At the United Nations General Assembly in September 2000 in New York, 189 world leaders gathered to adopt what has now become the millennium declaration. The declaration which was among other things to spare no effort to free fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected to. They also committed themselves to making the right to development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire human race from want. The declaration which was endorsed by the heads-of-states was then translated into a roadmap setting out goals and targets to be reached by 2015.
The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are framed as a compact to improve the well being of the world's citizen's especially the poor and the less privilege in the society.
The Millennium Development Goals are; 1. Eradicate extreme poverty & hunger 2. Achieve universal primary education 3. Promote gender equality and empower women 4. Reduce child mortality 5. Improve maternal health 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases 7. Ensure environmental sustainability 8. Develop a global partnership for development
Ghana's road map of achieving the MDGs is embedded in the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) document. The integration of GPRS and MDGs was greeted with much applause from most development agencies as it offers the country the lifeline to achieving the desired goals by 2015 and beyond . They offer the greatest opportunity for all the stakeholders to fashion out a systematic, collective and a sustainable approach in achieving the goals. The designing, implementation, monitoring and assessment of national processes are therefore very crucial to citizens and development partners.
Although the implementation of the GPRS II is in its final year (2006-2009), the physical evidence of the necessary linkages between its three pillars and the eight Millennium Development Goals has been problematic because there has not been widespread awareness on these two (GPRS and MDGs). Achieving the MDGs is a necessity and addressing it intensively calls for a high level of collaboration and engagement between CSOs, Faith Based Organisations (FBOs), Traditional Authorities (TAs), Media, Parliament, Government, Citizens and International Organizations who are the proposed active actors in the MDGs attainment process. Effective collaboration among these actors for the realization of the goals is hampered by factors such as poor awareness and inadequate synergized efforts by CSOs.
It is therefore prudent for us to review where we have gotten to and develop new strategies in achieving the goals. Below are some signposts that can be adopted in making the 2015 dream a reality in Ghana.
The first step towards the realization of the 8-bound MDGs is to effectively create awareness to the general populace about the goals, its targets and what it seeks to achieve. The goals are about livelihoods and it concerns every citizen and this makes it very important for those who would be directly affected when it is either realized or not to be adequately informed. Currently, the case is that most Ghanaians do not have adequate information about what the MDGs are. This became very evident after a random vox-pop was conducted on the streets of Accra by some members of the Ghana MDGs Campaign Coalition to ascertain the level of MDGs awareness in the country. The result of the vox-pop which revealed that only one out of ten Ghanaians had heard about the MDGs was enough to determine how citizens are lagging behind in the MDGs realization efforts.
It must be emphasized that no significant development or progress can be made if the key actor in the process of development is not adequately engaged. In view of this vacuum, the onus lies on policy makers and advocacy groups to relate the MDGs to the needs and priorities of the local communities. The goals need to be localized to suit the needs of every citizen. The MDGs needs to be sent to the door steps of traditional authorities and religious bodies to sensitize their constituent through the use of local languages should be adopted.
The media which is the fourth estate of the realm has a major role to play in creating awareness of the goals. The major challenge for the media over the years has been that they are not adequately armed with what the MDGs are. This became obvious when in 2008 the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) asked journalists to submit their news stories and articles for award and just a handful of journalists responded to that despite the wide public announcement. The capacity of journalists should be built around the goals in order for them to educate their listeners and readers. Having left with less than six years to meet the 2015 deadline, the media, Ministry of Information, educational institutions and other state actors need to wake up to the call of promoting the MDGs to the general populace.
Political Will/National Leadership
Achieving the goals requires consistent political will from government and other state actors. It is government's primary responsibility to seeing to the achievement of the goals. The Government of Ghana over the years has shown some appreciable commitments towards the goals. This is evident in a number of programmes it has initiated. The GPRS, school feeding programme, capitation grant, Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) and the free maternal health programmes are clear examples of government's efforts towards the realization of the goals. It has also subjected the country to the African Peer Review Mechanism which is a considerable effort towards the goals. Although laudable efforts are being made, it needs to be doubled to make the dream come true. This calls for the design and implementation of prudent policies that focuses on meeting the goals. The goals and targets should be the guiding principle in its policy formulation and execution. Government as a matter of necessity should translate the goals and targets into clear national development goals.
Adequate investment in infrastructure, energy, transport, communication, water, environment and social amenities should be a matter of necessity. It must also increase the budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Health, Education and Agric. These allocations need to be judiciously used. On the regional landscape, it needs to improve its collaboration with countries that have a role to play in our attainment process, especially on trade.
For sometime now it has been very difficult accessing an updated reliable data on the goals. Most data available are either outdated or not reliable enough. This is making it extremely difficult for one to determine the state of Ghana with regards to the MDGs. Data plays a very important role in the MDGs process. The availability of reliable data that can easily be interpreted offers the nation the opportunity to review its interventions and determine which approach to use in achieving each of the goals. Data will also enable us to determine which of the goals needs more capital injection and what needs to be done to scale up efforts. Strong national statistical systems for tracking progress are a major step that needs to be taken to achieving the goals. It is therefore urgent that GSS is adequately supported financially to carry out timely statistical research. Reliable statistical data would help inform national policies and the formulation of the GPRS for the attainment of the goals. Research institutions and CSOs should all take part in the collation of data to support national processes on the MDGs.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Effective monitoring and evaluation of Ghana's process forms a very key component in our quest to realizing the goals. This critical action will help determine and develop new strategies in achieving the goals. In a global village like this, it is very important to always review existing efforts and adopt new ways that can stand the challenges that comes with achieving the goals. CSOs, the media and citizens have a core role to play in monitoring and evaluating national processes. An evaluated national process will help the country to focus squarely on scaling up proven interventions. It is therefore imperative for every stakeholder to participate in national processes of effectively monitoring and evaluating the goals from time to time.
Conclusion The MDGs are livelihood empowerment initiatives and we cannot afford to fail in achieving them. We must aggressively engage every stakeholder in implementing interventions that will scale up our efforts in realizing the goals. With just less than six years to reach the deadline, development partners must also keep to their promise of providing financial assistance in achieving the goals. President Atta Mills put it right at the 64th UN General Assembly, “rich countries need to put in more effort to meet existing commitments to aid and debt reduction”. We must ensure economic stability, empower the local industries and create an enabling environment to attract foreign investments.