Monitoring the Millennium Development Goals, October 2004

This page in

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 Bank’s Global Monitoring Report, for a live online discussion on Tuesday, October 26th.

For more information:
Read more about the Global Monitoring Report
Purchase the Global Monitoring Report
Millennium Development Goals - official site

Margaret Tobin:
What exactly are the millennium development goals?
Zia Qureshi:
Millennium Development Goals flow from the Millennium Declaration, which was signed by 189 countries in the year 2000, and they include eight goals and 18 targets, and they aim at the reduction of poverty and other forms of human deprivation in the developing world. So there are targets and goals relating to poverty reduction, improvement of social services, to reduce child and maternal mortality, improve access to education and other basic needs such as water and sanitation.

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.

Marcel Howat:
Which countries or regions have made the most progress towards the MDGs? Which have made the least progress?
Zia Qureshi:
Well, the picture with respect to where countries stand in relation to the MDGs and the targets varies quite a bit from region to region, and within one region, from country to country. Broadly, the region that has made the least progress overall is sub-Saharan Africa, and the region that has made the most rapid progress is East Asia. And in between there are regions at different stages. Some regions started off at a higher level of development, for instance, Latin America and the Caribbean. In their case, the task is of a different nature because of different levels of development compared to where regions, such as Africa, started from.

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.

Marcel Howat:
What's the most important factor in making progress towards the goals - government policy? Development assistance? FDI? Or something else?
Zia Qureshi:
The priorities in the agenda vary from country to country, depending on country circumstances, initial conditions. In general, the strategy would include elements of all of these, and that's the kind of agenda that is presented in the Global Monitoring Report, that there are improvements in policies and governance that are needed in developing countries themselves, to improve the environment for growth, to improve the delivery of basic human development services. At the same time, as recognized and agreed to under the Monterrey Consensus, developing countries, to be successful in making sufficient progress, need support from their partners in developed countries to expand access to their markets for exports, through more and more effective aid, through debt relief, et cetera, and also through strong and sustainable private capital inflows, including foreign direct investment.

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.

How important is partnership with the private sector in moving towards MDG targets?
Zia Qureshi:
Well, as I said earlier, one of the key elements of the agenda to achieve MDGs is to support and sustain economic growth, and the private sector plays a lead role in that. The government's role is to provide a conducive environment for private investment. And then you need a strong private sector to take advantage of that environment and generate growth, generate jobs, which, in turn, lead to poverty reduction.

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.

Caron Whitaker:
The report lays out broad guidance on what will be needed to meet the Millennium Development goals, but is there a work plan at any level of detail that lays out what needs to be done to meet the MDGs, and who will be responsible for address those issues? Is population growth being considered in national and international needs assessments? Is it possible to meet any of the Millennium Development Goals without increased investment in family planning and reproductive health services?
Zia Qureshi:
Most of the assessments that have been done by ourselves and our institution, the IMF and others, at the U.N., show that it is possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals if the agenda that is implied by these goals - the development agenda - is fully and effectively implemented, in developing countries in terms of their own efforts, and in terms of the support that the international community needs to provide in the area of trade, in the area of aid.

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.

Louise Croot:
What, how and by whom will the womens issues be monitored?
Zia Qureshi:
The monitoring--first, the MDGs include goals and targets related to improving gender equality in access to key services, such as education, and empowerment of women, and they're a central part of the overall development agenda that is encapsulated by the MDGs; and in monitoring progress on those, it's a broad international effort. In the Bank and the Fund, we have started the global monitoring exercise, which monitors progress on the agenda for achieving MDGs, including the gender-related goals. So, in taking this global monitoring effort forward, we would be monitoring progress on the related agenda.

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.

Jane Singleton:
Your report talks of the need for countries to improve their ability to gather statistics. If this needs to be will it be possible to acccurately measure whether or not countries achieve the millennium development goals?
Zia Qureshi:
For us to be able to monitor progress, of course, you need good data on these goals and targets, and on the policies related to the achievement of these goals and targets. Currently, there are significant data gaps, especially relating to social sectors, but there is stepped up international effort underway to improve the availability and quality of this data. It will take some time, but one useful role that the MDGs have played is to focus attention on the need to improve development data. In addition to playing the role of focusing international attention on development, they have helped to focus attention on the deficiencies in development statistics.

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.

Alan Hudson:
What is being done to monitor progress on MDG8? Why does the UN's chart on "Millennium Development Goals: Status 2004" (DPI/2363-A/Rev.1) say nothing about progress towards MDG8, the goal which demands most of the developed world? If MDG8 is allowed to slip off the agenda, the other MDGs will not be achieved, and the developed world will not be held to account for delivering on its side of the global partnership for development. If working towards the MDGs is supposed to be a partnership, then surely a chart showing progress towards them ought to include information about progress towards all of them, including MDG8?
Zia Qureshi:
MDG8 is integral to the overall MDG agenda, and this was explicitly recognized in Monterrey - under the Monterrey Consensus that included both developing and developed countries. Developing countries need to improve their policies and governance, but developed countries need to match that by providing more support: aid, trade, et cetera.

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.

