The role of developed countries in the Millennium Development Goals: Aid, trade and debt -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The role of developed countries in the Millennium Development Goals: Aid, trade and debt

By Chris Vincent and Thomas Price

The Millennium Declaration

In September 2000, at the United Nations Millennium Summit, 189 heads of state committed their countries to a set of time-bound, measurable goals and targets for combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women.

These goals — the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — create a global framework for both rich and poor countries to work together in a strategic manner toward a common end by 2015. Not only did poor countries pledge to reform policies, improve governance, and to channel resources to development objectives, but rich countries promised to deliver more effective aid, faster and deeper debt relief, and fairer trade rules. Developed country commitments are outlined in Goal 8 of the MDGs, which simply reads: Develop a global partnership for development. (See the targets under Goal 8 http://www.undp.org/mdg/tracking_targetlist.shtml.)

These targets are what all developed countries are measuring themselves against and are, and will remain, the focus of all development activities and funding for the foreseeable future. Often, these targets are simplified into the categories of aid, trade and debt.

How are developed countries meeting their commitment to Goal 8?
As with all United Nations resolutions, each individual country is responsible for developing a plan to meet its commitment. This holds true for all the developed countries that have committed to the Millennium Declaration and the MDGs.

There are a few mechanisms in place that are helping the U.N. track the commitment of the developed countries outside of its own reporting. One such example is the Center for Global Development’s Commitment to Development Index (CDI) — a global progress report focused on developed countries. The Center for Global Development is an independent think tank based in Washington, D.C. The CDI rates 21 rich countries on how much they are helping poor countries build prosperity, develop good government and increase security. Each rich country receives scores in seven policy areas, which are averaged for an overall score.

The Netherlands ranks first in the index. The Netherlands’ strengths are:

  • a very high net aid volume as a share of the economy;
  • a large share of aid to poor recipients with relatively democratic governments; and
  • a large amount of private charitable giving attributable to tax policy.

On the other hand, Japan ranks last among other developed countries’ commitment to development. Japan’s weaknesses are:

  • a very low net aid volume as a share of the economy;
  • a small amount of private charitable giving attributable to tax policy; and
  • funds many small projects rather than larger, more transformational projects.

The full interactive graph and information from the Center for Global Development can be found at http://www.cgdev.org/section/initiatives/_active/cdi.

Another mechanism to track how developed countries are meeting their commitment to Goal 8 is through each country’s annual report. So far, the following countries have submitted official reports to the United Nations: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. (The United States is the most notable exception.) All of these reports can be found on the United Nations Development Group’s Web site at http://www.undg.org/content.cfm?id=79. These reports promote transparency and hold the countries accountable for their commitments.

The Millennium Declaration states, the world’s leaders “will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected. We are committed to making the right to development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire human race from want.” For this statement to hold true, both rich and poor countries will need to work together to meet the goals set out in the MDGs by 2015, with the role of developed countries in the MDGs clear and integral to their overall success. Simply, each developed country must deliver more effective aid, faster and deeper debt relief, and fairer trade rules.

Chris Vincent is director of congressional relations and international relations at Habitat’s Washington D.C. office. Thomas Price is director of communications for Habitat’s programs in Europe and Central Asia.