achievable if we act now. This will require inclusive sound governance, increased public investment economic growth, enhanced productive capacity, and the creation of decent work.

The successes we have recorded so far in some areas, demonstrate that rapid and large-scale progress towards the Millennium Development Goals is feasible if we combine strong government leadership, food policies and practical strategies for scaling up public investments in vital areas with adequate financial and technical support from the international community.

To achieve the goals, we need to own the strategies and our budgets must be aligned with them. This must be backed up by adequate financing within the global partnership for development and its framework for mutual accountability.

We don’t need new promises anymore. It is imperative that all stakeholders meet, in their entirety, the commitments already made in the Millennium Declaration, the 2002 Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development, and the 2005 World Summit.

Clearly, Zambia needs to put more effort in improving social amenities if we are to attain the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. At the rate we are going, it is not possible and this is worrisome. If things can be improved now, then we will see an indicator for attaining the Millennium Development Goals.



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