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Opinions of Sunday, 12 May 2013

Columnist: Anzagra, Solomon

Identifying Key Hurdles to Achieving the MDGs

: Realities from Africa for the Post 2015 Agenda

Introduction
As the 1000 day count-down to the end of the period for the world’s Millennium Development Goals has begun, it is only expedient that an introspection in to progress of the package and retrospection of the past be done. This will help unearth the various hurdles encountered on the world’s fifteen-year-long journey towards a world of better life especially for the poor. Whilst celebrating the successes achieved around the world, addressing loopholes that serve as impediments to achieving the goals is an open essential. This is even more timely and imperative as the world begins carving the post 2015 agenda.
A current assessment of the world’s position indicates tremendous progress has been made across all sectors covered by the MDGs though stark regional imbalances exist. This work is focused on Africa’s progress and peculiarities with respect to the MDGs including various insights which can make relevant inputs into the post 2015 agenda.
Though the setting of the MDGs was described by many as very ambitious the progress made is simply welcoming. However, more and better progress or even total achievement of the MDGs is believed would have been a possibility. Especially, if certain inherent challenges to the goals and perhaps regional peculiarities were addressed before the institution or during the pursuit of the MDGs. For instance the United Nations’ 2010 progress report of the MDGs indicates “The world possesses the resources and knowledge to ensure that even the poorest countries, and others held back by disease, geographic isolation or civil strife, can be empowered to achieve the MDGs” which means, there certainly have been key setbacks that hold back this reality and presents the current picture on the world’s journey to its dreamland. Some of the key setbacks are explored and the necessity for their incorporation into the post 2015 agenda established.
Global Progress and Success Stories: Failures and Fallouts of Africa
Since its adoption in August 2001, the Eight Millennium Goals, 21 targets and 60 indicators are popularly described as “roadmap for world development by 2015” representing core piece for global governance and development. The MDGs sought to increase globalization and promise faster growth, new opportunities and higher living standards for people among other things. The success stories of the MDGs abound, despite the remaining long way to their full achievement especially in developing regions.
Africa continues to make steady progress on most of the goals and in some cases exceeding Latin America, Western Asia and the Carribean. The continent is however bedevilled with menaces in terms of governance, conflicts, sustainability, unemployment, and socio-cultural milieus which either hinder progress or at times erode gains made some cases.
For instance, with respect to the first goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, a World Bank 2008 poverty estimates, indicate the developing world was very close to reaching the global target of halving income poverty by 2015 but the rate of decline in Africa is however too slow to achieve the target by 2015. The proportion of people living on less than 1.25 a day in Africa excluding (North Africa) decreased marginally from 56.5 percent in 1990 to 47.5 percent in 2008 according to the Africa’s 2012 progress report on the MDGs. Analysis indicates that Africa made the least progress in reducing poverty with about 41percent off the 2015 target.
Also, figures from the UN Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality estimation shows a 31 deaths/1000 live births decline in the global rate of child mortality that is from 88deaths/ 1000 live births in 1990 to 57 deaths /1000 live births in 2010 and children dying under five reduced from 12million in 1990 to 7.6million in 2010. However the reduction is not consistent with Africa’s experience. Of the 26 countries worldwide with under five mortality rates above 100 deaths per 1000live births, 24 representing 84.6 percent are African countries according to the UN Inter-Agency Group.
Though globally the number of new HIV infections has dropped by 21percent from 2.6 million in 1997 to 1.9 million in 2010, Africa which is only 12percent of world’s population accounted for 68percent of people living with HIV in 2010 and 70 percent of new HIV infections in 2010 according to a UNAID, 2010 report. Malaria still kills hundreds of thousands in Africa on daily basis and most African countries still battle with the six childhood killer diseases.
By 2008, though the world had reduced maternal mortality by 47 percent according to the UN, Africa’s Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) was 590 deaths per 100,000 live births and the general mortality rate in developing regions still 15 times higher than in developed regions. This means that in 2008 a woman in Africa died from pregnancy or childbirth every 2.5 minutes, 24 an hour, 576 a day and 210,223 a year strongly evidencing the regional imbalances that exist in the world’s progress towards achieving the MDGs.
Preserving the environment and ensuring its sustainability is one important way of ensuring people have access to decent lives. Land area covered by forest has shrunk globally from 31.2 percent in 1990 to 28.1 percent in 2010. This affects climate and the livelihood of especially rural populace who are said to be the hard-hit of climate change consequences because they have limited means and capacity to respond and adapt. Though emissions of CO2 are low in Africa, the continent has been considered very susceptible to climate change with effects such as continuous desertification, erratic rainfall, water scarcity, floods and loss of biodiversity becoming alarmingly high in the continent and exacerbating the level of vulnerability.
The MDGs target of the proportion of population using improved drinking water has globally been met in advance of 2015 but not in Africa. There has been an increase from 56 percent in 1990 to 66 percent in 2010 but the rate of increase is slow to reach the continent-wide target of 78 percent by 2015. Water sources to rural areas between 1990 and 2010 improved from 42 percent to 53 percent but reduced from 86 percent to 85 percent in urban areas according to a UN report, indicating a seeming unbendable battle for survival in this sector.
Hurdles and Challenges
It is realized that Africa is still lacking behind in terms of most MDGs. Hence the need to explore the reasons which caused this seeming peculiar stand of Africa in terms of the prevailing global development benchmarks. Some of the challenges identified to be militating against Africa’s progress include, but however not limited to conflicts; corruption and governance; sustainability issues; regional peculiarities; socio-cultural and attitudinal hurdles.

