MDG #8: Creating a global partnership

Diane Coffey

by Diane Coffey

Staff Columnist defines a “partnership” as a relationship between individuals or groups that is characterized by mutual cooperation and responsibility, as for the achievement of a specified goal.

In the case of Millenium Development Goal (MDG) No. 8, which calls for the creation of a global partnership for development, the “specified goal” is to create the conditions for achieving the seven other MDGs, which have been presented in the Villanovan over the past weeks.

For those of you who may have missed past articles, the MDGs are a set of goals put forth by the United Nations and signed by the U.S. government to address problems related to global poverty. While calling upon developing countries to strive toward “good governance” so that development initiatives are sure to reach those who will benefit from them most, MDG 8 is most important for developed nations, as it asks them to make a all-around commitment to helping the poor.

MDG 8 outlines six key areas in which developed countries might respond to the needs of the poor in the developing world. Rich countries are called upon to develop better trade policies that effectively respond to the needs of the poor, to finance development at a higher level through increased aid, to forgive the debt of the poorest nations, to help poor countries find dignified employment for their youth, to improve poor countries’ access to affordable medicines, and to foster the spread of technology in ways that benefit the poor. While all six of these areas are extremely important in improving the futures of the world’s poorest, the first three, commonly grouped and referred to as “Trade, Aid, and Debt,” are the most highly publicized of the initiatives.

What is meant by better trade? Better trade is directly aimed at helping the world’s poorest citizens, and is often referred to as “fair trade.” MDG 8 calls on developed nations to construct new trade policies to this end.

Norway, for example, has responded to this call by eliminating all tariffs and quotas on imports from the least developed countries; this has allowed poor nations to improve their economic well-being through trade. Unfortunately, most of the developed nations have a long way to go to improve the “fairness” of their trade. The United States, for instance, is an important supplier of the world’s agricultural products, particularly grains. Because of heavy government subsidies and commercial production in the U.S. and other developed countries, poor countries have little chance to earn profits from trade in agricultural products. They simply cannot produce at the same low cost as subsidized, mechanized firms.

And what about all the hype around foreign aid that we see so often in the media? It seems ironic to me that aid is one of the most debated issues in foreign politics; the amount spent on funding development aid just does not seem worth the fuss. According to the Center for Global Development, the United States spent only .14 percent of its GDP on foreign assistance this year, which placed it 20th among developed nations in terms of aid-related generosity. Additionally, much of the U.S. aid is what is termed “tied aid,” meaning that developing nations do not get to choose how they use it, and many times, must buy goods and services from the donor country.

Finally, the issue of debt is one that allows developed nations to help developing nations overcome poverty and underdevelopment. For a variety of reasons, many developing countries are burdened with foreign debt payments. Some are so old that the current citizens of debt-ridden countries were not even born when their government accepted loans. Due to the obstacles that debt-service presents to fighting poverty, there has been increased attention to getting the debts of the world’s least developed countries forgiven.

Clearly, developed countries’ governments play a vital role in creating a global partnership for development by addressing the issues of aid, trade, and debt. But the partnership for development need not be limited to governments.