THE United Nations Millennium Campaign was set up in 2002 to fast track the achieving of the millennium development goals (MDGs). The UN recently cited Uganda as one of the countries that have made tremendous progress towards achieving the MDGs. Salil Shetty, the director of UN Millennium Cam
How would you rate Ugandaâ€™s chances of meeting the MDGs?
This is the mid point of the millennium development goalsâ€™ deadline which is 2015. If you think of this as a football match, it is half time now. So every country should be re-strategising for the second half. The question is how to re-strategise for the second half. That is why I am here. This is about how to get people involved in achieving the MDGs if the Government is to meet the deadline.
But in the recent UN meeting Uganda was hailed for its progress towards the goal of achieving universal primary education.In terms of enrollment and access to free primary education, Uganda is doing well. But we also want pupils to complete the education cycle. Quality and completion of the full Universal Primary Education cycle is also important. In the second phases, governments are also looking at giving free secondary education.
But the feeling in the public is that a lot is yet to be done if Uganda is to achieve the MDGs by 2015.
Ideally if you are to look at all the MDGs, Uganda has shown steady progress. For example, the Poverty Eradication Action Plan targets are more ambitious than the MDGs targets. Uganda has set priorities beyond the MDGs, which is good. Countries should not stop at only achieving MDGs, but should go beyond that. However, the biggest challenge remains in relation to health goals, specifically maternal and infant mortality. On the HIV/AIDS fight, Uganda is still fairing extremely well.
But malaria is still the number one killer, how are we fairing generally on health?
In many health indicators, progress is slow. In the second half, we need more speed to achieve the goals. However, if a country is doing well in one goal, the chances are that they tend to do well on all other goals. Because the underlying principles of achieving all goals are the same â€” good governance, accountability and participation.
UN notes that countries across Africa have demonstrated that rapid and largescale progress towards the MDGs is possible when strong government leadership and good policies are combined. Where does Uganda lie in this respect?
Ugandaâ€™s leadership has been committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. At the national level, the progress is on course. However, in the second half, emphasis should be at the micro-level. All goals in the second half should focus on regions, districts and social groups which are disadvantaged. The political will is there at the macro-level. But it is one thing to have national policies, but these must be translated to the grassroots. We need more resources at the micro-level. The macro-economic growth has to be broad. If growth is concentrated among few people, economic disparity will increase.
Many African governments, with growing donor support, are taking to national scale the lessons of the Millennium Villages â€” that local leadership and a combination of interventions can transform poor communities. Do you think donor support is enough?
Goal 8 represents rich countriesâ€™ commitment to aid volume, aid quality, and trade and debt cancellation. On aid volume not all promises have been fully met. Donors pledged to double their aid to Africa, but there is little to show so far. But 30 countries have already benefited from debt cancellation. The debt service burden of developing countries continues to lighten. The poorest countries continue to be relieved of their external debt burdens under two programmes.
What would you cite as the biggest challenge for Uganda in achieving MDGs?
The mechanism of distributing resources down to the people is still a big challenge. This is still marred by corruption and bureaucracy. This is a problem which needs serious attention â€“ this can be solved through free flow of information to people about what the government is doing to meet the MDGs. In a very practical sense, they (masses) should know how much money and resources are supposed to trickle down to reach them. They should not be ignorant of government programmes.
Other MDGs are eradicating poverty and hunger, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development. Is this possible to achieve these goals in the remaining time?
Many African governments can sufficiently achieve the MDGs. What we cannot predict is the speed at which countries shall operate to achieve the MDGs. If they increase the speed, they can achieve the goals. The question is whether African countries can use the required pace of implementation.
The proportion of people world wide living on one dollar a day or less has declined from 45.9% to 41.1% since 1999. Reaching the poverty target of halving the extent of extreme poverty by 2015 requires that the current pace is nearly doubled. How can African countries achieve this?
Nobody in Uganda should be sleeping hungry. Uganda is such a fertile land. People even joke that in Uganda you can throw a seed anywhere and it grows. Poverty levels in the developing world are still high, but Uganda is doing better as a country and I think even Kenya is doing well.
Your last word to Ugandans
We can celebrate some of the success in the first half, but if we are to achieve the millennium development goals in the second half, we have to increase the speed of implementation and achievement at grassroots level.
Uganda on course in achieving devt goals