Evolution of the MDGs: Progress and Problems (including MDG8) - Professor Terry McKinley, SOAS Wed, 2009-06-24 02:09

This presentation covered three areas: 1) a short history of the MDGs and their rationale, 2) progress on MDG8 (ODA, debt relief and access to markets), and 3) current challenges in light of the financial crisis and the projected economic downturn.

The MDG framework adopts a broad human development approach that has set ambitious targets that are attainable. But progress on MDG8 has not been sufficient to help attain these targets. ODA has faltered and fallen in 2006-2007, implying that it would have to be dramatically scaled up to reach 2010 targets. While there has been significant progress on debt relief, many countries remain at risk of falling back into debt distress, especially in light of the current crisis. And there has been only negligible progress on widening developing-country access to rich-country markets. The support that rich countries provide to their agricultural sector each year is more than three time higher than the ODA that they provide to developing countries. In the face of financial crisis and an impending global slowdown, progress on the MDGs will obviously become more difficult. While Asia is likely to continue growing (though more slowly), regions, such as Latin America, that are tied closely to the US economy will suffer and Africa will be the hardest hit. We have to continue the focus on Africa and emphasise achievable goals, such as further debt relief and the removal of agricultural subsidies. ODA has to be become more coordinated and effective and exploit the synergies in adopting an integrated cross-sectoral approach.

Read on to read a full report of the presentation.
Evolution of the Millennium Development Goals: Progress and Problems

Professor Terry McKinley, Director of the Centre for Development Policy and Research of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), broadly praised the MDG framework at LIDC’s conference on 5 November. He also highlighted criticisms and warned of turbulent economic conditions ahead during the event at Birkbeck entitled No Goals at Half-time: What Next for the MDGs? His insights were particularly relevant given his previous work with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – the lead agency within the UN working on the MDGs. McKinley was formerly the Director of the International Poverty Centre in Brasilia, a joint project of the Brazilian Government and UNDP, and a global UNDP Advisor on Economic Policies and Poverty Reduction.

Creation of the MDGs
His talk set out the rationale of the MDGs, which were created by a UN working group following the UN Millennium Summit held in 2000 in New York. The eight MDGs were eventually formulated as 21 targets measured by 60 indicators. The targets are due to be achieved by 2015 and are judged against baseline data from 1990.

McKinley referred to the MDG framework as a “global social compact based on mutual accountability” from both developing and developed countries. He said the strengths of the MDG campaign include its broad human development approach, which targets health, education and gender equity, among other targets, and its promotion of the neglected role of the public sector and public investment. However, he also flagged up the limitations of the MDG approach, which emphasises a ‘Big Push’ money-centric development strategy financed by Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) rather than an understanding of wider macro-economic issues, such as structural adjustment. He said another criticism concerns the tendency to concentrate on quick-wins, such as bed-nets against malaria. McKinley dismissed the idea that the MDG targets are too ambitious and emphasised that they are increasingly challenging because of slow progress in the 1990s and especially now because of the current global economic downturn.

MDG8: A global partnership for development

McKinley continued by assessing progress on MDG8, which calls for a global partnership for development, including more generous ODA, overcoming debt problems and better market access for developing countries. However, he showed how aid dropped in 2006 and 2007 and said it will have to increase by $13 billion a year to account for earlier shortfalls. A striking graph also demonstrated how rich-world agricultural subsidies were more than 3.5 times larger in 2006 ($372 billion) than ODA ($104 billion). A more encouraging picture emerged regarding debt relief, where “important progress” has been made. But he warned that the current economic downturn threatens to derail these advances.

Economic downturn
McKinley stressed the far-reaching negative impact of the global financial crisis for the MDG campaign. He referred to his recent work on a world macro-economic model which, assuming recession in developed countries, estimates that the economies of low-income oil-importing sub-Saharan African countries will shrink by 1.2 per cent per year until 2015. McKinley also warned against the developed world using the current difficulties as an excuse to break their aid commitments. He said: “Unfortunately we are going into an economic downturn the duration and depth of which we don’t know”. His recommendations during these challenging times included maintaining a focus on sub-Saharan Africa and adopting “win-win” approaches, such as accelerating debt relief and reducing agricultural support in the developed world.
Professor Terry McKinley is the Director of the Centre for Development Policy and Research (CDPR) at SOAS. He was formerly the Director of the International Poverty Centre in Brasilia, a joint project of the Brazilian Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and a global UNDP Advisor on Economic Policies and Poverty Reduction. His interests include economic growth, human development, employment, inequality and poverty. His wide-ranging expertise draws on experiences of many transition and developing economies, including China, South Africa, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

By Guy Collender, Communications Officer, LIDC