Unfinished business

Michael Alan Hamlin

Posted on November 23, 2012

Time is running out on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the 193 member states of the United Nations (UN) and 23 international organizations that agreed to their ambitious objectives in 2000 by 2015.

With just three years left on that commitment clock, over 70 parliamentary and civil society representatives from 19 Asian countries are meeting in Manila yesterday and today for a two-day Forum on accelerating the achievement of the goals and formulating a “post-2015 development agenda.” As one of our committed development colleagues likes to say, “MDG” in Filipino stands for “Mga  Dapat Gawin” or “The things that need to be done.” For those living in extreme poverty, failure to achieve the MDGs is simply not an option.

Officially agreed to during the Millennium Summit in September 2000 at UN Headquarters in New York, the eight MDGs are: the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; the achievement of universal primary education; the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment; the reduction of child mortality; the improvement of maternal health; the combat against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), malaria and other diseases; the assurance of environmental sustainability; and the development of a global partnership for development.

“Accelerated delivery of the MDGs, especially for social groups left behind in the march to prosperity, is a precondition for a credible post-2015 development agenda,” said Minar Pimple, regional director for Asia & Pacific, United Nations Millennium Campaign. He says there is an urgent need for “courageous leadership and accountability on meeting existing commitments” and “a truly open and inclusive process by putting people first.”

Make no mistake. The MDGs have had great impact on the lives of billions of people in helping set global and national priorities and catalyze action on the ground. Global poverty has dramatically declined. Access to safe drinking water has greatly increased. There are 40 million more children attending school, close to four million children are living that would have otherwise died. And over 200,000 people who could have died from malaria are alive and an estimated 5.2 million people in low- and middle-income countries are now receiving HIV treatment.

These accomplishments are not just life changing. They are lifesaving. But despite these significant steps towards achieving the MDGs, progress has frequently been uneven. According to UN officials, there is still much to be done before all eight goals are accomplished. Sadly, aggregate data tend to mask inequalities, and unabated corruption in many developing economies means that the poor are deprived of their entitlements.

Although poverty rates have been reduced by 50 percent globally, projections for 2015 still show that up to one billion people will continue to live in extreme poverty. At the same time, humankind is consuming 150 percent of the Earth’s annual regenerative capacity, compared to 65 percent in 1990. Lifting people out of poverty and protecting the planet’s resources are two sides of the same coin. Both must be effectively addressed for the long term.

This week’s Forum is intended to serve as a platform for the region’s parliamentarians to develop a meaningful regional consensus on development priorities. It also provides the venue to discuss strategies for shaping a global development agenda that goes beyond 2015. Issues including poverty, hunger, health, gender equality, water, and sanitation will still need attention after 2015.

The Forum is organized by the UN Millennium Campaign (UNMC) and Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD), and enjoys broad support, including that of the Rockefeller Foundation. It’s being conducted in collaboration with the African Network of Parliamentarians on the MDGs, BBC Media Action “Climate Asia Project,” Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK (CPA UK), Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), the House of Representatives of the Philippines, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), LDC Watch, Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD), Save the Children, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR), and UN Women.

Much valuable experience was gained from implementing programs to achieve the MDGs over the past decade. The post-2015 development agenda will draw insights from those accomplishments and areas for improvement. But before we even think about “post 2015,” it is imperative that Philippine and global legislators take a serious look at and act on what needs to be done to fulfill MDG targets in the remaining three years.

Ultimately, their role is to hold themselves and their governments accountable and ensure that their constituents’ voices are heard and represented, towards 2015 and beyond.

(Michael Alan Hamlin is the managing director of TeamAsia and a Manila-based author and commentator. His latest book is High Visibility: Transforming Your Personal and Professional Brand. Write him at mahamlin@teamasia.com and follow him on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn. Copyright © 2012 Michael Alan Hamlin. All Rights Reserved.)

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