Saturday, April 01, 2006



MDGs and Developing Nations

Talking about the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals set by the U.N. aimed at bridging the developmental/digital divide between Africa/Asia and the West), it’s really encouraging that the developed world interfacing with the U.N., are now so committed to eradicating/containing extreme poverty in the world (living on less than a dollar a day, one billion people are affected worldwide mostly Africa and Asia). Many OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries (the big boys) have consistently scaled up the percentage of their GDP’s that gets routed to poor nations as funds for disaster relief, infrastructure development, improved governance and accountability (democracy), health (mainly HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria eradication), food (with innovations such as RUTF, ready to use therapeutic food) and you know the rest. Euro-Zone countries are giving as much as 0.4% of GDP while the U.S. still hangs on to 0.1%. Funds in the excess of $65b are being disbursed annually for these purposes but Jeffery Sachs (Consultant to the IMF, World Bank and WTO) thinks this amount needs to be scaled up to $195b annually by 2015 if we really mean business. In-fact, in his publication ‘The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time’, he states that Africa is poorly governed because Africa is poor! (we are used to the reverse but that’s his opinion!).
From Geneva (first phase) to Tunisia (2nd phase) to God knows where next, its been formulating one policy, establishing one forum and staging one follow up conference to another.

I applaud the focus and strategic nature of this global initiative but how effective it really has been up till now remains elusive. There are not enough authoritative statistics that validate perceived accomplishments of these goals and be sure we’ll be living in a fool’s paradise to assume we are progressing without substantive statistical progress indicators. Amir Attaran (Canadian Research Chair in law, population health and global development) once stated that the U.N. has misled by setting specific but immeasurable MDGs. Sachs (Director of the U.N. research millennium project) dismissed this claim by stating (in the PLoS medicine magazine) that only a handful of the MDGs are immeasurable but Attaran also replies citing the United Nations' own data analysis (which the UN subsequently blocked from public access) showing that progress on a very large majority of the Millennium Development Goals is never measured.

I do not intend to get into this argument but I’m a strong proponent of the Harvard style research methodology known as RACE meaning Research, Action, Communication and Evaluation. My focus is on the latter sub-component i.e. Evaluation. Inability to obtain specific metrics that are indispensable in ascertaining the efficacy of some activity is demeaning and unacceptable in our present global information age.
A report has shown that just about 10% of funds disbursed as aid actually gets to organizations that relate directly with the poor. (Looks like bureaucracy and graft are important issues in NGOs now!). The world bank recently halted all forms of financial aid to Chad (Chad govt. diverted oil revenue meant for infrastructure into arms to ward of insurgents), cut $800m worth of aid to India, scrapped unconditional aid to Zimbabwe all due to suspicion of graft and mismanagement.

2015 is less than a decade away and one has to wonder how achievable these goals really are. China successfully lifted 300m of its citizens from extreme poverty (living on less than a dollar a day) in the space of 20 years. This was largely internally and local policy driven. I strongly believe Nigeria and indeed, Africa can repeat same. It all depends on us, not just our leaders. NGOs accessing substantial funds but executing white elephant development projects, propaganda, dearth of sustainable development initiatives and ineffective leadership are depressing but certainly not enough to destroy the Spirit of a rejuvenated, educated, tenacious and development consumed citizen.
My community development group in zamfara state of Nigeria approached a ministry of education official with a proposal to impact secondary school kids and government with basic and then advanced ICT skills at zero cost. All they had to do was approve, give us a list of schools and provide some available hardware. He welcomed the idea initially only to convert the whole thing into his personal propaganda. He asked us to spend just a day at each school and do some publicity gymnastics under guaranteed press coverage. He didn’t realize we were not some press starved or State-award chasing service men. Intensive and sustainable education is what society needs, not some public awareness that many so called NGOs and advocacy groups are conducting around the country and continent.

(In same spirit as my elder one (synonym for mentor), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), I have been to the mountain top, I’ve looked over and I have beheld the Promised Land. Though I may not get there with you, we will get there as a people. Mine eyes have seen the coming of the Lord.
I have a dream that my (four or less) little children will one day live in a world where they will not be suppressed by the evil around them, but will be fired up through harnessing their limitless potential to effect a positive sustainable change in society by acting locally, but thinking globally.

adetayo bamiduro; +234-803-065-5386;; zm/05B/0276;;