Our Perspectives

Looking to 2030 from the path of the Millennium Development Goals

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Guatemalan womanIf current trends continue, the region as a whole is on track to achieve many MDG goals. Photo: Carolina Trutmann/UNDP Guatemala

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

On 25 September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted its future development agenda through the year 2030. “Ours can be the first generation to end poverty,” the UN Secretary-General has declared.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, will we in fact be the first generation that eliminates extreme poverty while simultaneously reducing the inequalities that have historically thwarted development here in this region?

Countries in this region have faced progress and challenges in bringing themselves into compliance with the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  The dynamics of this process provide substantive lessons useful for the forthcoming sustainable development agenda, which is more ambitious and complex.

At the aggregate level, the Latin American and Caribbean region has made headway in reducing extreme poverty and infant mortality, ensuring primary school education, promoting gender equality, bringing about the empowerment of women, and improving access by the general public to basic services in the areas of sanitation and drinking water. The region as a whole is on the road to achieving these goals and many individual countries will fulfill the objectives if they persevere with current trends.

However, despite the considerable progress observed, we still face many regional challenges and disparities in meeting the goals relating to hunger, maternal health and HIV-AIDS.

From the outset, countries in the region reported their progress towards the goals, but at the beginning they viewed the MDGs as an agenda for countries that were less developed.  Consequently, countries didn’t see the necessity to mainstream the MDGs into the particular design of their own public policies.

Nonetheless, our region has increasingly come to appreciate the importance of the MDGs in terms of the need to focus on a reality confronting countries with deep-rooted structural inequalities, poverty traps, and difficulties in delivering quality basic services for all at the grassroots level, especially the neediest members of society.

Many countries in the region have used the development framework of the MDGs - employing quantitative targets and with a fixed time frame and making 2015 a benchmark date - while pursuing more ambitious aspirations than those established globally.

For example, a number of countries in the region set universal access to secondary education as objectives. Belize has a policy of universal access to water and sanitation and Brazil has prioritized the strategy of reducing extreme poverty to 25 percent and eradicating hunger.

One vital lesson is the importance of ensuring political will and long-term vision in the implementation of development policies. In El Salvador until mid-2006, Government authorities were uneasily aware that an eventual change of administration could lead to a radical change in the key programmes adopted by the Ministry of Education and undermine the impulse to fulfill the government’s long-term vision regarding where El Salvador ought to be within 15 years. Together with the UN agencies in that country, including UNDP, education policymakers worked with the Government to engage in dialogue with all stakeholders involved, including the opposition, and to transform the vision of education held by the government into a truly universal state policy. 

The Post-2015 Development Agenda is built upon the ongoing MDG issues and successes, particularly those of a social nature, with added policy dimensions relating to environment and economic prosperity. As a result, the agenda is a universal one and includes obligations for all, for developing and developed countries alike.

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