Millennium Development Goals in Least Developed Countries: Missing Agendas

8 Jul

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have served as a framework for cooperation and global action on development since the year 2000. Over the past decades the MDGs have become a central reference point for aid and international cooperation, not only providing a concrete platform for international development, but also a yardstick through which development progress can be measured. As the 2015 end date approaches policy makers focus on the progress and the challenges faced by the Least Developed Countries (LDCs)

LDCs are the most vulnerable Member States of the United Nations. They exhibit the lowest indicators of socioeconomic development, with widespread poverty, high vulnerability to conflict, underdeveloped productive capacity and a lack of global economic integration thus leading to constrains on their economic and social development.  In these situations, the framework of MDGs is critical – while securing higher levels of peace and prosperity are the main goals, mapping out locally effective programs are important as one means to continue to stimulate social, political and ecological progress within these Member States.

A recent panel at the United Nations, co-organized by the Office of the High Representatives for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), provided honest and pragmatic solutions that privileged qualitative progress over quantitative measurements.   

Despite some skepticism by the panel regarding progress on the MDGs, the Chair, Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya along with his panelists, Prof. Mustafizur Rahman, Mr. Saleemul Huq, H.E. Jean-Francis Regis Zinsou and Mr. Matthew Sherry Dewa focused on the different layers of challenges the LDCs need to be dealt with before moving on to the post-2015 agenda. “You cannot have progress if you don’t deal with unsustainable patterns” explained Mr. Acharya, Under Secretary-General for UN-OHRLLS, in his introductory remarks. During the discussion each panelist focused on one challenge the LDCs face and provided honest interpretations and viable solutions. H.E. Zinsou addressed the issue of complex country profiles and the need to increase productive capacity; Mr. Rahman provided his analysis on the three levels of coherence – vertical, sequential and horizontal; Mr. Huq recommended a twin track policy of climate change and eradication of poverty, while Mr. Dewa analyzed the fundamental issue as being the gap between global discourse and local realities.

At the end of the discussion it was clear, Least Developed Countries need a more robust engagement with issues including media, gender, ecology, poverty eradication, and illicit arms flows. The panel succeeded in setting the right tone for these pursuits.  Nonetheless, Global Action to Prevent War teased out three factors of concern that, properly addressed, can contribute towards much needed, sustainable progress of the LDCs.

  1. Participation of Women:  Unlike some other Member States that have done much to ensure inclusion of women in economic, social and environmental processes, many of the LDCs have made uneven progress in this regard regards. For example, Bangladesh’s population consists of 56.9% of males and 43.1% of females, out of which only 19.2% of women are associated with the parliament even though the target by 2015 was predicted to be 33%. LDCs must fully adopt the responsibility to include women in high level decision making processes as well as all sectors of government.


  1. Ending Illicit Trafficking in Small Arms and Light Weapons: Although national and regional efforts have been moving towards combating the illicit arms trade, more international assistance and cooperation is essential for the effective implementation of relevant arms control measure such as the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons and the recently concluded Arms Trade Treaty.  Many of the LDCs are known for their vulnerability to conflict, much of that due to the widespread availability of illicit weapons in their regions. Such insecurity undermines development, educational opportunity, participation by women, and much more.   


  1. Media Reform: Today there is an immediate need for the media to take the lead in making global audiences aware of both constraints on the LDCs and the many ways in which citizens of LDCs are engaged in hopeful, life saving activity. Nevertheless, over 1 billion people around the world live in extreme poverty and 1.9 million children are infected with the HIV virus.  Through Media Global and other providers, GAPW urges a more consistent involvement of media in LDC s to ensure that the voices, aspirations and activities of those living in these countries can be heard.

Even though pressing issues like gender and education were not addressed by the panel, the speakers did provide the audience with honest and pragmatic strategies though which development and security goals could be sustained.  

Kritika Seth

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