Building on the Momentum of the MDGs

By Michel Anglade

13 Mar 2013 (1)

Since the adoption of the UN Millennium Development Goals in 2000, we have seen improvements to the lives of millions globally. About 600 million more people have been lifted out of poverty, 56 million more children are going to school and millions of households have access to clean water.

Indeed, these successes prove that political will and commitment to set goals can bring about real change. And as the 2015 deadline for these UN MDGs loom, the international community must start critically reviewing these goals and discuss what the next commitment period will bring.

That is why Save the Children, along with ONE (Singapore) and the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, held a panel discussion on February 15th, 2013 to discuss the opportunities and challenges in the Post-2015 MDG agenda. During this discussion, Save the Children presented its report ‘Ending Poverty in Our Generation’, which lays out our proposal for the post-2015 agenda. Beyond these suggestions, however, it is my belief that we should first lay down the key principles to which these goals should be written.

Firstly, are all children given a fair chance to survive and thrive? Despite huge reduction in absolute poverty numbers, inequality has been on the rise. Save the Children’s ‘Born Equal’ report, published last September, showed that the overall gap between rich and poor children, globally, has grown by 35% since 1990 – nearly double the gap between adults – meaning that in some countries more than twice the number of poor children die before the age of five than rich children. Progress needs to reach the poorest 20% before we can safely say that all children have been given a fair chance to survive and thrive.

Secondly, Post-2015 goals cannot be seen as separate targets for separate sectors because they are inextricably linked; instead, they need to be seen as parts of a whole. A hungry child is less likely to go to school and achieve good learning outcomes; he is more likely to fall ill; and as he are also more likely to be poor, he will have less access to health services, clean water, nutritious food for physical and mental development and the result is a vicious cycle of poverty for generations to come.

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During the panel discussion, Michael Switow pointed out – and quite rightly so – that perhaps indicators are not enough for development. A child that has US$1.26 (US$0.01 more than the agreed target) could be considered ‘lifted out of extreme poverty’, but 10% inflation means that they would just be as food insecure as they were before. Instead, a rights-based approach could be necessary to ensure that women and children have access to what they need in order to survive and thrive. This is very much in line with Save the Children’s vision of a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation. Every child must have access to schools, clinics, social protection, nutritious food and a voice.

Accountability should be at the core of the framework. In order to hold world leaders to their promises, we need a robust accountability mechanisms rooted in regular collection of disaggregated data in order to track progress, all of which require investment and resources from the state.

Lastly, environmental sustainability of development is crucial as human health, survival and activities are dependent on our earth’s natural resources. Increased environmental exploitation is often viewed as a necessary process in development as people require more fuel, food and other material goods like electronics. And little has been done to improve the sustainability of our world. Of the 20 countries most at risk from climate related disasters by 2015, 19 have large numbers of absolute poor. As such, development projects should at the core of it, be built around environmental sustainability and low-carbon development.

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development may not be limited to the environment. Investment in women, for instance, will go a long way in sustaining development. As Georgette Tan said: “Women need to be empowered: They need an education to start, they need access to a bank account, access to finances and credit. They need to be given access to technology and they need to understand that they have a role to play…It’s about giving them the leg up, not just about the hand out.” Indeed, the case for investing in women has been made many times over; 90% of women’s income is reinvested in her families as opposed to about 40% of men’s income. Women invest in their communities, which helps create many more opportunities for other women and children in those communities.

Millions have benefitted as a result of the Millennium Development Goals. Let us capitalise on this momentum so that 6.9 million children no longer die each year from preventable causes, 300,000 mothers do not die needlessly, and millions of hungry have access to the nutritious foods they deserve.

Save the Children’s report, ‘Ending Poverty in Our Generation’, can be downloaded here.

Michel Anglade is the Campaigns and Advocacy Director at Save the Children Asia

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