Monday, June 28, 2010

In search of success stories

published 28 June 2010, Manila Standard Today

The administration that will begin in the middle of this week will have five years to go before 2015—the year of reckoning in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The goals were set in 2000 by 189 countries, including the Philippines, at a United Nations summit.

The goals: 1) end extreme poverty and 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 and 8) develop a global partnership for development.

According to the UN, the Philippines has made “considerable progress” in some of the goals, particularly Goals 4, 6 and 7. Infant and under-5 mortality rates, as well as malaria morbidity rates, have been steadily decreasing. Safe drinking water has become available to 87.9 percent of Filipinos while 85.9 percent of the population now has access to sanitary toilet facilities, according to the Family Income and Expenditure Survey.

But more needs to be done. The UN’s 2009-2010 Asia-Pacific Regional Report says the Philippines remains off-track in more than 40 percent of 21 indicators (see www.undp.org.ph for a detailed presentation). Almost a third of Filipinos still live on less than $1 a day and 5.2 million of children are out of school. Eleven mothers die every day from pregnancy-related causes. The incidence of HIV has increased five-fold from just from 2007 to 2009.

Indeed the country needs to work double time to achieve targets in the eradication of poverty, the achievement of universal primary education and the improvement of maternal health.

***

The common mistake, however, is believing that the government is solely responsible for the achievement of the goals. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A 2008 publication of the United Millennium Campaign features four success stories in working towards the attainment of these goals. The campaign says that while the government (supply side) covers policy formulation, resource allocation and program implementation, private and non-profit sectors, civil society groups and citizens themselves form the demand side of the equation.

Only when both groups have social accountability,with each acknowledging its part and becoming involved, can there be some measure of success.

The four success stories are those of the Special Congressional Committee on MDGs, Social Watch Philippines, the Philippine Business for Social Progress, and the local government of Pasay City.

The congressional committee sought to increase legislators’ awareness of the millennium targets among legislators and monitored the progress of MDG-related bills in the legislative mill.

Social Watch Philippines, a network of citizens’ organizations, noted that the government-prepared MDG accomplishment reports tend to highlight, well, accomplishments. It came up with the Quality of Life Index which presented information not otherwise revealed in aggregate macro-economic data. It organized local and national forums for building awareness of the millennium goals. It also sought to include citizens’ organizations in preparing budgets by proposing the Alternative Budget Index. As a result, the 2007 budget for education was increased by P5.5 billion while the 2008 budget for social services.

The Philippine Business for Social Progress, on the other hand, tried to introduce the concept of social investment to its member-corporations, encouraging them to align their corporate social responsibility activities with meeting the goals. It also tapped the private sector’s help to bridge the gaps in MDG financing.

Finally, there is the city government of Pasay, hounded by problems of urban poverty and solid waste management, which sought to bring the MDGs to each household by introducing the concept of Family MDGs—simple, easy-to-understand basic targets that each family can aspire to. For example, “We have jobs.”; “All our children go to school.”; “All our children are healthy.”; “We keep our home and surroundings clean.”

To complement the family MDGs, the city government came up with a community-based monitoring system that assesses the families in terms of the survival (food and nutrition, sanitation), security (shelter, peace and order) and enabling (income, employment, education). By bringing the otherwise nebulous and multi-syllabic concept of the millennium development goals to families at the level of day-to-day operations, productive engagement is encouraged.

***

Other tales of success are welcome. This year, the Millennium Campaign office is again in search of stories of initiatives which have made a tangible impact on the MDGs. In identifying what these initiative are and how they have worked, there is a better chance that they can be scaled up or replicated in other areas to affect more people. Hence, progress will be made in the goals, not just in some, and not just in the more progressive cities and municipalities but all over the country.

Millennium Campaign Communications Associate Rhea Alba is optimistic that more cases will be received this time around as the self-imposed deadline looms and as more and more people become aware of these basic goals. Aside from replication, the idea is to minimize disparity among regions within a country and among different countries. The achievement of the goals, after all, is a universal effort.

The chosen case studies, not only from the Philippines but from the region, will then be compiled into a publication to be distributed in global and regional civil society events including the United Nations MDG Review Summit in September. It is said that the Philippine president will be attending this summit.

Deadline for the submission of case studies is on July 9. Visit the Web sites www.asiapacific.endpoverty2015.org and ph.one.un.org/standup. for details of the search.

adellechua@gmail.com

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