Teamwork crucial to accelerate progress on MDGs

Collaborating and directing resources and knowledge to where they can have the biggest impact will do much to accelerate progress on the Millennium Development Goals. Photo by: DI / CC BY-NC-SA

Kurwa Nyaroche is one of several farmers from Gupta, a village in Tanzania’s Mara region, who used to grow cassava until much of the crop failed due to disease and poor farming methods.

For years, he and his fellow farmers struggled to break out of the cycle of low yields and enduring poverty. Then, earlier this year, he was introduced to new ways of farming and provided with quality seeds for a new crop. A newly-formed community farming group and local, small-scale demonstration farms, both recommended by the MDG Acceleration Framework, helped persuade Kurwa to access these services from a government agriculture worker.

The project has allowed Kurwa and his fellow farmers to adopt sustainable as well as modern agricultural methods. They’re now growing crops such as sunflowers.

“Sunflower farming will help us earn a good income because it has value. Through selling sunflower oil we will be able to get a lot of money,” he says.

More importantly, it has helped pull him and several of the region’s farmers out of poverty.

Kurwa’s story is emblematic of the concerted efforts being made by governments, the United Nations, a host of development partners and civil society organizations to accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, established 14 years ago set a firm deadline — the end of 2015 — to transform and save the lives of millions who are subject to poverty, hunger and disease.

Since 2000, tremendous progress has been made and several MDG targets met — both globally and in many countries. Across the world, extreme poverty has been cut in half, reducing the number of people living in that state by 700 million. Other significant gains include improving access to clean drinking water, curbing disease, and achieving gender parity in primary education.

These are impressive achievements, but the road ahead still runs uphill.

Many of these successes are unevenly distributed across and within countries, and slow progress on several goals means they may not be met by 2015. The challenges are daunting: global emissions of carbon dioxide keep growing, millions of hectares of forest are lost every year, maternal mortality is still too high, basic sanitation remains out of reach for millions, and many of those infected with HIV go without treatment.

It may seem like the list goes on, but what is reassuring is that it is getting shorter. What seemed like a tall order in 2000 to unite governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector to change lives for the better, has accomplished much. With each passing day, the lives of many more people get better, and we move closer to the goal of ending all human deprivations.

But now is not the time to be complacent. In fact, we must dig deeper and work both harder and smarter, as much needs to be done, with the 2015 deadline fast approaching.  

That is why leaders from the U.N. and the World Bank have been meeting to see how they can collaborate to help countries accelerate progress by focusing resources, learning from what works, and creating partnerships across individual areas of expertise.

For countries like Tanzania, MAF — now in use in nearly 60 countries — acted like a catalyst to help identify what they needed to focus on to reduce poverty and hunger. That action in turn helped farmers like Kurwa improve their livelihoods and incomes.

Thanks to widespread support by a range of partners, the framework has helped accelerate expansion of the Tanzanian government’s redesigned social safety net. It will impact nearly one million of the poorest households by mid-2015, instead of the estimated 220,000 by 2017. Nutrition and health education are now part of the program, which will help compound the positive effects of this initiative. Similar joint projects — to sustainably eradicate hunger, expand access to sanitation, reduce maternal mortality and improve education outcomes — are underway in many more countries such as Niger, Nepal, El Salvador, and Kyrgyzstan.

While we expect gains to be significant, it is clear that the unfinished work of the MDGs will continue to be a major part of the new global development agenda that includes Sustainable Development Goals. But as the case of Tanzania shows — by cooperating and directing our resources and knowledge to where they can have the biggest impact — we can do much to accelerate progress.

We may not achieve every goal in every country by the deadline, but our continued progress lays a solid foundation for the post-2015 development agenda, and it is a promise of what can be done when we all work together.

Aug. 18, 2014, marks the 500-day milestone until the target date to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Join Devex, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, to raise awareness of the progress made through the MDGs and to rally to continue the momentum. Check out our Storify page and tweet us using #MDGmomentum.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Magdy Martínez-Solimán

    Magdy Martínez-Solimán is assistant secretary-general of the U.N. and assistant administrator of the U.N. Development Program, where he leads the Bureau for Policy and Program Support. He was U.N. resident coordinator in Mexico, executive director of the U.N. Democracy Fund and UNDP’s global governance practice manager. He has been working for the United Nations for 18 years in Senegal, Bangladesh, Burundi and Togo, and has previously held senior responsibilities in the Spanish government. He is a lawyer by training.