Article 19 Says Transparency Slighted in MDG Conclusions

23 September 2010

The international summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) failed to adequately recognize the value of greater transparency, according to civil society observers. 

“Global civil society told world leaders that for the MDGs to succeed, two things were essential: assistance and accountability at all levels,” said Agnes Callamard, executive director of the London-based freedom of expression group Article 19. “What the world’s poor received were politicians and dictators grand-standing, pointlessly repeating the awfulness of poverty, and no commitments to sorting it out.” 

The developed world and the developing world clashed on the issue at the two-day meeting in New York that concluded Sept. 22, according to the Article 19 press release, which said: 

Civil society groups and some governments, including the EU bloc, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, pressed for the adoption of a strong political statement to inspire sufficientmomentum over the next five years to accomplish the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, the G77, a group of developing countries, lobbied hard to remove firm commitments for governance reform, instead focusing on increasing aid targets.   

The approved action plan for the next five years “is strong on rhetoric but weak on commitment,” said Article 19, which had made recommendations on what should be included. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) 

The action plan recognizes the importance of “transparent and accountable systems of governance at the national and international level,” aid transparency for both donors and developing countries, and transparency in UN institutions. 

“The few commitments to be found are under MDGs 3 and 8.”  Article 19 said. It continued: “Under Goal 3, governments commit to strengthening transparency, accountability and access to information in preventing violence against women (72.g), and in delivering primary healthcare (73.a). Under Goal 8, the plan acknowledges the importance of accountability in governance and transparency in finance flows at all levels (78.c,f,j).” 

President Obama mentioned donor transparency in his remarks Oct. 22 to the MDG session. He  said:  To my fellow donor nations:  Let’s honor our respective commitments.   Let’s resolve to put an end to hollow promises that are not kept.  Let’s commit to the same transparency that we expect from others.  Let’s move beyond the old, narrow debate over how much money we’re spending, and instead let’s focus on results — whether we’re actually making improvements in people’s lives.”   

In a Sept. 23 speech at the United Nations, he called on nations to make commitments on transparency.  (See Freedominfo.org report.)

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