Development Cooperation Handbook/Issues/National and International commitments to MDGs

Issue 1

National and International commitments to MDGs

Episode 1
playlist on YouTube



The UN Millennium Declaration

Introduction to the MDGs

In September 2000, the United Nations Assembly unanimously adopted the UN Millennium Declaration.

It was an 8-goal agenda that all 192 Member States agreed to adopt. We, the humanity of the third Millennium, have achieved that technological, economic and political progress from where we can no longer justify hunger and the exclusion of millions from basic health and education.

In 2000, the international community acknowledged that it has a duty to recognise the fundamental rights of those who are being excluded from the benefits of progress. At the United Nations assembly, all countries committed themselves to a work agenda that would tackle the most evident factors of poverty and injustice. They set 8 goals, they set 21 targets, they set timelines, they allocated funds. And in order to verify if they were being honest with their commitments, they set a number of indicators upon which they asked to be judged. And for the first time in world history, a concrete work agenda for the rights of the voiceless was universally agreed.

Beyond 2015


The year 2015 was set as the deadline for achieving the 8 MDGs.

The MDGs did provide a framework for the UN system and for synergizing the various international cooperation activities in a coherent worldwide effort. The MDG targets have become an integral part of the   World Development Indicators for development. Each year, an annual report is prepared that assesses the progress made by member states in fulfilling the pledges they made. (see ⇒ The Millennium Development Goals Report 2012)

Although substantial progress has been made, we can say now that the MDGs will not be achieved by 2015. Now, we must look beyond 2015, to collect the lessons learned, to understand what worked well and continue on it. And to understand what did not work and why, so as not to repeat it.

Nations committing to the achievement of MDGs


Although the UN has a key role to play in addressing the challenges and in tracking the global progress towards these goals, it is national Governments that had the responsibility to achieve the Millennium Development Goal targets. Thousands of programmes and projects have been operational, involving a large amount of human and technical resources. However, the resources and efforts have proved to be inadequate; and the progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals has been uneven and slow. UN monitoring of MDGs ( reveals that many countries finally did not allocate the resources they had committed to and the international media did not pay much attention to the MDGs, so the public is little informed about them.

Low policy prioritization and inadequate communication


Delay in the work in progress for achieving MDGs is largely due to the lack of driving policy changes in these countries combined with the lack of consistent commitment by donor countries. In spite of official declarations to pursue the 8th MDG (i.e. Developing a Global Partnership for Development) by allocating at least 0.7% of GDP to development cooperation, the average contribution by donor nations is still only around 0.23%, i.e. equal to US$56 billion per year.

Low prioritization of commitment to the International Development Agenda is caused by low awareness among people in richer countries, on the real development issues and on the scope and impact of international cooperation.

International media did not pay much attention to the MDGs, so the general public is little informed about them.

The Vrinda project and the MDGs


This wikibook and the documentary are amongst the outputs of the Vrinda Project, a cooperative environment where development actors share experiences and support reciprocal learning. Although the project does not specifically address the MDGs, we decided to consider them as the pivot around which to narrate stories and analyze the cohesiveness and effectiveness of ongoing international development cooperation. In the videos resources linked to this manual, we collected stories of projects on the ground and collected testimonials about what developing and developed nations are doing in order to contribute to achieving the MDGs.



We collected the opinions of the development cooperation actors and divided in 10 main issues where we compared the aptitudes from different cultures and nations.

In this first issue we collected the answers we received to questions about the role and commitment of National Governments and International Organizations to the achievement of the MDGs.

The work is in progress and you are welcome to contribute sharing with us other relevant testimonials.
Click on the name of the contributor to go to the page with the full interview.

The MDGs and the policy debates around them

When you talk about the MDGs you have to trace back to in the history of ideas what started in the 1990s as the idea of human development movement. So you had 10 years of a human development movement, influencing strongly the articulation of the MDGs. It was an idea promoted by UNDP, it was led by Professor Amaratya Sen and the late Mahbub-ul-Haq and a lot of other social scientists. You should recall that the period 1990, or 2–3 years proceeding that, were very important years in world history. You saw the collapse of the Soviet Union, the break-up of Eastern Europe, the unification of Germany, so a lot of changes were taking place in the world.

