Monitoring the Millennium Development Goals, October 2004
What progress has been made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals? In 2000, world leaders agreed on a set of ambitious targets to reduce poverty and improve living standards by 2015. Are the various parties involved delivering on their parts of the compact? Join Zia Qureshi, lead author of the World Banks Global Monitoring Report, for a live online discussion on Tuesday, October 26th.
And they also include, which is goal eight, the responsibilities of the developed countries in supporting the efforts of developing countries toward development. For instance, through increasing aid, opening of their markets to exports from developing countries and providing debt relief, et cetera.
So, the MDGs, they set out targets for development. At the same time they underline the international dimensions of partnership and effort needed, that all parties, in developing countries and developed countries, need to contribute to this effort.
The same applies, to some extent, to the Middle East, to oil-exporting countries. South Asia is quite interesting. It started off in terms of income and level of development similar to that of several sub-Saharan African countries. But in recent years it has accelerated the pace of development, particularly in India, and so it's better positioned in terms of prospects for achieving some of the goals compared to sub-Saharan Africa.
I think one thing that distinguishes in general countries, regions which have done better compared to those which have performed less well is that countries that have been able to achieve and sustain stronger economic growth have been able to make more rapid progress, which suggests that it pays to improve the policy and institutional environment in which growth can be accelerated and sustained.
So, it's an agenda that cuts across these elements. Precisely which one is more important in the case of a particular country, depends on country situations.
So, this broad agenda at the global level in terms of implementation needs to be translated into country specific agenda through country led and owned development strategies. For instance, in the case of low-income countries, the development strategy and priorities in the development strategy would be set out in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, PRSP, as it is called, which would have the specificities relating to that particular country.
But, in general, the strategy would have all of the elements that are mentioned in this question.
So, the private sector has a key role - the private sector in developing countries, in generating and sustaining growth that would enable these countries to reduce poverty and generate resources with which to scale up the provision of social services.
Another dimension of the role of the private sector is what we touched on earlier: the role of private capital flows from developed countries to developing countries. Foreign direct investment is, of course, very important. That's the largest component of private capital flows to developing countries.
But increasingly another type of flow is becoming important, and that is remittances generated by the private sector, workers moving from developing countries to developed countries and remitting part of their earnings back to their home countries. The latest estimate, as of last year, they were as high as $93 billion, which is second only, in terms of comparison to the amounts of other private capital flows to developing countries, to foreign direct investment.
So, private sector role is central. Private sector role--growth is central to the agenda, and private sector role is essential to growth.
So, in making this determination about the feasibility of achieving these goals, population growth trends are taken into account.
The second point, which I wanted to make in this regard is that the policy agenda includes interventions relating to family planning. The specifics of that again would vary from country to country, because the situation is different, but family planning related interventionsare part of the agenda, policy agenda, that needs to be followed in different countries.
So, yes, it's part of the effort, and countries themselves are in charge, in the driver's seat as to formulate what needs to be done there, and implemented. Of course, the international community needs to provide support.
The U.N. has its own monitoring effort which covers, of course, the gender related agenda. There is Human Development Report that for some years has had gender as an important focus. There are development indicators regularly monitored by the U.N. which include gender-related indicators.
In specific areas such as education, women's access to education and health services, the specialized agencies of the U.N. do the monitoring, for instance, UNESCO on education, and WHO on health.
So, there is a fairly broad architecture of monitoring that has emerged at the international level for monitoring progress towards the MDGs, and within that the gender-related agenda is extremely important, and that is being covered as part of this overall effort.
Also, with respect to gender, gender is not just one goal, even though it appears specifically in relation to the education goal in the MDGs, but gender issues cut across the whole gamut of development. Addressing gender disparities is important, beyond education, and, in fact, it has implications for growth, it has implications for development more broadly, so this is really a critical, central or crosscutting element of the development agenda.
We at the World Bank are working with our partner agencies, in particular the U.N., in a coordinated international effort to improve the quality of data, and that effort has two elements: One is to step up and coordinate efforts at the international level. This includes the statistics that are gathered by international agencies, U.N., World Bank, and others. Second, importantly, there has been increased emphasis on strengthening capabilities within countries to develop and maintain the necessary data, surveys and other means.
So capacity building within countries with respect to statistics is receiving increased attention. For instance, in the framework of PARIS 21, that acronym stands for Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century, which is a consortium that brings together producers and users of data in order to improve the availability and quality of data.
