For our September action (see more here) we are generating media coverage about the MDG Review Summit and why we need the UK government to go to the summit ready to make additional financial commitments to ensure the MDGs are achieved by 2015.
This briefing gives you more background information about the summit and why it is important that we take action this month to ensure it is as successful as possible.
What is the MDG Review Summit in September?
What has become known as the ‘MDG review summit’ is actually referred to in official circles as the ‘High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly’. The General Assembly is the main organ of the UN where all 189 member states have equal representation.
Following a proposal by the UN Secretary-General, the General Assembly decided to convene an MDG summit (High-level Plenary Meeting) on 20-22 September, with the primary objective to accelerate progress towards all the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, taking into account the progress made towards the internationally agreed development goals.
The summit is expected to undertake a comprehensive review of successes, best practices and lessons learned, obstacles and gaps, challenges and opportunities, leading to concrete strategies for action.
The President of the General Assembly has appointed two ‘Co-facilitators’ to lead the inter-governmental negotiating process. The Co-facilitators are the Ambassadors of Senegal and Denmark to the United Nations in New York.
The review process has already started. The UN Secretary-General released a report on the MDGs back in March called ‘Keeping the Promise: a forward looking review to promote an agreed action agenda to achieve the MDGs by 2015’.
In addition to the official preparatory process, a number of related events and reports have been organised to feed into government deliberations leading to the September summit. For example, in June, civil society organisations were invited to take part in Hearings of the General Assembly – a part of the official process – in New York.
What will the summit actually look like?
Member States are encouraged to be represented by their respective Heads of State or Government. Since David Cameron is on paternity leave it will be Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who will be representing the UK along with Andrew Mitchell, the Secretary of State for International Development.
There will be 6 plenary meetings and 6 interactive roundtables over the course of the three days. There are also going to be LOTS of side events, meetings and media stunts all competing for attention.
Each meeting will focus on one theme, as follows:
1 — Addressing the challenge of poverty, hunger and gender equality
2 — Meeting the goals of health and education
3 — Promoting sustainable development
4 — Addressing emerging issues and evolving approaches
5 — Addressing the special needs of the most vulnerable
6 — Widening and strengthening partnerships
Summaries of the deliberations of the six round-table sessions will be presented orally by the chairpersons of the round-table sessions or their representatives during the concluding plenary meeting of the High-level Plenary Meeting. Then there will be a closing session on the final day.
At the end of the summit there will be a ‘summit outcome’ document signed by all heads of state summarising what the countries will commit to do to achieve the MDGs.
Why is the summit being convened?
A decade on from the original adoption of the MDGs at the 2000 Millennium Summit, and despite remarkable progress in some countries, collectively we are falling short in their achievement.
As we heard from the guests on our conference call this month, only one goal is likely to be achieved. That is MDG 1 to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty.
At current rates of progress 56 million children will still miss out on primary education in 2015, and millions will continue to die from preventable diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
In the newspapers this week we have seen details of reports by Unicef and Save the Children which show that whilst there had been significant progress towards in meeting the millennium Development goals, it is increasingly evident that our progress is uneven in many key areas. In the global push to achieve the MDGs, we are leaving behind millions of the world’s most disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalised people in favour of focussing on those easier to reach.
The consequence of these shortfalls, further aggravated by the combined effects of the global food, climate, energy and economic crises, is that improvements in the lives of the poorest are happening at an unacceptably slow pace and in some countries, hard fought gains are being eroded. At the current pace, several of the eight MDGs and associated targets are likely to be missed in many countries.
If the MDGs are to be achieved by 2015, not only must the level of financial investment be increased but innovative programmes and policies aimed at overall development and economic and social transformation must be rapidly scaled up and replicated. The MDGs are achievable, but there is clearly an urgent to address challenges, acknowledge failures and come together to overcome the obstacles to their achievement. This will require the embrace of pioneering ideas and political will on the part of governments and their development partners.
What will make the Summit a success?
A successful summit should generate a renewed political commitment to achieve the MDGs and lead to a global action agenda for accelerating progress towards the Goals. Crucially, we need governments to commit to specific actions rather than just saying the right things. We also need them to put their money where their mouths are and pledge the resources needed to put the MDGs back on track.
Why do we need to take action?
Because we need a change from business as usual. We need the UK and other governments to agree to commitments that are big, bold and ambitious and focused on reaching the poor and marginalised. It will be too easy, in this time of economic hardship, for governments to sign up to a bland outcome document that means nothing and is impossible to hold them account to.
We need to take action in the UK because public opinion about overseas aid is mixed when other government departments are being cut. This is making the government weary of making big commitments so we need to demonstrate to our leaders that there is support for increased UK aid. We need to let them know that we want Nick Clegg to go to the summit with specific commitments to take action on health, education and the other goals. If the UK goes to the summit empty handed this will send a negative message to other countries that it is okay for them to do the same.
We hope that everyone will take the action this month and show decision-makers – and the public – why it is so important that the UK doesn’t go to the MDG Summit empty handed and why they need to show leadership on development by making commitments that will contribute to the MDGs being achieved on schedule.