Conflicts
The existence and growth of civil strifes, coup d’états and general conflicts present a formidable front and a terrible block to progress in the MDGs and no effort must be relented towards curbing them. For instance, according United Nations’ 2010 progress report of the MDGs, More than 42 million people are currently displaced by conflict or persecution, four fifths of them in developing countries. Of these, 15.2 million are refugees (residing outside their countries of origin) and 27.1 million people have been uprooted but remain within the borders of their own countries.
This makes the civil conflicts and coup d’ tats in Africa and other developing economies unhealthy to the MDGs and presents a precarious front to the post 2015 agenda. Rebels of Central African Republic have collapsed the constitutionally elected government after the Malian government was toppled in similar fashion 2012. The seeming insincere commitment of Western Powers to curbing the menace as against the MDG 8: forming global partnership for development is yet an unpalatable situation. Developed economies have moved from a state of support of human dignity to a position of protection of economic interest and promotion of neo-colonialist agenda. In an editorial by Nairaland.com entitled ‘The Facts And Fallacies Of The War In Mali’ a Belgian MP Laurent Louis points out strongly “under the appearance of good actions, we only intervene to defend financial interests in a complete neo-colonialist mindset” Indicating the insincere position and motive of the developed economies of intervening in conflicts in Africa and elsewhere. In a debate on conflict resolution in Africa, The UN General Assembly president, Vuk Jeremi? indicated “I do not think the international community is devoting enough attention to the complex security issues faced by the continent (Africa)—from terrorism, secessionist threats and trans-national organized crime, to the proliferation of arms, effective peace building, and mass migration.” The United Nations therefore is indebted with the challenge of assertively moving the issue of conflict resolution and interventions of western powers from a mere convention to an active policy roadmap especially as the post 2015 siren looms, because it is one major hurdle that can keep rocking the world back and forth without real progress. A rigorous examination of the approaches and motives of intervention of Western Powers in conflicts in Africa has become a naked imperative.

Corruption and Governance
The issue of differentials in governance at respective country and regional levels can be partly attributable to the imbalances and uneven achievements of the MDGs. Whilst countries which have ease of doing business and bureaucracies are fairly doing very well with respect to the MDGs, those entangled in bribery and corruption fuelled by extreme bureaucracies averagely seem to be lacking behind in most of the MDGs. For instance with respect to the Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perception index report, all African countries, with the exception of Botswana, scored below 50 percent of the total 100 percent score. Indicating how pervasive corruption is perceived to be in the African continent. The reality presented is that this does not only succeed in weakening governance and administrative frameworks that propel development but also widen the gap in the distribution of national income and resources making the poor poorer and the rich richer. Also, according to the IDS and Irish Aid Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index 2012 report, which measures the level of governments’ commitment to fighting hunger and malnutrition, no African country scored a high commitment index and indeed few African counties scored moderate/medium index with many scoring very low commitment index. The issue of governance and corruption plays a kingpin role at the regional and country levels in determining how far the world goes in its development bids and plans.

The Issue of Sustainability
The issue of sustainability has brought the entire essence of the MDGs into question. It is generally lamented that gains made in the MDGs have been eroded in most countries including Africa, by the global economic meltdown. Aid cuts erupting from the economic crisis is said to have reversed most gains of with respect to the MDGs. Indeed, the announced cancellation of Round 11 of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund) could lead to reversals in other vertical funding schemes. Again the Official Development Assistant (ODA) to developing countries have not been able to meet the UN target set. ODA reached 0.32 per cent of DAC member countries’ GNI in 2010, up from 0.31 per cent in 2009. However, the volume of ODA continues to fall short of the UN target of 0.7 per cent of donor country GNI.
The indication is that the policy approaches adopted at the local level in most countries with respect to the MDGs if not far from temporal fixes of development concerns to permanent restoration of development shortfalls can present a precarious picture in the post 2015 era especially if more aid cuts set in.
Sustainability is well acclaimed and has proven essentially pivotal to every development interventions. And its absence in any intervention simply speaks of a shadow casted by the sun that will soon move away from the beneficiary. The case and issue of sustainability must be given a serious consideration in the post 2015 policy design. Policy experts curving the post 2015 agenda must design a benchmark that help move local level interventions from temporal fixes to permanent and sustainable development securities. Programmes and projects targeted at local Beneficiaries must be focused towards empowering most especially economic empowerment to help them take control of their lives after a pullout of development intervention.