And also another notable development, there was the second roundtable on managing for results that was held in Marrakesh earlier this year where an international plan was agreed upon by participants to speed up progress on the development of these statistics in countries, in terms of capacity building within countries, and also at the international level. So, while there are major statistical deficiencies that currently exist, they are recognized, and MDGs have helped put the focus on addressing those deficiencies, and I'm hopeful that if the present efforts that are underway are implemented well, we should be able to have better data underpinning the monitoring as we go forward.
So, there is no question as to the importance of goal eight, and it is integral to the MDG agenda.
And the various types of monitoring exercises that have emerged since the adoption of the MDGs do focus or include coverage of MDG8 in addition to other MDGs. For instance, again, our Global Monitoring Report looks at both the policies of developing and developed countries, including what is happening in terms of the major developed country policies that impact on development -- aid, trade, services, migration, et cetera.
So, it may be that some particular chart or table may focus on a subset of MDGs, but the overall monitoring exercise in the U.N. system and at our end here at the Bankfully covers MDG8.
In addition to this monitoring, developed countries themselves, some of them at least, have started monitoring their own actions in how they are contributing to the MDG agenda. Some countries have started preparing goal eight reports, where they would assess on a regular basis how they are performing in relation to the contribution they are expected to make under goal eight. Denmark was the first to produce this year a goal eight report, while several other countries, OECD countries, are now preparing such reports and intend to do that on a regular basis.
And in some countries, notably Sweden recently, there is also an effort being made to look at the coherence of their overall policies in terms of their impact on development, not just aid, but aid, trade, agriculture, migration, environment--the whole range of policies--to see how they support or to ensure their consistency with supporting development and poverty reduction in developing countries.
Sweden, in fact, introduced a law this year which requires that when policy actions are taken in areas that impact on international development such as aid, trade, migration, agriculture, the implications of those policy actions from the standpoint of their impact on global poverty reduction and development be explicitly taken into account. So, there is increased awareness within the developed world now of their responsibilities toward the MDG agenda. That is, their responsibility as envisaged in goal eight.
So, as I see it, there is no question that goal eight is very much part of the agenda. And if there is insufficient progress on goal eight, then we will fail in the objective to make adequate progress towards these goals.
There, the priority areas are those of trade and aid, opening up of market access and increasing aid and providing it in forms that are responsive to recipients' needs, and there, as this monitoring effort progresses, better measures are being developed to track progress in those priority areas. For instance, in the first Global Monitoring Report, we have developed some indicators relating to measuring the stance of trade policies in rich countries and aid policies, indicators that we should be able to monitor as we go forward, indicators that are more comprehensive than we had before or indicators that capture some dimensions of these policies which previously we could not -- which we were not capturing in a quantified way. For instance, with respect to trade, the Global Monitoring Report presents an indicator which includes not just tariffs, but also nontariff barriers, quantitative restrictions, and domestic subsidies. It captures all of these interventions into one indicator, whereas traditionally people would just look at the average tariff level, which is only one of the types of trade policy interventions that affect developing countries. So, there is a more comprehensive indicator of trade policy that would help us monitor progress there.
Similarly, with respect to aid, for instance, in addition to just measures of the amount of aid, the dollar amounts, we are trying to capture some aspects of the quality of aid because that's important for the effectiveness of aid. So, the first report presented an aid selectivity index which aims to capture to what extent aid is provided to countries which are in a better position to make effective use of those resources in terms of their policies and governance, and also whether aid is going more to poorer countries than to better-off countries in the developing world. In the U.N. system and other agencies also there is an increased effort to monitor developments in these policy areas in rich countries.
And finally, there are other major international discussions or negotiations that are going on which help to keep the focus on these policy areas -- with respect to trade, the Doha Round, and with respect to aid, the various discussions in the context of OECD DAC, such as the Rome forum in 2003 and the upcoming forum in Paris in March 2005.
So, these ongoing international negotiations or discussions at different fora are extremely useful in keeping the focus on action in these critical areas.
Now, in terms of implementation of the agenda for development, that, of course, has to be tailored to individual country circumstances. While there is agreement at the international level that we need to speed up efforts to reduce poverty, to reduce other forms of human deprivation, how that is done, at what speed, what the priorities should be in policies, what the right sequencing should be, that, of course is tailored to individual country circumstances. The countries themselves are in the lead, and that's the only way it can be done--it's up to the countries themselves. Low-income countries reflect this agenda in their Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), as to how they would go about policy reforms, investments, improvements in governance, et cetera that are needed to make progress, at what speed, because the sequencing could vary from country to country, and what particular support is needed in terms of support from partners in developed countries.
