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Beyond the Millennium Development Goals: What are Africa’s expectations?

1st February 2013


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Since their endorsement in 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been a pillar and point of reference for sustainable development with public advocacy in their support.1  They have been embedded in several International and Regional initiatives and have had an influence on policy discourse not only in Africa, but throughout the developing world.2 Although Africa has been part of the MDGs agenda, the continent has not achieved most of the MDGs.  It still lags behind in many areas such as poverty reduction and hunger. One of the reasons of this situation has been Africa’s dependency on donor funding in implementing programmes that are linked to MDGs.   Africa expects a post 2015 framework that will emphasise economic, technological, social and environmental support so as to deal successfully with the complex realities of poverty, inequality, climate change, and sustainable consumption of resources. As the period of their existence is coming to an end in 2015, the question that appear to trouble most countries is what will replace the MDGs?.

The MDGs Constitute 8 goals, 18 targets, and 48 indicators, and they were the result of a series of consultations, world summits, and international conferences on children, Women, education, population, food security, the environment, and human settlements, sponsored by the United Nations in the mid 90s.3  Some countries and regions have done better than others, with some goals achieved, others partially achieved and others not achieved at all.  With the current economic crisis and environmental disasters, shrinkage of resource flows from developed to developing world is imminent and this will make it difficult for those countries that are lagging behind to obtain resources that will help them to achieve some of the millennium development goals.  There is a high likelihood that these will be among the developing countries including Africa.


Various initiatives are underway in discussing and offering proposals for the post 2015 framework.  It is important to note that whilst there are expectations, this is a complex process in which it would be difficult to reach an agreement that will satisfy the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable countries. Despite this, Africa expects to play an important role in the post 2015 agenda so as to ensure that there will be no one size fits all approach to the development agenda that will replace the MDGs.

Africa’s achievements through the MDGs Advocacy


The overview of the impacts and achievements of the MDGs gives a mixed picture.4  However, the development debate has remained donor oriented, although with a shift to debates about the role of the emerging economies such as G77, multilateral organisations like BRICS and the need to reform international financial institutions.  Generally, efforts to achieve MDGs based targets have improved the lives of people in Africa. In spite of the series of food, energy, financial and economic shocks, Africa has benefited substantially from the MDGs advocacy as well as the sustainable development debates.  A number of the MDG goals have been incorporated into national development plans and strategies of most African countries and the MDGs progress and gaps monitoring has forced these countries to continue to allocate resources towards the achievement of MDGs.5  Countries in Africa have made greater strides in areas such as education and health.6   For example, in Ethiopia and Tanzania, primary school enrolment rates have doubled.  Malawi and Algeria have become food exporters.  Rates of HIV infections have fallen significantly in Sub-Saharan Africa, whilst reported malaria cases have been halved in countries like Rwanda and Zambia.7

In spite of these achievements loop holes still exist with regards to the implementation of the programmes as well as the capacity to monitor and evaluate impacts of MDGs in general.8  Poverty has remained a major challenge in Africa with progress mainly confined to East Asia, especially in China.9   In addition to poverty, maternal mortality is a key development challenge, particularly in  sub-Saharan Africa.10   What compounds these challenges is the fact that pledges to double Aid to Africa by 2010 didn’t materialise11.

In some African countries the MDGs did not serve the strategic purpose of changing the discourse on development as they have been donor led.12 A major criticism of the MDGs is that they missed out on crucial dimensions of development such as human rights, good governance, and security.  In most countries civil society and the private sector have been excluded in the planning and formulation of development strategies,13 an issue which the Busan partnership for effective development cooperation seeks to address.

Considerations for Post 2015 Agenda

The new post 2015 agenda seems to be more holistic and inclusive as it aims to capture the context and the complexity of the problems the world and Africa is facing. The Busan partnership for effective development cooperation endorsed by both developing and developed states in December 2011 in Busan, the republic of Korea seems to be setting out a more realistic post 2015 development agenda in which developing and developed nations, emerging nations, providers of South- South and triangular cooperation and civil society are putting together a more effective development cooperation framework suitable for a post 2015 agenda.  Whilst the Busan Partnership is not binding, it recognises that fighting poverty, inequality and hunger  should be a joint effort that requires multiple actors  to complement North- South Co-peration in order to address the challenges of health, climate change, economic down turns, food and fuel price crises, conflict and fragility, vulnerability to shocks and  natural disasters14.  Furthermore the new deal for Engagement of Fragile states reached by the G7 and a group of 19 conflict affected countries, development partners and international organisation is a realisation of the fact that peace and security should be core in achieving development.

Whilst no significant binding agreement was reached during Cop 17  (in 2011 in Durban)  as well as during Cop 18 (in 2012) in Doha, the world seems to be putting the building blocks and the mechanisms to ensure that a climate change binding agreement will come into effect in 2020. As a start, a multilateral rules based system applicable to all parties is intended for 2015, which could then lead to a binding agreement in 2020 onwards15. Furthermore the Kyoto Protocol, was amended so that it continued into the second commitment period of 8 years, and also an agreement by the rich nations to mobilise at least 10 billion USD a year up to 2020.

Lastly, the Rio+20 outcomes seems to  be more realistic in meeting Africa’s expectations as it underscores the need for sustainable development goals to include the promotion of equitable and inclusive growth; by creating greater opportunities for all; reducing inequalities; raising basic standards of living; fostering equitable social development and inclusion; and integrated and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems that support economic, social and human development while facilitating ecosystem conservation.  To achieve some of these a post 2015 framework requires a paradigm shift in development thinking and development assistance that merges Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and (MDGS.) This should involve a multiplicity of stakeholders as well as ring fencing Africa’s interests by ensuring effective participation in order to ensure collective ownership of the post 2015 agenda.

Written by Thokozani Simelane and Bertha Chiroro, Africa Institute of South Africa

1Jahan Selim, The Millennium Development Goals Beyond 2015, Issues for Discussion, New York 2009 Http:// (Accessed 22/11/2012)
2 See The Millennium Development Goals: Considerations for a Post -2015 MDG Agenda for Africa. United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Background Paper  Presented at a Regional Workshop: “Towards an African Position on the Post -2015 Development Agenda” Organised by the Economic Development and NEPAD Division (EDND) MDGs/LDCs Section
3 Vandemoortele Jan ( Co-architect of the MDGs formerly with UNICEF and UNDP Now Independent Researcher , writer and Lecture)  Advancing the UN Development Agenda  Post-2015: Some practical Suggestions. Report Submitted to the UN Task Force regarding the Post -2015 Framework for Development (accessed 22 /11/2012)
4 Jahan Selim (2009)
5 Jahan Selim 2009, The Millennium Development Goals  Beyond 2015 Issues for Discussion, Http:// (Accessed 22/11/2012)
6 Bandara Amarakoon Post -2015 Global development Agenda: A critical Assesssment of Future Options.  February 2012, assessment-16-02-2012 (accessed 20/12 2012)
7 Ibid page 1
8 Jahan Selim, The Millennium Development Goals Beyond 2015 issues for discussion, April 2009,  page 4
9 Bandara Amarakoon page 1
10 Bandara page 7
11 Bandara page 8
12 Bandara page 9
13 Jahan, 2009
14 See The Busan Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, Busan Republic of Korea, 29 Novemebr-1 December 2011 page 1 ( accessed 20 /12/ 2012)
15 See United Nations Convention on Climate Change Overview of the Key Outcomes of the Durban Conference.  UNFCCC Secretariat FTC Durban-20%final.pdf


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