Friday, December 7, 2007

Progress towards Millennium Development Goals

Dear Colleagues

In some cases there has been very good progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and in some cases not very much at all.

My own take on the MDGs is that they are more public relations than they are substance. They are typical of the modern era of established governance methodologies ... big on what is going to be done, but rather little to ensure that what is actually needed gets done.

In the year 2000, the UN makes committments to do big things by 2015. WOW! But who in the UN system is going to be around in fifteen years to explain anything. After five years a high profile and costly set of consultants reported on progress to date, and in simple terms, reported that progress was generally not very good at all. Progress in places like China and India with huge populations made the progress look better than it might have otherwise ... but in most places the relief and development sector and its leadership had made little or no progress. At the five year mark, the big recommendation was that issues like poverty could be addressed effectively by massive increases in the funding for the relief and development sector.

I respectfully disagree. There are two things that are needed. One is to make use of available resources in the best possible way. There needs to be very much improved accounting for resources, and especially there needs to be metrics about cost effectiveness. If the available money was used in the best possible way ... that is in the most cost effective way ... progress could be significantly accelerated.

When resources are being used well, then it is time to ask for more resources. At the moment the organizations involved in the relief and development sector either do not know much about the activities that are being funded and the results being achieved, or they are totally unwilling to share this information in a way that is useful.

Money is not the only resource that needs to be accounted for. There is also the human resource component. As things stand at the moment the human resource component is for all practical purposes ignored, and, not surprisingly, progress is not sustained. Imagine how much more could be done if local people were effectively mobilized as a resource for progress.

I see a lot wrong with the present system of relief and development assistance, but I do not see analysis of this. Instead I see a lot of thinking about how more money can be mobilized for something that really does not work.


Peter Burgess
The Tr-Ac-Net Organization