So, those specific dimensions of what needs to be done at the country level are determined, led and owned by countries themselves. That is not imposed at the international level. That is and should be--must be homegrown if that is to be effective.
So, it is a misconception to look upon MDGs as donor-driven agenda or a framework or a strategy that is kind of one-size-fits-all type of thing. It isn't. How these countries approach policies and priorities is up to them, through their own efforts, and I think in that context, the PRSPs play a very important role, which are country-owned-and-led strategies for development. And it may be that awareness about the MDGs and their role is still lacking in some parts of the world, so there is a role for all of us to disseminate that information better.
In the U.N., there is the Millennium Campaign, which has precisely this objective: to make people aware of MDGs, what they are, what their role is, and then link this to the country level, because implementation can only take place at the country level and can only be effective if it is actually owned by countries themselves.
So, in every aspect of the Bank's engagement with its client countries today, governance is an integral element.
And that also applies to some other large middle-income countries such as Brazil, or Mexico in the southern states, and that's a very important point, that is, the MDGs are not relevant only to low-income countries. There remains a sizable outstanding development agenda in middle-income countries in terms of large segments of populations or regions that remain poor, and China is an example of that.
Since we are talking about China, another point to note is that while China, at the national level, has met the poverty MDG, it may not be able to achieve some of the other MDGs, even at the national level. There are questions as to whether it would meet some of the health-related MDGs even at the national level. It is important to bear such differences in mind when we look at the big picture and see what's happening at the global and regional levels with respect to prospects for achieving the MDGs. It's important to keep in mind that the diversity extends much beyond regional and country levels to areas within countries and also across MDGs for the same country.
Now, again, the specific needs and priorities in the case of Nepal would vary from those in other countries. But the essential elements of the agenda, in my view, would still hold--the need to improve the environment for economic growth in terms of policies and institutions that are conducive to economic growth and poverty reduction; the agenda relating to improving the delivery of human development and related key services, especially to poor people; and the importance of more and more effective aid and better opportunities for trade--these are some of the major elements of the development agenda that would extend to countries such as Nepal as well.
Now, within that, of course, Nepal would have to determine its own priorities, and how policies and various interventions need to be sequenced. But I think if there is a credible international effort towards the development goals, including support from the rich countries, if that happens, countries such as Nepal stand to gain from that coordinated international development effort.
So, that discussion is very practical, very concrete in terms of what needs to happen on the ground in developing countries themselves and in developed countries in terms of the support they need to provide.
In developing countries, for instance, in low-income countries, PRSPs are being used as a vehicle to strengthen policies and priorities for moving on that agenda. At the international level, the discussions focus on concrete actions in terms of support, concrete actions by rich countries to improve the international environment for developing countries through aid and trade. There are concrete discussions on trade in the context of the Doha Round, concrete discussions in the context of OECD DAC on increasing aid, and improving the modalities for providing aid to make it more effective. So, MDGs provide the motivation, but the focus of the discussion is really on actions by all parties in support of the development effort, on actions toward those goals in terms of policies and institutions and other interventions that are needed. It's really moving toward concrete agenda.
Also, over the past few years we have seen increased attention being paid to achieving results on the ground in countries. Here at the Bank and at partner agencies there is much more focus on managing for results, on the results orientation of support provided tor countries, both in planning the interventions and monitoring their impact to see whether they have the desired impact in terms of results. So, again, if there is a misconception that MDGs is more talk and discussion at various international fora but lacking in concrete action or attention to concrete actions, that needs to be corrected. The objective of all of this effort motivated by MDGs is really to make progress through concrete actions and results.
So, one thing that stands out and cuts across countries in terms of the development agenda is really the need to improve the quality and capacity of institutions. The precise manifestation of the institutional agenda will, of course, vary from country to country.
On the side of developed countries, as I said earlier, there are a whole range of rich country policies that impact on development in poor countries, and it's important to ensure coherence across those policies. But the two areas that are really key are trade and aid. A timely and pro-development outcome to the Doha Round is critically important, as is the agenda to increase ODA and at the same time provide ODA in forms that can be used more effectively by recipient countries. So trade and aid-related elements of the agenda stand out with respect to rich country policies.
Thank you all for participating in the discussion!