Interventions: Advocacy and Capacity Building...

Side Event: MDGs and Beyond; Role of International Cooperation, Prospects and Challenges

23rd September 2013
The 68th UNGA Session aims at tracking progress of the MDGs and move towards a formulation on the sustainable development goals, aspired by the Rio+20 Conference and which will form a major part of the post 2015 development agenda of the United Nations. There are a number of efforts underway to assess and improve upon MDGs when they expire in 2015, formulate Sustainable Development Goals and define post 2015 agenda. The United Nations Secretary General appointed a High Level Panel of Eminent persons to articulate sustainable development goals, which submitted its report on 31st May, 2013. An Open Working Group is also looking into developing a post 2015 agenda for the UN. The 68th session will also witness and last session of the UN CSD as it is being transformed into a High Level Political Forum scheduled to meet for the first time during the session.
 
In this back drop the side event seeks to track the progress of the MDG 8 on International Cooperation. Presumably, international cooperation has a significant role not only in terms of enhancing financial, trade and technological collaboration among the countries, but also in terms of its impact on other MDG goals. It remains increasingly significant in a post MDG scenario too. The side event will discuss its progress, lessons and learned in international cooperation on MDGs and how it can be made more effective and meaningful in post 2015 processes.  
(The note is based on the analysis of limited data and sources including Kenny and Dykstra, 2013, World Bank data, MDG GAP Task Force Reports, and meant to inform the “speakers” on context, background and expectations from the side event. A detailed analysis with appropriate references will be available shortly for the audience.)
The MDG 8 on international cooperation sought to enhance cooperation of developed countries to low income and developing countries, in achieving MDG targets through increased (and transformed) financial and aid flows, increased access in trade, essential drugs and technology.
 
MDG 8 was seen as a weak goal right from beginning due to its narrow scope and unambitous targets. The experience has been a mixed bag. While there have been significant progress on certain individual indicators, its overall impact on quality of life in poor countries and its influence on other goals have been weak. It failed to establish international cooperation as a global public good. 
 
While there have been significant developments in aid to poor countries, manifested by increase in ODA received by Sun Saharan Africa from 20% (1999) to 34% (2009), and ODA itself increasing from 0.34% (1995) to about 0.5% (2006) but again coming down during the recent years. However, it remained a far cry from the Monterrey Consensus (2002) targets of 0.7% of the GNI (UN, 2012), which only Denmark, Luxemburg, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden could achieve (WB 2011). Though the overall amount of aid increased, the quality of aid continued to decline. Out of the 13 indicators laid down by Paris Declaration on Aid effectiveness (2005) only one target on coordinated technical assistance could be met.  Aid remains to be dominated by donor defined financial management and procurement systems, and aid continues to be increasingly fragmented (Kenny and Dykstra, 2013).
 
In terms of trade, indicators included free access to markets in developed countries, reduction in average tariff on agricultural products, textiles and clothings, reduction in support to agriculture in OECD countries, and increase in ODA to build trading capacities. Free market access for developing countries products increased from close to two-thirds to four fifths of their products (UN, 2012). The reduction in average tariff has been rather slow, with average tariff in OECD countries remaining at 6%  and tariff on agricultural products, textiles and clothings coming down to about 10% (MDG Gap Task Force Report, 2012). However, it is to be noted that exports from developing countries continue to face significant non-tariff barriers and estimates suggest that tariff constitutes only 8% of the total costs that these countries incur on meeting transaction, transportation, language and technical barriers (Anderson and Van Wincoop, 2004). The most worrying part has been almost no progress in reduction in support to agriculture in OECD countries, due to which exports from developing countries continue to remain in a disadvantageous position. This support amounted to USD 407 billion in 2007 and is approximately three times of the total aid flows (UN, 2012).
 
In finance, the MDG 8 dwelt on developing a rules based, transparent, predictable and non-discriminatory trading and financial system, and dealing comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long run. The debt problem has been dealt with some satisfaction with HIPC and MDRI initiatives, which have been able to reduce the debt of poor countries (as proportion of GNI) from 69% in 1999 to 29% in 2009 (UN, 2012). Debt service paid by 29 HIPC served countries accordingly to less than 2% in 2009 (from above 4% in 1999), with ratio in sub Saharan Africa coming down to 2.7% (World Bank, 2012). However, no impact of these progresses were seen on poor countries (except on IMR), which is extremely pertinent. In addition, there has been almost no progress in transforming financial and trade systems. Over the decade, aid and ODA were dwarfed by FDI (three times size of the aid), remittances (more than double as compared to ODA) and tax avoidance and illicit outflows from developing countries estimated between USD 50 billion to USD 284 billion (Arslanalp and Henry, 2006). In terms of their overall impact on countries economic health the MDG targets completely failed to provide any significant help as manifested by high vulnerability and adverse impact of global financial crisis on these countries.
 
In drugs, where targets and indicators were focused on increasing access to essential drugs, there has been considerable improvement only in terms of measles and DPT vaccination coverage (WB, 2012). Huge proportion of populations in developing countries  still have severely restricted access to essential drugs in public facilities, ranging from about 21% in western and central Africa, to 58% in Latin America (MDG GAP Task Force Report, 2011). Huge difference between access to these drugs in private facilities suggests increasing costs, which remained two and half times in public facilities and five times in private facilities over international reference prices. Public expenditure on drugs remained lowest in South Asia (MDG GAP Task Force Report, 2011).
 
International cooperation in technology remained challenged in its conceptualization. Targets referred to increased access to fixed lines, cellular subscription and access to internet. While the period witnessed unprecedented boom in cellular subscription reaching to 6 billion users by the end of 2011 and increasing from 4 to 80 every 100 persons; access to internet also increased to 24% users in developing countries (MDG GAP Task Force Report, 2011). However, collaboration in technology has been extremely ineffective due to limited role of donors and public institutions (mostly drive by private enterprise) and due to exclusion of rather important technologies on water and sanitation, agricultural technologies, electricity and renewable energy technologies, which could have bigger influences on improving living standard in developing countries. However, understandably these technologies are subject to stifling IPR regimes, and with large scale bilateral treaties remain extremely coveted.
In addition to these, many important areas of global cooperation including peacekeeping, migration, management of global institutions itself remain unrepresented, which must form an important consideration in the SDGs and post 2015 development framework.