Fresh thinking on growth and development in Asia and the Pacific

Sub-regional Workshop on Millennium Development Goals and the Post 2015 Development Framework for Central and East Asia

Event | 26 - 28 September 2012 Almaty, Kazakhstan

Post course

A three-day sub-regional Workshop on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Post-2015 Development Framework for Central and East Asia was held in Almaty, Kazakhstan from 26 to 28 September. It was attended by senior officials from the ministries of planning and the environment and MDG focal points in Central and East Asian countries. The workshop looked at progress on MDG achievement in those countries, identified the key impediments, and discussed the post-2015 development framework.

The workshop was organized in collaboration with Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for the Asia Pacific (ESCAP), United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Asia-Pacific Community of Practice on Managing for Development Results.

The main conclusions of the workshop were as follows.

The region has made impressive, yet uneven, progress in achieving the MDGs. Particular challenges remain in achieving health and nutrition targets. There are large gaps in achievement across countries, which are widening for some targets. Furthermore, within-country disparities are sometimes as large as cross-country disparities.

All countries in the region have achieved gender parity in primary education, and most have reduced the proportion of people living on $1.25 per day. The picture for the prevalence of underweight children, achieving universal primary education, and tuberculosis is mixed. Most countries are unlikely to meet the targets for child mortality, maternal mortality, HIV prevalence and access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

Within-country disparities in health-related outcomes such as malnutrition, stunting and mortality of children, use of maternal health care services and access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation tend to be significant in Central and East Asia. This highlights the need to focus national efforts on disadvantaged population groups. Within-country disparities are driven by a complex set of interlinked factors, yet sometimes addressing one factor in isolation reduces disparities considerably. Such factors include household wealth; the education of mothers; regional differences; and discrimination against castes, ethnic and linguistic groups.

Lack of basic infrastructure was holding back the achievement of MDGs in many instances. Timely and prudent investment in basic infrastructure such as rural roads, electricity, rural schools and clinics is often a prerequisite to achieving MDGs.

The country reports observed that macroeconomic policies for closing development gaps in the post-2015 development era should be countercyclical in nature and strengthen automatic stabilizers. Efforts should be made to strengthen domestic resource mobilization to enhance the fiscal space. Interconnectedness is essential to reach vulnerable groups. The MDG Acceleration Framework is already working within Central Asia, in particular in Armenia and Tajikistan.

It was felt that the post-2015 agenda should have full and productive employment and decent work for all as one of the priorities areas for action. It should provide for development targets and re-affirm international, national and local commitments to decent work as a fundamental human right. Job creation should be pursued by adopting forward-looking macroeconomic policies that promote sustainable development and lead to sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth, increase productive employment opportunities, and promote agricultural and industrial development.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 20-22 (Rio+20) renewed political commitments to the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic growth, social development, and environmental improvement. The Rio outcome document reaffirmed the commitment of member States to the full and timely achievement of the MDGs and recognized the importance of a set of sustainable development goals to build a sustainable future. It agreed on a set of principles toward a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and resolved to set up a process on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Governance determines how societies share power through structures, and how they govern individual and collective actions to deliver outcomes. Good governance provides the basis for the effective delivery of services on the ground. Discussions on the MDGs and the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals agenda should focus on two broad challenges. First, what will be the future nature of the MDGs and the SDGs? Second ,and of increasing importance, how can an internationally agreed set of indicators and targets such as the MDGs and SDGs be translated into sustained development outcomes at the country level. Governments with sound governance structures will be able to maximize the benefits that the MDGs and SDGs have to offer its citizens. In the context of governance in the environment sector, environment and sustainable development targets must be mainstreamed into the national development agenda and integrated into planning, budgeting, and implementation processes. Progress needs to be monitored through relevant and timely data to enable effective evaluation for future policymakers.

Green growth and environmental problems cannot be solved at just one level. Shared ownership of and responsibility for environmental action involves all stakeholders—government, civil society, the private sector, and individual citizens. Serious attention should be given to enabling all stakeholders to understand environmental issues and their links to sector activities. Promotion of innovative and more interactive approaches that increase public ownership of environmental actions is also needed.

Resilience needs to be built to mitigate the impact of shocks—economic, natural disasters, disease outbreaks and by climate change related challenges—not just on the poor but on societies as a whole. The Rio+20 outcome document stressed the need to provide social protection to all members of society, encourage national and local initiatives aimed at providing a social protection floor for all citizens, and support global dialogue and best practices for social protection programs.

International agreements on the need for universal basic protection and the social protection floor should be part of the post-2015 development agenda. More emphasis is needed in Caucasus, Central and East Asia on planning and budgeting of social protection programs, which include universal coverage and targeted interventions. Knowledge sharing and South–South cooperation can support countries to design and strengthen social protection programs. Universal provision of essential health care needs stronger political commitment to move from a "declarative universalism" to "gradual universalism" and target the most vulnerable population groups. Improving the quality of targeted social protection is needed to extend existing universal coverage schemes. Governments face challenges in addressing demographic changes such as ageing populations, migration, and urbanization when designing, implementing and monitoring targeted interventions.

MDGs have been useful in focusing the attention of the global community on reducing income poverty in developing countries, but have arguably been less successful in addressing non-income dimensions of poverty. In many countries they have been de-linked from environmental and governance issues. For the post-2015 agenda, there is a need for a process that is driven by member states, and that is transparent. The discussion on the post-2015 agenda will also have to consider what framework should be used to monitor results.