Magazine article UN Chronicle

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Article excerpt

Seventy years ago, during the closing days of the Second World War, representatives of 50 nations attended the United Nations Conference on International Organizations in San Francisco, leading to the signing of the Charter of the United Nations, that came into force on 24 October 1945. The Charter is as relevant today as it was seven decades ago. The United Nations was forged through a unified resolve to uphold peace and security, development, and human rights for all and these remain the three pillars that frame the work and mission of the Organization.

The turn of the century marked a major milestone in development, when political leaders revised the terms of development cooperation. The United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 convened the largest gathering of world leaders, which saw Heads of State adopt a new framework for human development, the United Nations Millennium Declaration. A year later, a set of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) distilled from the declaration was presented to the General Assembly of the United Nations. While there was criticism on what was not included in the MDGs and what should have been emphasized more, such as economic growth, governance, land degradation and climate change among other issues, the MDGs represented a fulcrum for a new development collaboration between developed and developing nations.

The MDGs had a difficult birthing process. Some would say it also had a multi-year launch. From the start, it lacked inclusive consultations and was essentially devised by a few experts at the United Nations. The first few years were in part stagnant, and the excitement and anticipation dissipated just as the hype around Y2K, a few months into the new millennium.

However, looking back at the last 15 years, the MDGs have become a landmark agenda that has transformed the world. The MDGs provided the first attempt of an integrated prescription for the social agenda to address the world's toughest challenges with incredible precision and focus on the poor, combining vertical efforts, such as health and education, in one common strategy. The process brought together vertical subject-specific goals from various international and United Nations conferences of the 1990s, including priorities such as education (Jomtien, 1990), children (New York, 1990), the environment and development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), population (Cairo, 1994), social development (Copenhagen, 1995) and the status of women (Beijing, 1995). Standing alone, these prescriptions were half-empty, but together they provided an opportunity to make a real difference in addressing poverty and inequality. Over the years, the MDGs have demonstrated that an integrated agenda and target setting work. The results have been impressive and have required the partnership of Governments, businesses, civil society, international institutions, foundations, academia and other stakeholders to make meaningful gains. It is these gains that have provided the credibility to embark on the successor agenda to the MDGs.

It was not until 2002, during the first United Nations International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) in Monterrey, Mexico that the means of implementation for the MDGs took root. Attended by Heads of State, ministers of finance and foreign affairs, and international institutions, world leaders agreed that developed nations should provide the financial resources and support mechanisms for developing countries to implement the MDGs, and set a goal of 0.7 per cent of gross national income as official development assistance to developing countries. Given the backdrop of the 1990s as a decade of major scale back in spending on public programmes in developed and developing countries, this was a major milestone in supporting the implementation of the MDGs worldwide.

I have seen first-hand how the MDGs catalysed deep transformations in my own country. In 2005, Nigeria was granted debt relief from the Paris Club of Industrial Country Creditors. …

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