More aid, development-related trade to spark progress on MDGs — report

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a press conference at the launch of the 2013 report of the Millennium Development Goals Gap Task Force. The report, according to Ban, paints a "mixed" picture. Photo by: Paulo Filgueiras / U.N.

    Recommit to increasing aid and reach an agreement on a development-oriented multilateral trade agreement to propel progress on the Millennium Development Goals.

    That was a call the international community must heed, according to the latest report by the MDG Gap Task Force unveiled last week by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

    The task force — co-chaired by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the U.N. Development Program — was created by Ban in 2007 to systematically track existing international commitments and to identify gaps and obstacles in their fulfilment at international, regional and country levels on official development assistance, market access (trade), debt sustainability, access to essential medicines and new technologies.

    Although recent progress means that more MDG targets can be achieved by the 2015 target date, the U.N. chief said during the launch of the report that the picture is “mixed.”

    “We can do better. The best way to prepare for the post-2015 era is to demonstrate that when the international community commits to a global partnership for development, it means it and directs its resources to where they are most needed,” added Ban.

    Here are our top 10 takeaways (and some recommendations) from the report:

    1. ODA declined for a second consecutive year, falling 4 percent to $125.9 billion from $134 billion in 2011. The report calls on donors to reverse the two-year decline in ODA and reach the U.N. target of 0.7 percent of gross national income.

    2. Bilateral aid to the 49 least developed countries fell 12.8 percent to about $26 billion in 2012. Aid flows to LDCs should be increased and given priority to reach U.N. targets, suggests the report.

    3. Beyond aid from traditional donor countries, grants are gaining prominence with funds from private voluntary agencies totalling $30.6 billion in 2011, with agencies from the United States accounting for $23.3 billion of this amount.

    4. Agreements during the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development in 2012 and recent meetings of the U.N., G-8, G-20, World Bank and others point to the variety of means being mobilized to reduce poverty, including traditional as well as new, innovative methods and partnerships.

    5. The share of world trade for developing countries rose to 44.4 percent in 2012, representing a 12 percentage point increase compared to 2002 levels. Meanwhile, the majority of developing-country exports today enter developed-country markets duty-free, reaching 80 percent in 2011. The report recommends removing all trade-restrictive measures adopted since the onset of the global crisis and fully implement duty-free quota-free market access to LDC products.

    6. Remittances to developing countries reached $401 billion in 2012, a 5.3 percent increase over 2011 and are expected to further increase in the near future.

    7. The Doha Round of global trade negotiations remains stalled after more than a decade of talks. The 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in December 2013 may represent an opportunity to break the impasse. The reports urges a balanced, development-oriented conclusion of Doha.

    8. Most developing countries’ fiscal balances have improved, but the pace of fiscal adjustment and its impact on social expenditures is set to increase. In addition, aggregate data masks the extent to which some developing countries remain critically indebted or are at significant risk of debt distress. Donors should ensure timely debt relief and further develop and disseminate debt management tools and techniques, according to the report.

    9. Prices for essential medicines in developing countries are still too high, but there has been progress in access to medicines to treat HIV/AIDS, as well as an increase in local production of other essential medicines. The report urges governments of developing nations to make essential medicines more available in their public facilities, while pharmaceutical companies should make available more affordable essential medicines and innovate in new medicines for neglected diseases.

    10. Internet use in developing countries was up 12 percent in 2013. While ICT services continue to become more affordable, the difference in costs between developed and developing countries remains substantial. Developing countries should increase the access and affordability of ICT, in cooperation with the private sector, especially broadband connections, the report recommends.

    The report also makes calls to put a stop to tax evasion, strengthen manufacturing safety standards, deal with unsustainable debt and improve financial regulation and the rules for global trade.

    After the launch, Devex spoke to Olav Kjørven, assistant secretary-general and development policy director at UNDP. Stay tuned for our exclusive interview.

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    About the author

    • Richard Jones

      In his role as Editorial Director Richard oversees content for digital series, reports and events, leading a talented team of writers and editors, conducting high-level video interviews and moderating panels at events. Previously partnerships editor and an associate editor at Devex, Richard brings to bear 15 years of experience as an editor in institutional communications, public affairs and international development. Based in Barcelona, his development experience includes stints in the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Ecuador, as well as extensive work travel in Africa and Asia.