UN’s millennium goals: Test case of political will

Several Asian and Pacific nations have achieved remarkable economic growth and advances in reducing poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The 147 heads of state and senior representatives representing 189 countries had adopted the ‘Millennium Declaration’ at the Special Session of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 2000 and had made a commitment to adhere to the principles and mandates, and work towards their implementation. The MDGs were formulated taking into account those principles and other mandates emanating from international conferences and international development targets pursued during the later decades of the last century.

Eight goals and 18 targets have bound countries to strive harder in fighting poverty, hunger, illiteracy, gender disparity, child and maternal mortality, disease and environmental degradation. The eighth goal has called on richer countries to relieve debt, increase aid and give poorer countries fair access to their markets and technology. Thus, the MDGs should be considered a test case of the political will to build stronger global partnerships. Developing countries have the responsibility to undertake policy reforms and strengthen governance to liberate the people’s creative energy. But the goals cannot be achieved without new aid commitments, equitable trading rules and debt relief. Thus, the MDGs can be taken as a global compact between the rich and poor countries to accelerate developmental pace and measure the results within a stipulated timeframe.

It is obvious that Asia-Pacific nations have tremendous prospects in furthering economic progress; however, smaller and weaker ones could face challenges in sustaining growth as well as moving ahead in poverty reduction due to domestic instabilities and external shocks. Achievements are mixed and several nations accommodate large sections of extremely poor.

For Nepal, several decades of the second-half of the last century were a loss while assessing development performance. Neither economic and social reforms were effectively enacted, nor adequate public or private investments in creating necessary socio-economic infrastructures were forthcoming. Development outcomes were lopsided and mostly captured by feudal elements, leaving a large section of rural population excluded from public services and development benefits. This resulted in instability, insurgency and domestic upheavals. It’s about time the leaders and bureaucrats take serious note of the past mistakes and work concertedly in gearing up the nation towards stability, economic growth and social cohesion. Efforts towards achieving the MDGs, especially in building national capacity for human development, alleviation of human deprivation and promotion of inclusive development should constitute the priorities for which consensus on vision, improved governance and political understanding on economic issues should be made on a priority basis.

Capacity building for better human development and promotion of inclusive development takes time but sincere efforts need to be initiated urgently. The most critical reform measure for improving development result and making headway towards the MDGs achievement is through improvements in governance. The government needs to improve the delivery mechanism of public services to remain in power and initiate progressive moves towards inclusive development and the MDGs’ achievement. It is necessary to conceive policies and actions in efficient and pragmatic ways and conduct businesses in a similar manner. Hasty decisions and retractions, incomplete agendas and half-baked efforts in implementation and cheap outbursts are intolerable.

Affirmative action and firm initiatives in three areas would result in the fulfilment of the MDGs. Firstly, the government must provide solid and stable space for the private sector. For this peace negotiations and other reforms for facilitating investments are of critical urgency. Income generation and employment are possible only through wider private sector’s engagement. Secondly, the government must devolve and decentralise authority to pubic sector units, community organisations and they must strengthen themselves to effectively own, implement and safeguard the community’s interests in projects and programmes. The CSOs and NGOs should work in tandem with governmental and donor agencies to oversee that the intended beneficiaries benefit. Thirdly, the development partners need to be more sincere in development activities with qualitative support in a transparent manner. If such efforts are pursued honestly, there is no doubt that Nepal can meet the MDGs. The period 2006-2015 is highly crucial as consensus and collective efforts are expected to usher in a new Nepal where all ethnic groups, castes, faiths and genders will receive development benefits equally through the achievement of the MDGs.

Dr Dhungana is a retired UN official