Millennium Development Goals

Goal 8: Global Partnership

By 2015, all 189 UN member states have promised to:

  • develop further an open trading and financial system that is rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory. Includes also a commitment to 'good governance', development and poverty reduction - nationally and internationally
  • address the special needs of the world's least developed countries - tariff and quota-free access for exports, better debt relief for heavily indebted countries, cancellation of bi-lateral (county to country) debt and increased official aid
  • deal with the problems of landlocked and small island developing state
  • deal with developing countries debt problems through both national and international measures
  • increase efforts to find productive work for young people
  • in cooperation with drug companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries
  • along with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies - especially information and communication technologies

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What this means:


The central argument within the goals is for more and more effective aid. Recent studies estimate that current aid levels need to increase by between $40 and $100 billion per year. The lower figure would require, in effect, a doubling of the current level of aid. Official aid is normally measured as a percentage of each country's gross national income per person and, it was agreed internationally in 1969 that the target figure would be 0.7%. Between 1990 and 2001, the average figure for developed country aid fell from 0.33% to 0.22% but since the late 1990s and through the early 2000s, the figures have begun to increase again, but not at the levels needed to achieve the MDG targets.

Sadly, the countries that experienced the negative impact of aid cuts throughout the 1990s were the world's least developed and poorest countries. Of the 49 least developed countries, 31 now receive less aid than they did in 1990 (8.5% of their own GDP as against 12.9%).

However, things may now be improving with aid allocations increasing in Austria, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. But, such increases have occurred before and need to be maintained over significant periods of time.

The second element of discussion over aid and the MDGs relates directly to the effectiveness of such aid. Official aid has always had its critics and continues to do so - arguments usually relate to whether aid ever gets to its intended recipients, whether it is focused on the real needs of the poor, whether it is 'tied' (linked to purchases from the donor country), the issue of corruption etc. (see the Debating Aid module). A recent World Bank study described official aid as having been ' ... highly effective, totally ineffective and everything in between ... '. Official aid has had many notable successes in the areas of health, education, agriculture, women's rights, infrastructure, civil service reform etc. The quality of official aid has varied greatly depending on the attitudes and policies of the donor and recipient governments. But, far too often, aid has gone to governments guilty of extensive corruption or has been given to 'friendly' governments by donors for essentially non-development related purposes.

The three areas in which official aid policies need to change are:

  • the need for stronger and better 'governance' - greater transparency and honesty
  • increased ownership, especially by local governments, structures and institutions that go beyond politicians and civil servants alone
  • increased effectiveness meaning increased focus on poorer countries, increased direct focus on poverty, less 'tied aid', greater co-ordination between donors and better integration into general recipient government programmes and strategies.

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Over 75% of the high priority countries as regards the MDGs are highly indebted - debt relief is considered vital in terms of releasing much needed funds for development. The overall objective is to create a situation where no such 'high priority country' has a debt problem it cannot effectively manage. The central arguments from campaigners for debt relief are that such debt are unjust, they were unjust from the very beginning and that they have been paid over and over again.

For those countries that have achieved a degree of debt relief (some 30 to date), the value of released funds amounts to a reduction in yearly debt payments of approximately $1.2 billion. In countries such as Uganda, Senegal, Mali and Mozambique these savings have been translated into greater spending in education, health, HIV and AIDS strategies etc. Overall, debt relief is considered more effective than aid in promoting the MDGs.

As regards future strategies on debt relief, the central issues remain:

  • strengthening the links between debt relief and the MDGs
  • more debt relief, focused specifically on the needs of poor people
  • providing greater supports against 'shocks' of different types - natural disasters and sudden and serious price collapses for commodities.

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Opening up markets and reducing subsidies for developed country goods are two key planks in the MDG trade strategy. High priority countries within the MDG framework remain very heavily dependent on exports of primary products that have suffered from declining prices in recent years. Increased aid and higher debt relief will certainly make a difference in the shorter term but changes in world trading patterns and pricing to the benefit of developing countries are a must for the longer-term.

Developing countries need to diversify their exports but this is very difficult as it now, more than ever before, requires capital, knowledge and technology to move away from primary to processed commodities and from low-skill manufactured goods to more skill-intensive goods. According to most observers, there is very considerable scope for developed countries to open up their markets to goods from developing countries.

Despite some recent actions, trade policies in developed countries remain highly discriminatory against products produced in developing countries - especially in the areas of agriculture and textiles. Tariffs remain consistently higher for goods from developing countries than similar goods from developed countries (e.g. Bangladesh pays 14% tariff on goods to the US whereas France only pays 1%), New Zealand imposes a tariff of 5% on coffee beans but charges 15% on ground coffee thus undermining efforts to increase the value of developing country exports. Quotas or limitations on the volume of imports are another means of discrimination - quotas on clothes and textiles are supposed to be eliminated in 2005 although there is much doubt as to whether this will actually be done.

Of particular importance is the use of rich country export subsidies (especially in the area of food - amounting to $311 billion per year) thus undermining developing country industries and markets. For example, EU-subsidised exports have contributed to the decline of the dairy industries in Brazil and Jamaica and the sugar industry in South Africa. West African cotton producers cannot compete with the subsidised exports of rich country producers. It has been pointed out that OCED per capita subsidies for cows and cotton exceed per capita aid to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Greater use of technology focused on the needs of the poorest people is also key to achieving the MDGs. In 1999, tropical diseases (such as sleeping sickness, Chagas disease and kal-azar - all parasitic diseases that can kill) accounted for 11% of the world disease burden but only 1% of new drugs dealt with such diseases. In 1999, the World Health Organisation found that only 10% of health research and development is focused on the health needs of 90% of the world's people. Developing countries make up just 2% of the world market for drugs meaning that pharmaceutical companies remain focused on the health needs of the rich at the expense of those of the poor.

Rich countries have taken few steps to share technology (in areas such as drugs) or to implement the TRIPS agreement (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) which would not only improve access to technology and information but would also protect local knowledge and products.

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Rich Country Responsibilities

Country Aid 2001 Debt Trade
Total (US millions) & as % of GNP Percent tied Pledges to HIPC Trust Fund in US millions - November 2002 Average tariff and non-tariff barriers in %, 2000 (see note 1 below) Imports from Developing Countries as % of total imports - 2001
Australia 873(0.25) 41 14 13.4 37.5
France 4,198(0.32) 33 181 21.4 17.4
Ireland 287(0.33) 0 24 22.9 13.6
Norway 1,346(0.83) 1 300 61.1 12.3
UK 4,579(0.32) 6 77 20.9 18.9
USA 11,429(0.11) NA 40 9.7 46.4

Note 1 - this is an aggregate measure of trade barriers towards developing countries and includes monetary barriers and non-monetary barriers.

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Commitment to Development Index (CDI)

This is a newly created index that attempts to measure individual country 'commitment' to development. The CDI measures 4 key areas - Trade, Aid, Investment and Migration and was developed by the Center for Global Development and Foreign Policy magazine in the US. The Index goes beyond traditional ways of looking at aid as the key measurement and examines a broader set of issues including both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of aid, trade barriers, the environment, investment, migration and peacekeeping.

From a total of 21 countries listed in the 2004 Index, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark top the list, Ireland comes in 13th while France, the United states and Finland come in at the bottom.

There are many different criticisms of the CDI in that it is based on very complex statistical calculations and a set of assumptions that many might disagree with. Nonetheless, it is one attempt to measure the degree to which individual rich countries are actually committed to the development of poorer countries and peoples.