Our Perspectives


Overcoming bottlenecks helps speed up MDG progress

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woman and health care workerIn Nepal, Radhika Mijay is receiving community home based care service from Trishuli Plus, which provides HIV-related health services and support. The staff visits her home monthly. Photo: GMB Akash/UNDP

In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on working with the Millennium Development Goals.

In the early 2000s, soon after world leaders established the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), I was a development researcher. I participated in many intellectual debates and discussions about the MDGs and the process of adapting them into national development plans and strategies.

There were polarizing debates and heated arguments on whether or not the world should shift attention from focusing exclusively on economic growth in developing countries to human development and broader development outcomes. Through global meetings, it became clear to the international community that developing countries should focus more in-depth on poverty reduction and overall development.

The MDGs have had tremendous impact when interconnected factors are addressed together. Such factors include livelihoods, food security, health, education, equality, and access to basic infrastructure and services.

Today, the world has witnessed significant progress in achieving many of the MDGs. The poverty target was achieved in 2010 - five years ahead of schedule - with around 700 million people lifted out of extreme poverty. Significant progress has also been recorded in primary school enrolment, access to improved sources of water, and reduction of child mortality. But MDG progress has been deeply uneven in different geographic locations and parts of the world.

At UNDP, accelerating MDG progress has been at the centre of our work. The MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF), a UN-wide initiative, provided national stakeholders with a systematic approach to identify and analyze bottlenecks that are causing MDGs to veer off-track or advance too slowly. Through the MAF, we have supported about 60 countries to develop comprehensive, collaborative and focused actions to speed up progress toward achieving the MDGs.

I got to see this firsthand in South Africa, where I led the MAF work on addressing maternal mortality. While the country has achieved many of the MDG targets, the maternal mortality rate rose dramatically after 1998, almost doubling to 302 per 100,000 live births by 2009. While HIV/AIDS and TB are acknowledged as having contributed to this increase, structural elements within South African society and systemic dysfunctions also play a major role.

Cultural beliefs, poor service delivery and utilization, inconvenient clinic hours, and attitudes of health workers were all identified as contributing factors. Surprisingly, almost all the identified interventions were low or no cost:

  • closer engagement with communities to improve their knowledge of, and utilization of, available services and to address negative perceptions and attitudes

  • changing the attitudes of health workers, with an emphasis on accountability

  • reinforcing the training of health workers with ongoing mentorship and support

  • ensuring access to experienced and specialized support, especially in emergencies

MAF work in South Africa revealed that significant financial resources are not enough to address specific development issues. Leaving no one behind will require a multi-dimensional view of development that addresses social, economic, and environmental factors. We must leverage political will, development capacities, and innovative solutions to address the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

As we approach the end of 2015, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on working with the Millennium Development Goals over the last 15 years, and reflect on the transition to the new Sustainable Development Goals.

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