Helen Clark: Speech at the MDG Success Event: Accelerating Action and Partnering for Impact, Panel on “From Global to Local: Translating global aspirations to country-level action

Sep 23, 2013

Helen Clark, UNDG Chair and Administrator of UNDP at the MDG Success Event: Accelerating Action and Partnering for Impact, Panel on “From Global to Local: Translating global aspirations to country-level action”
United Nations, New York

Many here today have been directly engaged in the campaigns, policies, and partnerships which have given the MDGs traction and got results. The great power of the MDGs was in their global agenda setting and their capacity to unite diverse actors around a common cause.  

But global goals remain just rhetoric unless they are translated into action at the national and local levels to make a difference for people.

That is why from around 2002, UNDP and other UN Country Team members began to work with governments to “localize the MDGs”. That work included adjusting the global targets where appropriate to fit national or local contexts. Many countries incorporated the MDGs into their national development plans, and made provision for progressing them in their budgets.  That national and local ownership is what has given the MDG agenda traction.

In the UN Development Group, we have learned that national and local ownership of the MDGs contributed to success in three main ways.

First, it helped to bring different levels of government, together with development partners and civil society actors to achieve MDG targets.

Second, tailoring the MDGs to local conditions has both made them more relevant to communities and enabled local people to be part of a global agenda. We have seen community participation in target-setting helping to mobilise local champions and stakeholders around MDG achievement.

Third, countries which have applied the MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF), developed by UNDP and endorsed by the UNDG, have been able to identify and overcome specific barriers to MDG progress. More than fifty countries have now used the MAF at national and local levels.  The approach is helping countries to tackle inequalities in MDG progress. Colombia deployed the approach across 76 territories, departments, and municipalities to tackle poverty, improve health services, and advance gender equality among its most disadvantaged communities.

As we work to accelerate progress on the MDGs through to December 2015, national and local ownership, backed by development partnerships, is more important than ever.

And as work goes on to define and shape the post-2015 agenda, let’s remember that its success too will be judged on whether it inspires nations, communities, and all partners to support the concrete actions which will make a genuine difference to people’s lives and prospects.


Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme on 17 April 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization.

UN General Assembly 2013
  • Turkey Side Event - Sustainable Development and the Post-2015 Development Agenda
  • Signing of Memorandum of Understanding for new regional centre, with Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Meeting with Foreign Minister of Iraq, Hoshyar Zebari
  • Signing of Memorandum of Understanding between UNDP and Viet Nam
  • With Prime Minister of Viet Nam Nguyen Tan Dung
  • Indonesia Side Event - Global Partnership and Sustainable Growth with Equity

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