And people came to realize that all the material prosperity that you saw in terms of building in terms of comforts of living, were important but were not capturing the essence of human progress. India is growing 8-9% every year. You are coming to Delhi after a few years and you must be amazed by the transformation of the city… but does that really capture the essence of human progress.

The MDGs were influenced by this very important question “what is progress in society - across the countries, across the world”. The human development idea suggests that you have to look at freedoms, you have to look at opportunities, so you may find that there is a lot of growth happening. But if economic freedoms are not expending, if political freedoms are not expanding… even as we are talking today you saw the situation in Egypt. it is not that over 30 years Egypt has not seen any economic progress, but the revolt there was much more for political freedoms. Political reasons are as important as economic freedoms.

The MDGs - Z.Haider

As part of the role of the UN as a kind of global governance arena, this is a wonderful thing which has happened in consensus building between such a large number of countries.

But i have certain concerns with how the MDGs are being pushed. You say there must be universal right of education, so every country should have an X number of schools and teachers. Now you have countries which don't have sufficient internal revenue to do that. So what does the international community say: "We will take care of that through aid". But, would you like a country to be completely depended on aid to actually cater to something which is so fundamental? Aid has not always been benign; it has come with riders.

Now, the teacher's lobby is one of the biggest unions which exists in every country. And once you have teachers you cannot fire them easily, you have to sustain them. But, until there is an internal revenue mechanism which can support that, to except a country to say "yes, we will ensure this, even if it means taking aid" is Bad Idea! Rightly countries are now setting their own targets.

At the same time it is unforgivable that in today's age when globally the kind of resources and wealth that the world has generated; to accept hunger as a reality of life is unacceptable, there is no reason why one can go hungry today! And if it requires aid transfer then those aid riders should not come there.

Catherine Ray - Spokesperson for EuropeAid

EuropeAid - Development priorities and methodologies - C.Ray

EuropeAid Development priorities and methodologies - How programmes are designed and how projects are financed.

Why EU uses tax payer money to finance development in other countries? - C.Ray

We live in an integrated world. The development of our neighbors and partners is a determinant of our development.
Aid is an investment, not charity.

EU commitment to spend 0.7 % of its GDP in development cooperation - C.Ray

EuropeAid Development priorities and methodologies - How the programmes are designed and how the projects are financed

How EU is contributing to the global development agenda achievements and challenges - Ray

The European Union, composed of the Member States and the European Commission, is the world’s biggest aid donor. The Commission’s EuropeAid co-operation office manages EU external aid programmes and ensures that development assistance is delivered worldwide.

EuropeAid's main mission is to implement the Commission’s external aid instruments, both those funded by the Union’s budget and the European Development Fund. EuropeAid works in collaboration with its various partners: Civil society, international organisations and governments of EU Member States, building synergies and subsidairites, with the aim to make external aid more participated and effective.

EU development assistance is distributed through multi-annual programmes which are coordinated by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Development (for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries) and the Directorate General External Relations for the rest of the world.
When formulating and managing these programmes, the Commission consults the authorities in partner countries. This results in an agreed country and regional strategy paper, which includes a multi-annual national indicative programme.

Indian Public Programmes and MDGs - Ahluwalia
The role of Government in giving access to people to essential services - Ahluwalia

In our program we acknowledge the importance of MDGs (that is a UN terminology), but we are committed to our goals.
MDGs refer to commonly shared notions of what constitutes and improvement in human welfare. Our plans have specific programs which deal with deal with each of the Human Development Goals; if these programs are successfully implemented then the Government will end up meeting the MDGs.

Danièle Smadja - EU Ambassador to India.


What is your opinion on aid coming from an other country and an other culture?

There has been a lot of discussions over the last 5-7 decades about aid - D.Smadja

There has been a lot of discussions over the last 5-7 decades about aid.

The most important element is to do what the government of the country we are engaged in wants to do and has decided to do. We cannot impose policies, we have to support the national policies of the country and respect the obligations of the donor country. This doesn't mean that whatever they do we sign the cheque.

Every country has to take charge of the development of their country. The effectiveness of aid then comes from the capacity of the donor country to contribute to the national policies and strategies and to make sure that whatever we are contributing to has a chance of success. Then only we can bring an added value by filling the financial gap (even if on a small scale), bring expertise, experience and policies we use in Europe.

You are with the WHAT and I'm with the how... and until you don't know what there is no way I can help you on HOW to do it.

