MDGs Suffer From Experimentation

A SENIOR United Nations official has said the failure by many African countries to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) can be attributed to lack of precedent, which led to experimentation as well as to over-reliance on external support.

Ambassador Musinga Bandora, the United Nations resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative in Namibia made this observation while delivering a public lecture at the University of Namibia (Unam) on Tuesday.

The public lecture was one of a series planned by Unam through its faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences to stimulate discussion around socioeconomic and other issues.

The topic of the lecture was “From MDGs to Sustainable Development Goals of the New Post 2015 Development Agenda: Process and Prospects for Africa and Namibia – Making the New Agenda Work.”

UN member states adopted the current eight MDGs in 2000, primarily to eradicate extreme poverty, but with only months before the deadline of the MDGs, there is a general consensus among experts that for many countries, especially in the developing world, that noble goal remains elusive.

Bandora said there was evidence that, since the MDGs were introduced without precedent, they suffered from ‘experimentation’, which may have jinxed their successful implementation. Yet all is not lost because in many countries, he said, things were a lot better than they were before the MDGs were adopted.

Quoting a report produced by the United Nations’ High Level Panel appointed by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in July 2012, Bandora said that MDGs had made a remarkable difference to humanity and transformed lives.

“Overall, progress and achievements of the MDGs in Africa have been mixed, not just across goals, but also across countries and even within countries,” the career diplomat told his audience.

Citing the 2013 Africa MDG Report, he said Africa was on track toward achieving four of the MDGs: universal primary education gender equality and empowering women combating HIV-Aids, TB, Malaria and other diseases and strengthening global partnership for development.

Turning to Namibia’s performance, Bandora said the country was on course to meet most the MDGs, albeit partially. Specifically, the country has done remarkably well in reducing poverty achieving universal primary education bringing about gender equity and empowering women addressing HIV-Aids, TB, Malaria and other diseases promoting environmental sustainability and developing global partnerships for development.

“(Namibia) is not likely to achieve the child mortality and maternal health targets,” he observed.

The 2013 Africa MDG report that Bandora cited is unequivocal in stating that there has been a mismatch between poverty reduction and economic growth on the continent and that although some African countries have achieved universal access to primary education, the quality of that education remains cause for concern.

There was also evidence that some countries, including Namibia, that made remarkable progress toward meeting MDGs have done so through chanelling domestic resources toward implementation rather than relying on external or donor support.

Bandora explained that following a series of consultations led by the United Nations, 17 new sustainable goals with 169 targets have been developed for implementation in what is been touted as the post 2015 Agenda. Like the MDGs, the proposed new goals have a 15 year time line.

Although there seems to be agreement over the proposed new goals, discussions are ongoing around sticky issues that include the rule of law, sexual and reproductive health rights, climate change and subsidies for fossil fuel.

While acknowledging that the new goals may appear many and even overambitious, Bandora said they present governments with an opportunity to choose well and focus even as the world citizens demand boldness and ambition.

“Whatever compromise emerges, the challenge for Africa is to sustain active engagement and ensure that these negotiations culminate in a lean agenda – one focusing on the most catalytic areas to its development,” he said.

Calling for introspection, Bandora said Namibia and Africa must draw lessons from implementing the current MDGs if they are to be successful in implementing the new goals.

“Evaluations of the MDGs have pointed out several shortcomings and lessons… There was inadequate analysis and justification behind some of the chosen goals… MDGs were adopted by governments without consulting with the people and in the main, the goals remained marginal and not integrated into national development plans.”

Additionally, Namibia and the continent must redouble efforts to eradicate poverty, tackle inequality and exclusion and address unemployment among the youth, which he said was a ticking time bomb that could undermine the proposed new agenda.

“Equally, addressing gender inequality, investing in women’s empowerment, providing equal and accessible education for girls will impact positively on the new agenda… The spirit of consultations that characterised the development of the new agenda must be embedded into its implementation,” he aised.

At continental level, there was need to achieve and sustain high economic growth rates and take aantage of the new opportunities in globalisation for implementing the new agenda.

“Africa’s overriding growth objective should be to wean itself over dependence. In its 2014 Africa Transformation Report, the African Centre for Economic Transformation underscores that African economies need more than just growth if they are to transform. They need to grow with ‘depth’: diversify, make exports competitive, increase agricultural productivity, invest in technology, innovate and improve human capital.”

Noting that Africa was emerging as the new frontier for massive natural resources, Bandora called for political prudence and skills for managing those resources for the benefit of the continents’ citizens.

“Africa should ensure that these resources become a blessing and not a curse, as we have seen in the past. Only then can Africa effectively leverage internal resources to implement the new agenda with the political independence and autonomy of action that financial capacity engenders.”

While acknowledging that Africa was still far from being able to go it alone and might continue to require donor assistance, Bandora called for the proper coordination of donors to avoid duplication. There is also need to promote public private partnerships on the continent, as well as to reinvigorate the pace of regional integration.

“Fifty three African countries acting individually lack the critical mass to be meaningful players on the global scene. Africa needs to partner, interact and trade more. Bandora aanced the thesis that the new proposed post 2015 goals can best be implemented with deeper political commitments to promoting good governance, peace and security on the continent.

“Giving parliaments, civil society, and media space to freely exercise their oversight, aocacy and public accountability roles must continue to form part of that political agenda,” he said, adding that efforts to resolve conflicts should be intensified.

He called for tact in managing diversity and noted that political “rigidity and marginalisation, ethnicity and religious intolerance,” were wreaking havoc on the continent.

With many African countries facing a critical shortage of human resources for development, Bandora said there was need for the continent to strengthen its institutions and systems, raise people with the right skills and in sufficient numbers to push the post 2015 agenda.

“Investing in education and skill, in building capacity of state institutions and systems to oversee the implementation must be part of the gender itself.”

Scores of people, who included UNAM students, professors and lecturers, members of the United Nations family in Namibia, as well as members of the diplomatic community attended the lecture.

Source : The Namibian