Our Perspectives


How well is the rich world supporting development?

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Miners in DRCMiners in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mining sector is characterized by conditions of extreme danger, without any security and health framework with negative consequences for the environment. Photo: Benoit Almeras-Martino/UNDP DRC

We all know that many factors influence a country’s progress on poverty reduction and development. Policies and institutions at the domestic level are probably the most important driver. But it’s also true that the policies and actions of other countries – and especially rich and powerful nations – also influence the developing world’s development prospects.

In this spirit, MDG 8 was elaborated. This MDG differs from all the others; it measures the developed world’s efforts to do things like increase development aid, cancel the debt of the poorest countries, make international trade fairer and provide access to affordable medicines. These measures, many argue, are just as important as the steps developing country governments can take at home to ‘improve their lot’.

Every year, the UN monitors progress on how well the rich world is doing and launched its latest ‘update’ report recently. UNDP partners in this annual monitoring effort.

So what’s the verdict? Is the rich world living up to its MDG commitments?

  • On development aid (ODA), the report notes that, despite an increase last year, ODA still was US$180 billion short of the commitment. It’s also heavily concentrated in a few countries; in 2013, just 10 countries absorbed over 34% of total aid.
  • On trade, international negotiations for a fairer trade regime have stalled (the so-called Doha Round), and more progress is needed to enhance duty-free and quota-free access by the Least Developed Countries to developed country markets.
  • On debt, while the debt of some of the world’s poorest and most severely indebted nations has been cancelled, other countries were excluded. The high debt levels of small island developing states is of particular concern and remains unresolved, says the report.
  • Increasing access to affordable medicines also has a mixed record; essential medicines are available, on average, in only 55% of public sector health facilities and 66% in the private sector (in developing countries where data is available).
  • And on access to new technologies, while access to mobile cellular phones continues to increase across the developing world, progress is uneven and access to the internet lags behind (there are 78 internet users per 100 people in the developed world compared to just 32 users per 100 inhabitants in developing countries).

There are some important lessons learned for the on-going process to develop a new set of Sustainable Development Goals. First, a focus on the ‘enabling environment’ remains critically important. Second, good data also matters! Third, regular monitoring exercises such as these are invaluable and provide important information on who is meeting their international commitments and who is lagging behind. Finally, it will be important for the international community to think about how it can strengthen countries’ resolves to actually meet their commitments which remain voluntary after all. As this report shows, the record from the MDG-era remains extremely mixed.

Aid Development Finance Development Effectiveness aid coordination and effectiveness Millennium Development Goals Capacity development Gail Hurley

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