Areas of Cooperation between India and EU - D.Smadja

What are the important areas of cooperation between India and the EU?

We have many types of project, but for simplicity let me divide them in three. At first we have budget support at the central level; this is the case for education and health. The second type is at the state level by budget support, providing technical assistance and transferring and exchanging our practices; and we have two state programs right now, one with Rajasthan in the field of water and with Chhattisgarh in health and education. At both, the national and state level, we are not just signing the cheque, we are present in the policy making by helping them with our experience, technical assistance and our models on how to go about their policies. The third level is supporting financially the civil society organizations; we regularly have projects with them. We also try and organize the best synergies and compliment the three levels of cooperation. As an example, when we work with NGOs in education we will target the population which remains outside the main stream services, like the tribal population or remote communities.

It is also in our interest to be responsible and fair to our neighbors - Nirj Deva

We need to explain to the taxpayer, (because after all the donor is the taxpayer) that we are not only trying to be good people, charitable.
Actually this is not charity: it is in our interest, it is in our interest of every single citizen of Europe, and of European Nations, to help people in our neighborhood to be better off, less poor, less ill because we live in an interdependent world.
Our purpose is not to give a handout, but to give a hand up.
And that should be the rationale of our development policy.

Equitable access to the resources - A.Piebalgs
Europe Aid is trying to do its best with limited resources but real change will be possible only when we all citizens need to adopt a responsible life style.

Stefano De Santis

Perche' l'Unione Europea sta lavorando per promuovere la Cooperazione Internazionale  

Conversation with Francesco Brancatella at the EU Parliament. Explaining the reasons why EU is sponsoring International Cooperation for Development.

Perche' la UE partecipa alla cooperazione internazionale allo sviluppo - S.Costa  

La vocazione europea e la dignita' dei diritti della persona - S.Costa  

EuropeAid makes a significant contribution but communicates poorly - Vrinda Dar

I do know that the European Commission funds various programs across the world to help governments achieve their commitments to the MDG’s. I also think that the underlying spirit of subsidiarity and the kinds of projects that the EC funds are having positive impact and are empowering local governments to lead and own the process of making lasting changes in people's lives. However, I also think that the European Commission does little to inform its own citizens about the positive impacts being made by initiatives that it is funding around the world. Its citizens don't know about the objectives of its programs and the activities it is funding; the impact these programs are having on the life of the people who are benefiting; the assistance it is directly giving to government and non-government organisations.

I have observed that where the European Commission is closer to the ground reality, in terms of its own presence, its support to non-government organisations and local governments, the nature of its contribution and the impact of its funding are more visible. I have also seen that when the European Commission utilises its funds to empower partnerships between local European and non-European organisations, the destination and impact of its funds is more visible. When the cooperation is between EU and non-EU people, EU and non-EU governments, EU and non-EU organisations and is based on local needs and mutual benefits, the partnership has brought long lasting change to people's lives.

Another way to improve communication is to utilise communication tools that are closer to the cultures of the local people, be they EU or non-EU. I think right now the way European Commission communicates is bureaucratic and basic. It does not give importance to communicating with the opinion makers and development actors and stakeholders whom people trust and listen to, for e.g. educators, media professionals and local authorities: the interlocutors between the external agencies and the local people."

Julian Parr, the Regional Manager South East Asia, Oxfam GB

Where MDGs are failing - Julian Parr
We have to bring back the MDGs commitments at the centre of international policies - B.Hoeper
B.Hoeper - We have to bring back the MDGs commitments at the centre of international policies

Why should we spend our money to fund the development of other people? - Rao

Raggiungere gli obiettivi del Millennio - V.Pira  
I punti critici della cooperazione internazionale per lo sviluppo - V.Pira  

See also


  Episode 1  playlist on YouTube

  Introduction to the Millennium Development Goals
 The factors causing poverty and suffering
 Who provides aid
  In the documentary story ⇒ The MDGs

 Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
 The Millennium Village Project
 Mothers Preparing Mothers
 Employment as a Right
 Los derechos de la hospitalidad para las personas sin hogar - Bogotà
 Community at Work - Ciudad Bolivar - Jan Pablo II

On Wikipedia

  Article on Wikipedia ⇒ Poverty
  Millennium Development Goals
  The United Nations
  Declaration of Human Duties and Responsibilities

  Article on Global issues ⇒ Causes of poverty

External links

Back to the ⇒Table of Content