In these last five years before 2015, we need political support and accountability to meet the MDGs.
Do you remember where you were when the bells rang in the new millennium? I was in Egypt at the Temple of the Oracle in the Siwa Oasis seeking wishes and wisdom!
Of course, as well as being a time of personal celebrations and resolutions, the new millennium brought with it the chance to put a line in the sand, to mark a new beginning and set some larger-scale resolutions for a better world. For us, in the world of development, these took the form of the Millennium Development Goals. Ten years on, it’s time to take stock.
A turning point on poverty
The recent Department for International Development conference on MDG progress captured a powerful sense of optimism and confidence that the MDGs can be met – I didn’t hear a single delegate say ‘this isn’t possible’. We know the MDGs can be met and we know how to do it. Developing countries – supported by the international community – have made great strides over the past ten years towards meeting the MDGs. What we need now in the last five years is political support and accountability.
This is a critical year – what DFID has called a turning point on poverty. We are only five years away from 2015, the target date for achieving the MDGs; and the international community will come together at the UN MDG Summit in September. The summit is the international community’s opportunity to take stock of progress and seek to agree a Global Development Action Plan to deliver the MDGs by 2015.
However, a key message from our conference delegates was that business as usual will not do. There are new challenges and opportunities that we have to address in the way we do business and work towards the MDGs in the next five years. We know we must address the challenge of conflict and climate change, the economic crisis and empowering women.
A strong position
We are in a strong position to do this. We have accumulated so much evidence over the past ten years about what is working and what is not, and the underlying reasons that affect success on the MDGs. In many ways, we have never been better equipped to catalyse change and to support developing countries in providing basic services to ordinary people across the world.
We know that strong and consistent political leadership is common to most development success stories. Examples of how political leadership has helped deliver progress on the MDGs includes President Mogae’s role in delivering action on HIV and AIDS in Botswana and the government of Ghana’s announcement of free health care for pregnant women. Just a few months later, more than 430,000 expectant mothers had registered to claim their new rights.
A changing world
Yet the world that we live in is changing fast. We are increasingly aware of the impact of a set of new challenges that affect our ability to achieve the MDGs. We are emerging from a global economic crisis, and climate change risks are reversing hard won development gains. We now have a better understanding of the importance of resilient economic growth and a better understanding of the challenges of achieving development in fragile and conflict-affected countries.
Conflict has a huge impact on MDG progress as it escalates the disparities between rich and poor, reverses economic growth weakens institutions and fragments communities. Twenty-two out of the 34 countries furthest from reaching the MDGs are in or emerging from conflict. Only 14 per cent of fragile countries are on track to achieve the maternal health MDG; and only 17 per cent of fragile countries are on track to achieve the HIV and AIDS MDG.
Shifts are occurring across the international landscape, including the emergence of the G20, new donors, delivery partners and technologies which affect the way we do business.
A last push
In an interdependent world, aid remains a hugely important part of the equation, yet we need to find ways to ensure that our actions are underpinned by principles to shape what happens between now and 2015 – accountability, innovation, fairness and resilience. Actions must be underpinned by a much stronger commitment to transparency and accountability for all – development agencies, developing country governments, the business community, NGOs and foundations.
Poor people in poor communities need to be able to hold local, national and international bodies to account for what is delivered in their name and have a voice to demand the changes which can better benefit them and their families. Lasting improvements to people’s lives involves undertaking long-term work to reduce vulnerability to both natural and man-made shocks.
These last five years before 2015 represent the difficult ‘last mile’ – we have come a long way but this last mile may well be the toughest. We risk a plateau in progress unless we accelerate our efforts – something I am confident we can and must do.