Home .Development Are we good development partners?
Are we good development partners?
Thursday, 27 August 2009 06:54



The short answer is NO!



The United Nations Millennium Declaration emphasized that strengthened global partnerships for development were needed to provide the enabling environment for accelerating progress in reducing poverty, improving health and education, establishing gender equality and ensuring the protection of the environment as defined in the MDGs.  These partnerships are between developed and developing countries, among developing countries themselves, and with active involvement of the private sector.  But while there has been progress on several counts, delivery on commitments made by Member States for this partnership has been deficient, and has fallen behind schedule, according to a United Nations report.


You will recall our recent article on the Millennium Development Goals.  Well, there is an 8th goal which we did not treat in that article.  Goal 8 is the global partnership for development.  Specifically what it refers to are the commitments that developed countries made to help developing countries, namely, on Official Development Assistance, trade, debt, health and access to technology.  Let's look at these issues.


1.Official Development Assistance.  The target was to grant more generous development assistance, especially to countries genuinely making an effort to apply their resources to poverty reduction.  In 2008, the only countries to reach or exceed the UN target of 0.7 per cent of their gross national income (GNI) were Denmark, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.  Total net aid from OECD/DAC countries amounted to only 0.30 per cent of their combined Gross National Income, as opposed to the UN target of 0.7 per cent.  While aid has increased by over half since its low point in 1997 and by nearly 30 per cent since 2000, the pace of this increase has slowed dramatically since 2005.  The US is the largest donor, followed by Germany, UK, France and Japan – but ODA by the US and Japan is by far the lowest as a share of GNI at 0.16% and 0.17% per cent respectively.  About 60 per cent of aid comes from Europe.


Financial assistance to least developed countries (LDCs) also fell short of the commitments made.  In addition to Denmark, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, only Belgium, Ireland and the UK have met their target of providing aid to LDCs amount to at least 0.15-0.20 per cent of their GNI.  The average for all DAC countries was just 0.09 per cent.  If we are to meet the 2010 target set at the G-8 Summit in 2005, ODA will have to increase by 18 billion dollars a year. Of that, 7.3 billion dollars would have to go to Africa.


The 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness represents the most comprehensive effort to date to improve aid coordination and alignment with national priorities.  But slow effort has been made in improving the predictability of aid, and for reducing aid fragmentation and high transaction costs in the administration of aid resources.  Further progress is also needed in reducing the degree of aid tied to the purchase of goods and services in donor countries.


And while official development assistance efforts have been insufficient, the need for assistance is growing as countries prepare for the consequences of climate change, and require resources to deal with the food crisis.


2.  Trade.  Only slow progress has been made in meeting the MDG target of developing further an open, rule-based, predicable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system and providing tariff- and quota-free access for the least developed countries’ exports.  One of the objectives of the Doha Round of trade negotiations initiated in 2001 was to address the needs of developing countries according to a “development agenda”.  The failure to conclude the Doha Development Agenda negotiations represents the largest implementation gap.


Even though aid for trade has increased in real terms, it has fallen as a percentage of ODA. The world’s poorest countries are still marginalized, and many have been hit hard by high food and energy prices.  We need to move faster in reducing domestic and export subsidies on agriculture in developed countries, and in addressing other barriers to developing country exports and agricultural productivity growth.


3.  Debt.  The target is to deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long term.  There has been important progress in meeting the MDG target of dealing comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries.  Fewer countries today are hampered in their development by massive debt. Debt relief has been or will be provided to 35 out of 41 eligible countries, cancelling more than 90 per cent of their external debt. However, debt reduction needs to be extended to countries beyond the Heavily Indebted Poor Country and the Multilateral Debt Relief initiatives. And mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure sustainability and fair debt workouts in the future.


Despite debt relief and corresponding increases in social expenditures, a large number of developing countries still spend more on debt servicing than on public education or health.  In 2006, 10 developing countries spent more on debt service than on public education, and in 52 countries debt servicing amounted to more than the public health budget.


4.  Health.  The MDG target that aims, in cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, to provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries has served to mobilize resources and improve coordination aimed at increasing access to essential drugs and treatments to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in many countries.  Access to essential medicines has improved -- including those to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. But it is still far from adequate, and wide variations in pricing mean that essential medicines -- including antibiotics and painkillers -- are often unavailable to the poor.  We need to eliminate national taxes and duties on essential medicines, as well as the adopting generic substitution policies for essential medicines.  The fact that some developing countries have better availability and lower prices shows that access to quality, assured, affordable essential medicines can be improved through stronger partnership among governments, pharmaceutical companies and civil society, including consumers.


5.  Technology.  The MDG target that aims, in cooperation with the private sector, to make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications, has seen rapid progress in bridging the gap in the mobile telephone sector, but large gaps remain in improving access to key technology (Internet with broadband access being a good example) that is essential to increasing productivity, sustaining economic growth and improving service delivery in such areas as health and education.  Deficits in complementary infrastructure, such as limited coverage of electricity supply in the low income developing countries, are preventing facter penetration of information and communication technologies.  In 2007, 64 per cent of the population of developed regions were using the Internet, compared to 13 per cent in developing regions and only 1.5 per cent in LDCs.


We also need to step up efforts in transferring new technologies for development, including for agriculture, infrastructure, and access to energy.  We need to transfer technology to address climate change, so as to protect the most vulnerable.


In conclusion, effective global partnerships for development can fulfil the promise of halving extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education and gender parity, and improving the health and living conditions of millions of people.  But the international community has a responsibility to live up to its commitments – which it is not doing!






Millennium Development Goal: Delivering on the Global Partnership for Achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  MDG Gap Task Force Report 2008.

The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009.  United Nations.



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