Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Time’s up for MDG targets




Time’s up for MDG targets

Time’s up for MDG targets

As the United Nations meets this week to draw up a new set of sustainable development benchmarks, the era of the body’s landmark Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is coming to a close, with some wondering – in spite of gains – what efficacy such targets have in countries like Cambodia.

Adopted in September 2000 at the largest gathering of world leaders in history, the goals committed nations to eight time-bound objectives aimed at reducing extreme poverty, hunger and disease and promoting equality, education and sustainability by 2015.

According to the UN, Cambodia met all of its MDG targets – the body’s 2015 MDG report calls it an “early achiever” – performing well on goals of maternal health, infant mortality and combating poverty.

However, the United Nations also acknowledged that there remained room for improvement within several of the goals, particularly in areas such as women’s and children’s nutrition, post-primary education and environmental protection.

Similarly, progress on increasing protected areas under the goal of “ensuring environmental sustainability”, has been hampered by a significant decrease in forest cover and a more than doubling of CO2 emissions.

These inconsistencies highlight what many have criticised as the MDGs’ overly general, and often arbitrary measures of development imported from abroad.

“No-one can disagree with the aims, but the MDGs are very much a case of goals designed in the global north for the global south,” said Clive Gabay of Queen Mary University of London, who has extensively researched the efficacy of MDGs.

“Across the board, it has now been recognised that MDGs were not flexible enough to respond to diverse local needs and circumstances.”

“Local communities weren’t at all involved in formulation of the MDG’s,” he added. “Instead, you have bank-ordained programs within a narrow, number-driven framework, which means that the needs of a lot of groups, for example minorities, get overlooked.”

In countries like Cambodia, Gabay said, where civil society has a limited impact on government policy, the MDGs therefore do little to put development in the hands of local populations.

Chhan Sokunthea, head of women’s and children’s rights for the NGO Adhoc, echoed the sentiment.

“Often what the government says it is doing is just on paper, but there is little real implementation,” she said.

The targets set by the MDGs often fail to address real problems in a Cambodian context, Sokunthea added.

For example, she said, where the MDGs measure gender equality in areas like education, employment and politics, women in Cambodia remain at high risk from violence and other social inequities on which local authorities are often slow to act.

“We need more change on the ground. If the role of civil society does not progress there can be no real development.”

Even the UN itself has come around to the point of view that MDG-driven development – without attendant improvements in governance – is incomplete, though the body will address that facet as well at this week’s summit, said UNDevelopment Programme country director Napoleon Navarro.

“The Millennium Declaration was and is explicit about human rights and the governance dimension,” Navarro said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Body of woman killed in Bangkok returns

    The Cambodian embassy in Thailand is working to repatriate the body of a casino dealer who was shot dead in Bangkok on Monday night. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesman Kuy Kuong told The Post on Wednesday that officials are preparing paperwork to

  • Chikungunya hits 15 provinces, says gov’t

    Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said on Thursday that the chikungunya outbreak in the Kingdom has spread to 15 provinces. Some 1,700 people are now suspected to have the disease. Vandine urged people to prevent its further spread by eliminating shelters for the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

  • Gov’t exempts visa A and B holders from Covid fees

    Airline passengers who are diplomats and officials of international organisations holding Type A and B visas for travel to Cambodia are exempted from paying Covid-19 testing fees, said the Ministry of Health in its latest adjustment of rules on Wednesday. Health Minister Mam Bun Heng

  • Bill covering dress code draws ire

    Ministry of Interior secretary of state Ouk Kim Lek responded on Tuesday to criticism concerning a draft law that would ban women from wearing overly revealing clothing, saying that input from all parties will be considered as the law moves through the promulgation process. Several

  • Passing the test: Is Cambodia’s education system failing its people?

    The Kingdom’s education system needs to grow its people but some flaws might stifle​ this growth Coming from the Khmer Rouge occupation, with the loss of many scholars and academicians and a collapsed government, the education system had to be reconstructed from scratch – one

  • What’s the deal with Cambodia and China’s FTA?

    Cambodia’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China kicks off a series of FTAs in future but for now, critics wonder what else the parties could bring to the table apart from what it already has to date By the end of this year, Cambodia