This blog is authored by Matt Oliver, Health Advocacy Officer for RESULTS UK, an ACTION partner. Matt was a lead author on the ACTION paper, The Definition of Success: Measurement in the Post-2015 Framework.
“The Millennium Development Goals are, first and foremost, communications tools.” - Michael Anderson, former Director General for Policy and Global Issues at the UK Department for International Development
At the turn of the century, when the world came together to agree on the Millennium Development Goals, they were articulating a vision everyone in the world could understand: in the 21st century, no one should have to live in extreme poverty.
This vision would be measured by a seat of goals, backed up by indicators and targets. The intention was to unite the world to act against the greatest threats to health and happiness, economic and social well-being. By making progress against these indicators, donors and recipients could show just how far they were advancing towards that vision of ending extreme poverty.
14 years later, as the world gears up to sign off the next 15 years of goals, indicators, and targets, there is a common misperception that the MDGs (or the post-MDGs) are a shopping list; by the inclusion of certain issues or themes within the new framework, and the setting of ‘ambitious targets,’ the world will ensure targets such as eliminating TB, ending preventable under-5 deaths, and ensuring every child gets a proper education are met.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. With the current MDGs, we have seen that the framing of goals can shape the efforts of countries, but not that success is guaranteed. MDG2, for example, set a target that every child should attend primary school. As a consequence, primary school enrolment went up dramatically, but educational attainment did not.
So, in this context, we should consider the next development framework as Michael Anderson does: as a communications tool. The post-MDGs should give the world an opportunity to see clearly how far we have come against certain key indicators. The ambition in each target is important because it reflects the depth of our commitment, and the accuracy of the measurement is what matters most.
In this context, ACTION has produced a paper looking more deeply into how the post-MDGs should be measured. Clarity will be key. The post-MDGs must be written in such a fashion that anyone can see the progress being made -- you should not need a team of technical experts to tell you if one country is doing well and another is not.
For example, if the goal says to half the number of people in extreme poverty, that is what it should do, not bring about a reduction of 30 percent and use other calculations to call that a halving.
Accordingly, the ACTION paper recommends that each indicator and target in the new framework should be either an absolute goal (0% or 100%) or call for a specified reduction in the number of cases and/or deaths from a baseline of data collected in 2015.
Therefore, the objective of this paper is not to argue for the inclusion of our issues, nations must decide the list of key priorities for themselves. The objective of this paper is to argue that when the world comes together in 2015 to sign the next framework, and to re-state its commitment that no one should live in extreme poverty, that those messages should be communicated in such a way that everyone can understand. They must be stated with a sense of ambition, certainly, but more importantly with transparency in regards to the objectives, measurement and targets, and above all, with absolute clarity.