Pernille Forno:
Though progress towards the MDG's in some regions is slow or even stagnant, it seems to me that some of the major obstacles to reaching the MDG's are caused by the rich states, who drag their feet when it comes to delivering on goal 8/targets 12-18. This goal is the least well defined of the goals, which makes it difficult to monitor progress, so I'd like to know, In your opinion, which areas or problems rich governments should concentrate on, first and foremost, given that progress in this area appear as slow or stagnant as in other areas?
Zia Qureshi:
Again, I would stress that you need progress on both fronts to achieve the development goals, both in terms of what developing countries themselves need to do, and in terms of what support the developed world needs to provide. So, both are needed, and this question focuses on the latter; that is the responsibilities and accountabilities of developed countries.

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.

Riaz Khan:
These goals have been globally set at a meeting of world leaders and are expected to be achieved by every developing country? The goals are not realistic for countries having very poor indicators? Within the country no one is aware of how these have been determined/derived,how they will be achieved,how they will be reported and monitored? No one believes in these goals and the current MDG execise is being considered as a donor driven academic exercise? Why the countries are not asked to present what they expect to achieve by 2015? This would be more realistic and the countries could be held accountable for achieving their goals. The MDG should be a bottom up exercise e.g. In Pakistan the correct approach for setting MDG and targets should be through the individual local governments who are responsible for delivering on these indicators? AT present they are blisfully unaware of these goals. What progress are we discussing?
Zia Qureshi:
MDGs are not a donor driven exercise. They flow from a declaration that was signed by 189 countries, by heads of states and heads of governments. This is a development agenda that was agreed to by the countries themselves. And as I said earlier, these goals have played a very useful role in focusing attention on international development and rallying support for it, so they are a very useful focal point for speeding up efforts toward development and support for development.

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.

Bernard WATSULU:
How do you monitor that the money given to third world countries is spent on the targetted projects and not stolen/ diverted etc. What measures do you take incase of this and do you consider them strong enough and crucially, for the good of the country?
Zia Qureshi:
Improving governance, which includes reducing corruption, is a very important element of our interaction with countries, our dialogue with countries. The attention that is paid to governance-related issues in our work with countries has increased considerably over the past decade or so, and it's now really an integral part of our work -- our policy dialogue, the way we do projects in terms of their objectives, their conditions and monitoring, in nonlending, economic and sector work, our technical assistance work, in our information provision work, the Bank has developed indicators of governance and publicized them to increase awareness, for instance, by the World Bank Institute (WBI). Governance is a very important determinant of the allocation of IDA resources to countries.

So, in every aspect of the Bank's engagement with its client countries today, governance is an integral element.

Jane Singleton:
How can you say that China will achieve the goal to wipe out poverty...when there are still very poor parts of the country....especially if you consider the western provinces?
Zia Qureshi:
That is recognized. I don't think any assessment is saying that the MDG relating to poverty, that is reducing poverty by half by 2015, will be met in every part of China. It will be met at the level of the country. Indeed it has already been met. But all reports, including the Global Monitoring Report, note that there are parts of the country, the inland provinces, where there remain large concentrations of poverty. So, there is a continuing agenda of development there.

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.

Bishnu Shrestha:
How do the key players in MDG view the situations in countries like Nepal? Can the people there expect any thing better to improve their quality of life by 2015?
Zia Qureshi:
Very much so. Countries such as Nepal are very much central to this whole discussion about the MDG agenda, how to speed up progress within countries in terms of their policies and institutions, and the support that the donors or the international community needs to provide.

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.

Otabor Isaac:
International organisations such as world bank and other interest groups in the area of development are doing more of talking than doing something practical that could reduce poverty in the world.Then,what practical but result oriented approach or approaches could the world bank,the governments of the developed and developing countries take to really reduce poverty in the world,Also,what could be done if any of the various parties involved in the actualisation of the millennium development goals are not delivering their part(s).
Zia Qureshi:
The Development agenda relating to the MDGs is not just talk. It's real. What the MDGs have helped bring about is increased international focus on development. But then that is being translated into actions that are needed to achieve these goals. We are not starting from a clean slate. Countries were already engaged in development efforts, and the donor community was already engaged in providing support. The objective is in what ways these efforts can be strengthened to speed up progress towards the goals.

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.

Laurence Chandy:
I have two questions. Firstly, what single act or commitment by national governments (whether of developed or developing countries) do you believe would make the biggest singular contribution towards meeting the MDGs? My second question relates to the MDG targetted at the number of those being lifted out of poverty. To what extent would it be considered a failure were this broad target to be met in 2015, whilst Sub-Saharan Africa, as a region, continued to move against this trend? Put another way, does it matter whether the beneficiaries of the attainment of the MDGs are spread across all regions, or whether they are made up of just a lucky few? Should energies be focussed on simply achieving the targets in the most efficient manner (perhaps best concentrated in India and China who are already heading in the right direction) or would they be more appropriately spent concentrating on problem areas, hidden among the aggregate figures, but home to some of the world's worst suffering?
Zia Qureshi:
I wish there was a silver bullet, that we could find one action that would do the trick, but development is more complex, and it calls for a broader agenda, a broader range of policies and institutions and interventions, and the specifics vary from country to country. But, in our assessment, if one were to point to some elements that cut across countries in terms of priorities, in terms of what stands out in the agenda, on the side of developing countries a key element is the governance-related agenda, the institutions, improving the quality and capacity of institutions. Part of that agenda is reducing corruption, but it is broader than that. It's, for instance, in the financial sector, having the institutions for supervision and prudential regulation; and in other sectors, such as health and education, having the institutional capacities to scale up and deliver services effectively.

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!


Senior Advisor, DEC