Regional Peculiarities
Regional differentials in development needs must be given a regard in designing the post 2015 agenda. One major shortcoming of the prevailing MDGs is the fact that they did not give regional peculiarities in development concerns a policy suggestions and directions. The MDGs did not give adequate attention to telling development concerns of the globe emanating from the effects and impacts of prevailing development issues. Rather more attention in the design of the MDGs was given to the outcome of development concerns. The current regional imbalances existing in the level of progress towards the MDGs is partly attributable to inadequate attention to regional peculiarities in development needs necessary for progress in some regions. For instance whilst increasing outbreak of natural disasters might be responsible for poor growth and development in Asia, Africa might be suffering more from the impact of poor governance, state failure and corruption. Meaning if these are given more attention and dealt with at the regional levels, it may present a more realistic and holistic picture of global progress. This necessitates regional specific policy recommendations—though with universal policy outcomes or targets and goals—that regions and even possibly countries with stark peculiarities have to deal with to achieve the overall development targets. Though this might present a herculean front to the overall global policy formulation it may be a major way of dealing with regional imbalances, regional-specific development issues that militate against progress and a way of ensuring universal global progress in development targets.

Socio-cultural and attitudinal hurdles
Human empowerment through education still remains key to Africa’s progress. There are many still trapped in illiteracy, ignorance and general intellectual backwardness coupled with attitudinal pitfalls that encumber progress and development. Achieving a goal like promoting gender equality and empowering women is and will remain a difficulty because cultural practices (including inequitable inheritance practices, early marriage and household power dynamics), few economic opportunities for women and too little political power holding by females are still prevalent in Africa. Also, access to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) and behavioural change is said to have underpinned the HIV/AIDS turnaround in Africa. It is still common in Africa, where there is no health centres women go into labour at home and even where there exists health facilities some women either with the endorsement or coercion of their husbands still go into labour at home. These women only report to the health facility when complications develop which sometimes bring complications beyond reverse and which before dealt with lead to avoidable deaths. High and uncontrolled fertility still rocks Africa’s development back and forth with population fast outpacing development risking human dignity and decent life. According to the UNFPA, the United Nations points out that out of the 58 countries categorized high-fertility countries in 2010, 39 of them, representing over 67 percent, are in Africa. In this the UNFPA indicates, a complex mix of social and cultural forces play a critical role. Indeed, factors such as illiteracy and poverty also have enormous contribution.
In cases of this sort, education, information and sensitization for attitudinal change is of tremendous relevance to change trends and troubles inherent. Behavioural and attitudinal circumstances therefore play kingpin role in progress in most continents and in the achievement of most of the MDGs. Indeed, attitude fuels social ills such as bribery and corruption. And hence the need to fight attitudinal encumbrances which is believed to have a multiplier effect on all sectors of focus and can offer a lubricating effect to the wheels of global progress. In carving the post 2015 agenda it is essentially appropriate to factor in attitudinal and behavioural transformation especially into targets for progress. The challenge however is as to the empirical approach to use in measuring state of progress in this area. It is however possible to use approaches such as perception indices among others to appreciate achievements.


Conclusion and Way Forward for Carving the Post 2015 Agenda
In summary, the time for post 2015 agenda has never being most appropriate than now. The current studies going on around the globe will have enough to gather as to why regional imbalances as well as global backlogs exist in achieving the MDGs. What is most relevant is taking stock of the challenges and hurdles encountered on our journey to the MDG-world. Real and sustained progress made with the post 2015 agenda especially in Africa will therefore chiefly depend on the extent to which policy makers of the global community go in tackling issues of sustainability of efforts, achievements and progress; corruption and failure in governance; insincere resolution of conflicts; socio-cultural and attitudinal hurdles in Africa as well as general regional peculiarities in development concerns across the broad global spectrum.

Authors
Solomon Anzagra (sanzagra@yahoo.com), Samuel Appiah Adjei (appiahadjei281@gmail.com), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology,Kumasi-Ghana And Stephen Yeboah (stephenyeboah110@yahoo.com), Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies- Geneva, Switzerland

REFERENCES
AUC, UNECA, AfDB and UNDP (2012) Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals, ACCESSED: www.undp.org/africa/documents/mdg/2012.pdf
UNESCO (2012). World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education. Paris: UNESCO. ACCESSED: www.uis.unesco.org/Education/.../unesco-world-atlas-gender-education-20...
The Millennium Development Goals Report 2011.New York: UN. ACCESSED: www.un.org/millenniumgoals/11_MDG%20Report_EN.pdf

Global HIV/AIDS Response: Epidemic Update and Health Sector Progress towards Universal Access. Geneva: UNAIDS. ACCESSED:www.unaids.org/.../unaids/.../JC2215_Global_AIDS_Response_Progress_R..

www.Nairaland.com: (2013)The Facts And Fallacies Of The War In Mali.
www.gbcghana.com: UN debate on conflict resolution in Africa.
Transparency International (2012) Corruption Perceptions Index for 2012, Accessed: http://www.transparency.org/cpi2012/results

Institute of Development Studies (2013): The Hunger And Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI 2012): Measuring the Political Commitment to Reduce Hunger and Undernutrition in Developing Countries, ACCESSED: www.ids.ac.uk/files/dmfile/HANCI_2012_reportv2.pdf
UNFPA (2011): State of world population 2011: People and Possibilities in a world of 7 billion