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«DEVELOPMENT POLICY JOURNAL Vol. 3, April 2003 THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS Editor-in-Chief: Stephen Browne Editor: Leelananda De Silva and Shawna ...»

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JOURNAL Vol. 3, April 2003



Stephen Browne


Leelananda De Silva and Shawna Tropp

Cover Photography:


Design Consultant:

Brendan Yetter

The views expressed in this journal are those of the authors.

They do not necessarily represent the views of UNDP.

Articles may be freely reproduced as long as UNDP is acknowledged.

ISSN# 1684-4025 i Contents Foreword Shoji Nishimoto


The MDGS: Goals and Targets 1 Are the MDGs Feasible?

Jan Vandemoortele The MDGs are technically feasible and financially affordable. But the world is currently not on-track to meeting them.

23 Financing the MDGs: an Analysis of Cameroon, Uganda and Philippines Stephen Browne and Martim Maya What will it actually cost to meet the MDGs and are there sufficient resources from investment, trade, debt relief, domestic taxation and foreign aid? Three national studies show different patterns and prospects.

37 The MDGs in National Policy Frameworks Diana Alarcon The worldwide political consensus represented by the MDGs calls for strategies unique to each country and the articulation of economic and social policies that complement each other.

47 Building Statistical Capacity to Monitor the MDGs Brian Hammond An international effort is required to help countries to measure and monitor the MDGs.


53 The Environment/Poverty Nexus Selim Jahan and Alvaro Umana Reducing poverty calls for looking carefully at the changing interactions of all forms of capital – natural, economic and social.

ii Development Policy Journal March 2003 71 Reducing Poverty by Using Biodiversity Sustainably Izabella Koziell and Charles I. McNeill Throughout the tropics, both traditional and innovative local livelihoods are compatible with conserving ecosystems while also enriching the marginal groups that live there.

81 Gender Dimensions of Poverty and HIV/AIDS: a survey of six countries Rasheda Selim Without taking account of differences among women in national contexts, planners not only risk increasing gender discrimination, but deepening poverty and exacerbating the threat of AIDS.


101 Donors and Recipients Eveline Herfkens Debt relief and reform of aid practices are some of the obligations donors need to meet to complement the efforts of developing countries in meeting the goals.

–  –  –

Foreword The Secretary-General of the United Nations has assigned UNDP the role of global “campaign manager” in implementing the Millennium Declaration of September 2000 and “scorekeeper” for the eight Goals. This third issue of the Development Policy Journal looks at a variety of challenges posed by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) under three headings: their feasibility; their relationship to sustainable development; and prospects for reaching Goal 8, a global partnership for development.

Although the United Nations began setting development goals in 1960 for each successive decade, they tended – until very recently – to stress the primacy of economic growth over human development, with little more than a nod to the natural capital on which sustainable growth depends. Several articles of this Journal issue draw attention to how this lingering assumption still skews countries’ statistical systems, generates unrealistic notions for overcoming poverty, and distorts the framing of policy to reduce deprivation. Other articles underline the interdependence of the MDGs. They show how neglecting human development can stunt a country’s potential for economic growth. They reveal the social and gender dimensions of the environment-poverty nexus. They point to ways in which changing trade rules could serve people rather than markets. Several articles also discuss the relationships of governments, private enterprise and civil society bodies within and beyond national borders – and the partnerships among them that could create a global compact for development.

There is a concern that the MDGs will not be universally attained by 2015. But there is no reason to believe that they cannot be reached within a foreseeable future. They represent a consensus on the complexity of interactions among different human activities – and the need to unite different strengths to meet multiple challenges.

As usual, we welcome any comments from readers on the contents of this Journal.

Shoji Nishimoto Assistant Administrator and Director Bureau for Development iv

–  –  –

Are the MDGS Feasible?

Jan Vandemoortele1 Although the MDGs are ambitious, all targets will be met by some countries, including a few among the least developed. If these countries can achieve the goals, there is no reason why others cannot. However, “average” progress during the 1990s disguises the conditions of the poorest and most disadvantaged groups — and conceals the way social deprivation obstructs economic growth. Reaching the MDGs will require universal access to basic social services.

“As long as you travel to a goal, you can hold on to a dream.” Anthony de Mello The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a set of numerical and time-bound targets that express key elements of human development. They include halving income-poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education and gender equality; reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds and maternal mortality by threequarters; reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS; and halving the proportion of people without access to safe water. These targets are to be achieved by 2015, from their level in 1990 (United Nations, 2000).

It is often said that global targets are easily set but seldom met, which begs the question whether the MDGs are feasible. Progress in over 130 developing countries regarding the many dimensions of human development — such as education, health, nutrition and income — is difficult to summarise. The 1990s saw many success stories, including education in Guinea and Malawi; HIV/AIDS in Senegal, Thailand and Uganda; child mortality in Bangladesh and the Gambia; nutrition in Indonesia, Mexico and Tunisia; and income-poverty in China. Globally, the number of polio cases dropped from nearly 250,000 in 1990 to less than 3,000 in 2000, making its eradication by 2005 a realistic goal.

But for each success story there have been setbacks. The under-fives mortality rate increased in Cambodia, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia — an unprecedented trend after decades of steady decline. The primary school enrolment ratio dropped in Cameroon, Lesotho, Mozambique and Tanzania. The gender gap in primary education widened in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Namibia. Instead of decreasing, malnutrition increased in Burkina Faso and Yemen. Access to water became more difficult for millions of people; Bangladesh faced a major problem with arsenic water poisoning. In Jan Vandemoortele is Poverty Reduction Group Leader, UNDP.

