At the turn of the millennium, the international community made a major commitment to address pressing development challenges and combat poverty.
The United Nations (UN) Summit in 2000 saw leaders from 189 nations endorse the Millennium Declaration, which led to the establishment of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs focused on areas like child and maternal health, education, gender equality, reducing the burden of disease, and access to water and sanitation, the areas with the greatest potential impact for reducing poverty. By setting measurable targets to be met by 2015, the international community injected new momentum into the fight against global poverty.
Unquestionably, the MDGs have been instrumental in focusing global development efforts, raising public awareness and support, and attracting the resources and partnerships needed to bring about concrete results. The MDGs provided tangible and quantifiable targets that made it possible to measure progress on reducing poverty. Working to achieve the MDG targets has required a collaborative approach, continuous effort, and sustained partnerships. Through cooperation between developing and developed countries, as well as an array of other development actors, important progress has been made.
Canada has played an important role in advancing the MDGs – notably by stepping in when it became clear that progress was lagging on maternal, newborn and child health, and mobilizing fresh international efforts. Canada is determined to maintain this strong leadership role and to help ensure continued progress in the years to come.
Much achieved, much to be done
The blueprint laid out in the MDGs has helped to focus efforts on the most essential goals, improving the lives of many around the world. Since 1990, maternal deaths have dropped by nearly 50 percent, and under-five child mortality rates have fallen from nearly 11.6 million deaths to 6.9 million in 2011. Millions of girls and boys now attend school, the burden of diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS has been reduced, and fewer people live in extreme poverty. We now know where and, in some cases, how progress took place. However, while much has been achieved, much remains to be done. Progress on the MDGs varies amongst and within countries, and there needs to be continued support and global action.
As the deadline for meeting the MDGs draws near, the international community is focused on delivering on these goals and targets. Attention is also, however, turning to charting a course for the years beyond 2015.
At the UN General Assembly in September 2013, member states agreed to accelerate action on the current MDGs until 2015. They also agreed on a process for articulating a new successor framework beyond this point, known as the post-2015 development agenda. The new agenda is expected to be universally applicable, have poverty eradication at its core, and address all three pillars of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental). This means that the new goals will be substantially broader than the original MDGs, and will place greater emphasis, for example, on environmental sustainability and on the important role played by economic growth in poverty alleviation.
Canada has made visible and lasting contributions toward achieving MDG targets, particularly in the area of maternal, newborn and child health. For example, some years ago, it became clear that the world was falling behind on its commitment to reducing child mortality and improving maternal health (MDGs 4 and 5). Urgent action was needed, and Canada quickly responded by leading the G8 Muskoka Initiative for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health in 2010. This resulted in a $7.3 billion commitment among G8 members and other partners, focused on strengthening health systems, reducing the burden of disease, and improving nutrition for women and children.
The Muskoka Initiative also served to build greater momentum for the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, which resulted in an unprecedented response of more than $40 billion in commitments from governments, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and other stakeholders, to accelerate progress. A significant number of developing countries also made bold commitments to improve policy and service delivery in areas that affect women’s and children’s health.
Canada has also made significant contributions to advancing work on the MDGs for education, gender equality, and nutrition and food security. Key commitments that Canada has met to date include doubling aid to Africa, reaching $2.1 billion in 2008-2009, as well as doubling our international assistance to $5 billion in 2010-2011. And we improved the effectiveness of every Canadian aid dollar. For example, Canada untied 100 percent of its food aid in 2008, and untied all aid by March 2013.
The approach beyond 2015
The MDGs have played a key role, in shaping development efforts over the past 14 years. Their successors promise to be equally important, and Canada intends to maintain its leadership role. While the post-2015 development agenda will be broad in scope, there are issues of particular importance to Canada.
First, Canada continues to see the health and well-being of women and children as central to the global development agenda. Through our international assistance program, Canada is advancing the child and maternal health agenda and delivering concrete and long-lasting results around the world, including spearheading efforts to end the practice of child, early, and forced marriage. To ensure that the health of women and children remains at the forefront of global development efforts beyond 2015, the Prime Minister will host a high-level Summit on maternal, newborn and child health from May 28-30, 2014, in Toronto.
Second, the post-2015 development agenda should also emphasise the role of jobs and sustainable economic growth. Budget 2014 placed jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity at the centre of Canada’s national political and economic priorities. Canada is equally convinced that the creation of decent jobs is important to fostering sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction in developing countries. The private sector has a critical role to play in this regard, as it generates the vast majority of paid employment. Decent jobs can transform the lives of people in developing countries, particularly the poor, enabling them to shift from dependency to self-reliance and to realize their full potential.
Finally, it will be important to shape the new agenda in a way that can show clear results. A strong measurement and accountability framework that informs policy development and the way we measure progress will support greater transparency, improve coordination and coherence, expand partnerships, strengthen governance systems and spark innovation.
The way forward
The MDGs have helped prove that development efforts can make a real and concrete difference in the world, and Canada’s engagement in promoting maternal, newborn and child health has showed what we as a country can do to mobilize the international community. The next chapter in this story is now poised to begin. The UN will launch formal intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 agenda at the beginning of the 69th session of the UN General Assembly, in September 2014. This process will aim to culminate in the adoption of a new set of universal goals at a Summit in September 2015 to guide global efforts in support of sustainable development over the next 15-20 years.
Canada will engage Canadians in the post-2015 process, support our developing country partners and work to ensure that the UN negotiation process results in goals that are realistic, focused, and measurable. At the same time, we will make every effort to assist global action in the “final sprint to the finish,” as we strive to achieve the current goals before 2015. And as we turn our attention to the next stage, we will work to ensure that the new goals deliver results for the poorest and most vulnerable people, including women and children.