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United Nations
United Nations Economic and Social Council

Achieving the Millenium Development Goals in Africa: an issues paper

Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)

6 April 2005

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The urgent need to address poverty around the world and the opportunity provided by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have made them the rallying cry of a global partnership and the cornerstone of international and regional development policy. For the first time in history, a diverse range of players across the globe agree on a common platform of priorities for addressing the many faces of extreme poverty, hunger, joblessness, diseases lack of shelter, to gender inequality and environmental decline. The MDGs are measurable targets attached to a timeframe for making a difference to billions of lives. Governments in developing and developed countries have jointly committed themselves to provide the resources and the policies to implement the Goals.

African leaders have adopted the MDGs as a tool within their wider development planning in order to end the tragic conditions in which so many Africans are deprived of their basic human rights, such as health, education, shelter and security. By making the Goals work as tools for coordinating development policy, within broader development priorities, they can tackle the extreme poverty that is hobbling their people, make their countries more productive and reduce the risk of conflict.

In May 2004, the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development meeting in Kampala, Uganda, during the thirty-seventh session of the Commission, agreed to discuss, at their next meeting in Abuja, their progress towards attaining the MDGs in Africa and the challenges they face. The theme — Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa — is pertinent and timely, with just 10 years to go before the target deadline of 2015.

This Issues Paper provides the framework for discussion on the challenges of achieving the MDGs in Africa, proposing a paradigm shift in strategy and approach. The North African subregion is already making significant progress towards achieving the MDGs, but progress in the rest of the continent will remain unsatisfactory unless well-funded, broad and robust development frameworks are applied, supported and guided by committed political leadership. The central questions addressed are:
  1. Why have African countries, south of the Sahara performed poorly in achieving the MDGs?
  2. What - in terms of strategies, resources, and modalities - can they do to address those challenges in the coming decade in order to meet the MDGs?
The Issues Paper is divided into four sections:
  • Section 1 shows the current status of progress towards the MDGs by subregion, goal by goal along with the related challenges and costs, and proposes a way forward.
  • Section 2 places the MDGs within the framework of African strategies for growth, employment, gender equity and poverty reduction. It makes the case for a major focus on growth and employment creation and outlines key related issues.
  • Section 3 recommends a bold and comprehensive 10-year approach for achieving the MDGs through a second generation of poverty reduction strategies, based on enhancing and expanding existing PRS.
  • Section 4 reviews the commitments and responsibilities of African governments and their development partners for achieving the poverty reduction and development outcomes set out in the MDGs within the framework of mutual accountability.
It is hoped that by the end of the discussion, the Conference of Ministers will, through the Ministerial Statement set out a consensus agenda of workable actions and policies towards growth and employment creation for achieving the MDGs in Africa within the context of broader African development priorities.

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