2 Development Policy Journal March 2003 the 1990s, countless countries saw their HIV prevalence rate double, triple, quadruple, even increase ten-fold — severely undermining the feasibility of most MDG in health and beyond.

Monitoring can be done at different levels, from the global to the local. The level of assessment will influence the outcome regarding the feasibility of the MDGs. If MDGs appear feasible at the global level, it does not necessarily imply that they will be feasible in all nations or at all locations. Averages are commonly used at each level to measure MDG progress. While they give a good sense of overall progress, averages can be misleading. The failure to understand that the average is an abstraction from reality can lead to unwarranted conclusions that are based on deduction from abstractions, not on real observations.

A good assessment of progress towards the MDGs must, therefore, go beyond averages and aggregates. The failure to disaggregate for gender, for instance, easily leads to the fallacy of “misplaced concreteness” (Daly and Cobb, 1994). Average household income is very much an abstraction for women who have little or no control over how it is spent; it may exist in the mind of economists, but it does not necessarily correspond with the reality faced by millions of poor women.2 This article reviews global progress towards the MDGs during the 1990s. The picture that emerges shows a very uneven pattern across regions and countries and between different socioeconomic groups within the same country. Although the picture is mixed, the overall conclusion is that none of the agreed targets for the year 2000 was met at the global level. If the 1980s were the “lost decade for development”, the 1990s should go down in history as the “decade of broken promises”. If current trends prevail, only one MDG will be reached by 2015.

Is Progress on Target?

The review is based on the best data that are currently available. It focuses on indicators for which global information is reasonably reliable, comparable and up-to-date.3 However, it must be kept in mind that global trends are estimates;

they are never precise or actual values. Therefore, different sources often give different estimates, without necessarily being inconsistent. Indicators without trend data or with inconsistent data have been omitted. Hence, the review does not include all MDGs.

Cost recovery in a water project in western Kenya, for example, was low despite seemingly high average household income. The cause was traced to the fact that women were responsible for this expense but had little or no control over household income. Affordability studies often target the wrong group and frequently produce misleading policy advice.

Based on the latest information from a variety of sources, mostly from within the United Nations system, and particularly UNICEF (2001).

Are the MDGs Feasible?

Income Poverty

In developing countries, the average proportion of people living on less than $1 per day decreased from 32% in 1990 to 25% in 1999, according to the latest estimates (World Bank, 2002).4 The simple extrapolation of this trend suggests that the world is on track to halving income-poverty by 2015. Unfortunately, the reality is more complicated and decidedly less satisfactory. Most of the global progress was due to a rapid decline in Asia, particularly in China. Progress in Latin America and the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa, combined, was merely a tenth of what was required to meet the agreed target.

In addition, poverty estimates for China show large discrepancies, which seriously undermine the reliability of global poverty data. Diagram 1 shows a steep decline in China’s income poverty between 1993-96, when the headcount index reportedly declined from 29% to 17%. This implies that the number of people in China struggling to survive on less than a $1 per day dropped by a staggering 125,000 people per day for three years running. This remarkable achievement came to a sudden — and mysterious — end in 1996. Actually, the number of poor people reportedly increased slightly between 1996 and 1999.

Diagram 1: Incidence of income-poverty in China (percentage of the population below the poverty line) 32% 29% 28% 17% 17% 12% 11% 9% 7% 6% Source: Based on World Bank (2002) and data from the Ministry of Agriculture Global poverty estimates are often presented with a decimal point, which may give a false sense of sophistication and accuracy. Given their approximate nature, rounded figures are more appropriate.

4 Development Policy Journal March 2003 National poverty estimates, on the other hand, show a less dramatic decline in China’s poverty level. Poverty estimates reported by the Ministry of Agriculture show a decrease by less than 1 percentage point per year between 1993 and 1996 (Khan and Riskin, 2000), considerably less than the 4 percentage points suggested by the World Bank estimates.5 Moreover, if demographic change has been a major force behind China’s success in reducing income-poverty — as some analysts have documented (Gustafsson and Zhong, 2000) — then it would be unwise to assume that its rapid decline will continue till 2015.

In short, global poverty trends cannot be taken at face value. Given the inherent weaknesses associated with the fixed and static poverty line of $1 per day and given the inaccuracy of PPP conversion rates (purchasing power parity), global poverty estimates are not a reliable source of information. Global poverty data are not robust; therefore it cannot be argued that the world is on track to reaching the target for halving income-poverty by 2015. Dozens of countries experienced a decline in average living standards in the past decade. Moreover, the simple extrapolation of global poverty trends to 2015 is invalid because large countries — such as China and Indonesia — will gradually become less powerful in pulling global poverty down as they reach lower levels of poverty. Global poverty projections will only be meaningful if they are based on country-specific projections.


In 1990, the goal was set to provide basic education to all children by the year

2000. The sad truth is that the 1990s saw only about a fifth of the global progress needed. For developing countries, the average net enrolment ratio for primary education increased from 78 in 1990 to 83 in 2000. Not surprisingly, the goalpost was moved to 2015; but this promise will not be kept either if progress does not accelerate two-fold between 2000 and 2015. At the current rate, the global education target will not be reached until the year 2030.

Diagram 2 shows that progress was significantly slower in the 1990s than in the preceding three decades, when the average enrolment ratio increased by approximately 10 percentage points per decade — compared with only 5 percentage points in the 1990s.6 In 2000, an estimated 120 million school-age children

–  –  –

were not enrolled — about the same as a decade earlier. They joined the ranks of the nearly 1 billion adults who cannot read or write — most of them women.

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