Helen Clark: Speech at Release of MDG Gap Task Force Report 2015 Launch

Sep 18, 2015

The MDG Gap Task Force report monitors how developed countries are living up to the commitments they made under MDG 8 to provide a supportive and enabling environment for development.

We can gain many insights from this last MDG Gap Task Force report on what could be helpful in achieving the SDGs to be launched in just over a week’s time.

Without doubt there has been important progress in MDG8 in areas such as debt relief and the availability of new technologies. In other areas, such as the level of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and market access, there have been positive developments, but significant gaps remain.

Official Development Assistance (ODA)

The level of ODA committed did rise significantly during the lifetime of the MDGs. In each of the past two years it has stood at over USD 130 billion. We must applaud those donors which currently meet or exceed the agreed UN target of allocating 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income to ODA. We thank others striving to reach that target, and the growing contributions of South-South development co-operation providers.

On average though, the combined ODA of OECD DAC donors amounted to only 0.29% of their collective GNI. If all OECD DAC donors had met their aid commitments, ODA would have amounted to over USD 326 billion in 2014 – not $135.2 billion. Resourcing at that level would be a very solid foundation for sustainable development and for the new SDGs.

Last year there was a worrying decline of sixteen per cent of bilateral aid going to Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Overall ODA is heavily concentrated in a few countries: half of it goes to just twenty countries - leaving little for many others.

Market Access

Over the past fifteen years, global trade in goods and services increased considerably, with greater participation by developing countries overall, including by LDCs. Duty-free market access for developing countries into advanced economies has improved, although progress since 2008 has been limited. The average tariffs imposed by developed countries have continued to fall. Unfortunately, the Doha Development Round has not concluded after almost fourteen years of negotiations. The introduction of trade-restricting measures at the time of the global financial and economic crisis has aggravated the chances of getting better market access because most of them have still not been rolled back.

Debt Sustainability

Debt relief was one of the major development successes of the MDG period. The “Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative” cancelled, on average, ninety per cent of the debts of some of the world’s poorest and most severely indebted countries, with over USD 116 billion written down. The creditors who participated in this important effort deserve our thanks.

Nevertheless, there are countries still experiencing debt distress, including a number of Small Island Developing States. New risks are emerging for a number of developing countries which are rapidly accumulating debt. Fresh approaches to debt sustainability are needed.

Access to affordable essential medicines

Access has improved to treatments for some diseases, especially for the high-profile ones, but country-surveys suggest that affordable access to these essential medicines remains insufficient. The latest Ebola outbreak was a stark reminder that consistent investment is needed in research and development for treatments for the neglected diseases.

Access to new technologies

Access to new technologies, particularly information and communication technologies (ICTs), has grown immensely since 2000. This too is a development bright spot. Access to the Internet is wider. The growth of ICTs has led to many development applications, including enabling many governments to become more efficient and transparent. Now, nearly fifty countries have some form of ‘e-government, while 130 countries publish parts of their budgets online.

The digital divide between developed and developing countries, however, persists, as it also persists between women and men and between rich and poor within countries. For example, just 35 per cent of people in the developing world are using the Internet. This divide is increasingly also a knowledge, services, and opportunity divide, given the importance of access to the internet for modern society.

Conclusion

Looking forward, the MDG Gap Task Force report underscores the need to strengthen global partnerships for development in order to achieve the SDGs. The report also shows the value and importance of monitoring and reporting on donor commitments.

My thanks go to all the agencies and institutions which have worked with UNDESA and UNDP on the production of the GAPs reports. We look forward to continuing this vital work in the post-2015 period.

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