In Katibougou, outside Bamako, Mali, workers carefully clip plants in a greenhouse where watermelons, sweet peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables are grown. Credit: World Bank/Dominic Chavez - Photo: 2015

UN Urges Global Partnership on Road to Sustainability

By J R Nastranis | IDN-InDepthNews Analysis

NEW YORK (IDN) – A new United Nations report has identified persistent gaps in official development assistance (ODA) and insufficient access to markets, affordable medicines and new technologies as impediments to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and highlighted the need for a rejuvenation of the global partnership to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Despite gains towards a number of targets, major gaps remain in reducing vulnerabilities for developing countries, including least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a press conference on September 18 in New York.

Produced by the UN MDG Gap Task Force, an inter-agency initiative that includes more than 30 organizations, Taking Stock of the Global Partnership for Development monitors the recent achievements and challenges in the implementation of Millennium Development Goal 8.

Goal 8 includes ODA, market access (trade), debt sustainability, access to affordable essential medicines and access to new technologies.

It also looks ahead towards the new sustainable development agenda that will be adopted by world leaders at a special summit September 25-27 at the UN headquarters in New York, which will include the launch of a new set of SDGs.

“I look forward to working together to deliver on the unfinished MDG commitments, tackle inequality and meet the new challenges that have emerged across the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental,” Ban said.

Key report findings reveal official development assistance (ODA) flows have increased remarkably by 66 per cent from 2000 to 2014.

“The level of ODA committed did rise significantly during the lifetime of the MDGs,” Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), told reporters.

“In each of the past two years it has stood at over USD130 billion. We must applaud those donors, which currently meet or exceed the agreed UN target of allocating 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income to ODA. We thank others striving to reach that target, and the growing contributions of South-South development cooperation providers.”

Also participating in the briefing was the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo, who said ODA is necessary but is not enough.

“In order to implement the sustainable development agenda, all available resources need to be mobilized in addition to the public financing,” he said. “I think we need policy guidance that will encourage the private sectors and the companies [to] come on board and support the implementation financially.”

The MDG Gap Task Force report also covers the latest merchandise exports figures, showing that developing countries’ access to developed-country markets has reportedly improved from 30.5 to 43.8 per cent from 2000 to 2014.

Furthermore, debt burdens have been reduced in most highly indebted poor countries, and mobile phone penetration in developing countries is estimated to reach 92 per cent at the end of 2015, compared to less than 10 per cent in 2000.

“The digital divide between developed and developing countries, however, persists, as it also persists between women and men and between rich and poor within countries,” Clark noted, adding that only 35 per cent of people in the developing world are using the Internet.

The MDG Gap Task Force finds that though ODA increased substantially over the MDG period, ODA to the least-developed countries (LDCs) has declined in recent years. Further, global trade of goods and services expanded significantly over the last fifteen years to more than USD20 trillion, with improved levels of participation by developing countries.

“However, a key challenge of MDG 8 has been the failure of the international community to conclude the Doha Development Round after 13 years of negotiation. This failure has had ramifications for the potential of trade as an enabler of economic growth and development.”

The report further points out that “debt relief initiatives have alleviated debt burdens of many developing countries, but the need for enhanced policies towards debt crisis prevention and resolution remains to address the concerns of other vulnerable countries whose debt problems remain unresolved.”

Monitoring studies on access to affordable essential medicines have repeatedly shown that, in general, access remains insufficient and, in particular, that generic medicines are significantly less available in public health facilities than in private health facilities.

The report notes that access to new technologies, in particular information and communication technologies has grown tremendously since 2000 but these impressive gains observed during the MDG era continue to be marred by a digital divide between developed and developing countries.

Meanwhile, Wu Hongbo, who oversaw the negotiations that whittled down more than 500 proposals into 17 goals to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice and tackle climate change says it will be a “historic moment” when world leaders will formally adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which he described as “a charter for the people and planet in the 21st century.”

He told the UN News Centre on September 9, “I am confident that these 17 goals and 169 associated targets will be implemented worldwide.” He said that, unlike the previous set of UN targets, the MDGs, member states have had “ownership” of the agenda from the start of the process three years ago.

Recalling the negotiations he navigated starting with a 30-member working group that evolved to include all 193 Member States, Wu said “at the beginning, they came up with more than 500 goals.”

Despite the many differences, he said the “driving force” behind the work over the past three years is the common belief that “our present way of consumption, our present way of production is not sustainable.”

The 17 proposed goals and 169 targets are aimed at stimulating action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance towards building a more equitable and sustainable world for all.

Wu outlined some key challenges over the next 15 years ranging from the need to change work methods and mindsets to operate with partners and outside “silos;” the need to do more to follow up to ensure what has been promised is being implemented; and the need to help build capacities with countries that need it.

He predicted that the so-called 2030 agenda would have a “profound impact on specific operations of the United Nations and its system.”

The agenda and its adoption this month is among several watershed events in 2015, including the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, held in Addis Ababa in July and the upcoming UN climate change conference that will be held in Paris in December. [IDN-InDepthNews – 20 September 2015]

Photo: In Katibougou, outside Bamako, Mali, workers carefully clip plants in a greenhouse where watermelons, sweet peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables are grown. Credit: World Bank/Dominic Chavez

2015 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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