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January 7, 2014

Entering 2014 – One more year of MDGs…

Written by Kylie Barton

Set in the year 2000, the international community only has one year left of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in their current form. So 14 years in, have they made a noticeable difference to the lives of those in less economically developed countries? Or were the critics right in warning the world of another PR stunt. We at IS would like to find out.

According to the progress chart of 2013 it seems as though many of the goals across all geographical areas have been, or are close to being met. With the much discussed exceptions of Oceania and Sub Saharan Africa looking unlikely to reach targets in the remaining time frame. But what has been the topic of much discussion for NGOs and analysts interested in the MDGs is the way progress has been measured.

Oxfam are openly critical about this and are not alone in their criticisms. It was never projected the goals would be a sweeping success from coast to coast, but the effect of them has been highly uneven, and even unmeasurable in certain parts of the globe. It is not possible to determine whether any positive change is actually attributable to the MDGs or if they are a result of other factors such as shifting economic centrality or a change in attitudes to development?

Sustainable development is growing from the grass roots level on Taveuni

Island Spirit are involved in locally run, sustainable, business development initiatives across Taveuni.

It seems that the MDGs are a nice label for progress that is actually driven by a further subset of variables outside of any one organisation’s control. The UN and other developmental bodies involved in the creation and execution of the MDGs are still not working in a cohesive enough manner for any real change to manifest or be measured. As is the case with most international political discourse of late, when moving forward past 2015 the UN, NGOs, nation governments, international organisations and any other actors need to truly sing from the same hymn sheet and the focus needs to be geared towards accountability, transparency, and sustainability.

These were the core themes of the 2013 G20, and so such sentiment is already being emulated within international circles, but it is still the every pressing question of how. As the longest standing actors across international borders, businesses are at a great advantage to lead this change. But a precursor to this is the company allowing CSR type commitments to take precedence over profit. On the surface this sounds unlikely, but an increasing amount of research has shown that socially responsible and sustainable companies are more appealing to investors and consumers alike making it a win/win situation.

The Center for Global Development produced a report in 2011 that saw official aid had increased since the implementation of MDGs but it did not follow that individual indicators had conclusively been positively affected.  Although there was progress among many of the goals, it is very difficult to link this progress directly to the MDGs. It is more likely that the shift in the global economy towards Asia and China played a bigger part in changing the developmental demographics of the world in such a way. This is definitely the case across Oceania and in Fiji where the rise of the Chinese has had a knock on effect for trade.

It appears that in island communities, the goals most likely to be reached are access to clean water and a reduction in child mortality. In Fiji, it is unlikely that several of the goals be met. Namely the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger which has increased from 25 per cent in 1990 to 40 per cent in 2008. However, Fiji has already achieved great things in terms of access to education, the reduction of child mortality and maternal mortality, and in environmental sustainability.

MDGs will continue post 2015, but now is the time for all actors to come together to decide what they should evolve into to fit a context 15yrs their senior.