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August 2, 2010

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August 2, 2010

The US gets serious on the Millennium Development Goals

August 2, 2010
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Climate change legislation may have been blown out of the water in Congress, but Barack Obama is still moving mdg-iconsforward on reforming the chaotic US aid system (see previous posts here). On Friday the Administration released the US plan for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, ahead of the UN’s September ‘high level event’ on the MDGs. Two paras caught my eye:

“In September 2009, President Obama launched a study of U.S. development policy and will be issuing a new development policy in the near future. The policy will focus on achieving sustainable development outcomes by promoting broad‐based economic growth and democratic governance, investing in game‐changing innovations that have the potential to solve long‐standing development challenges, and building effective public sector capacity to provide basic services over the long term. The policy also puts a premium on selectivity, on leveraging the expertise and resources of others, on mutual accountability, and on evidence of impact. This new development policy will guide the U.S. approach to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The United States fully embraces the MDGs, and as we move toward the UN High‐Level Meeting to review the MDGs this September, it is critical that we take stock of what we have learned. We know that assistance, while essential, cannot bring about development in the absence of domestic policies and international flows of trade, investment, skills, and ideas that create opportunities for lasting economic growth. We must stay focused on the development outcome we seek: sustainable progress toward higher standards of living in the developing world.”

The focus on ‘building effective public sector capacity to provide basic services’ is particularly welcome – an acknowledgement of the limits of purely private provision that you don’t always hear in US aid debates.

rajiv shahYou can see the influence of the Gates Foundation, with its twin emphases on innovation and impact measurement (‘a relentless commitment to measuring results’, in the words of the MDG Strategy). Hardly surprising as the new head of USAID, Rajiv Shah (left), is a former GF high flyer. This document shows how quickly Shah and USAID have won back lost political ground from other government agencies (USAID was put in charge of developing the MDG strategy and Shah unveiled the strategy on Friday).

The document also stresses the importance of promoting ‘broad-based economic growth’ and the need to ‘invest in and empower women and girls’. Good stuff.

The Obama administration didn’t have to do this. Not many votes in it, and the global financial crisis could have provided a perfect excuse for retrenchment or delay, so kudos for some real leadership. That will hopefully invigorate the preparations for the MDG summit. For the US, the next step is finishing and publishing that overall US development strategy, which has already been leaked in draft form.

4 comments

  1. Serious? First they go to reform a whole lot of sectors in order to be on the MDG road:

    1) Untie US aid from commercial interests

    2) Disband the neo-liberal like MCC/MCA and merge all US development operations under the USAID

    3) Consider Development to be away from their chant of 3Ds–Defence, Diplomacy and Development

    4) Increase aid–this can be done by redistributing military aid to the development budget

    5) Have the USAID director report directly to the President (no need to be a DFID No. 2 yet)

    And so there are so many more points to consider…..

  2. Well, there we have it – the US is getting involved in the developing world. What a joke! Instead of trying to correct the developing world why do they not correct their biggest influence on the world economy – global warming? This all sounds to me to be payments because of self interest – “If I give them money they will not say anything about my biggest failure – global warming”.

    Shame on the US, its politicians and the population.

  3. Freschi ultimate point is that the MDGs will never be realised; true for most of the SSA region and other countries. But she and Easterly fail to see the socio-political implications of not evne having an MDG.

    That said, it is a pity there hasnt been a talk about having a MDG reform at the summit to reach at least half of the goals. This could be drawn from “re-vitalising” the Human Development concept from the UNDP.

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