UN General Assembly 2013: MDG 8 and DESA

The UN General Assembly’s annual General Debate begins today at the UN Headquarters in New York and continues until October 1st. On the agenda will be the Millennium Development Goals (MG8) to combat poverty and to cement sustainability agendas world wide.

A reminder of the 8 UN Millennium Development Goals:

1. Eradicate 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

8. Develop a global partnership for development


While the American media will no doubt focus on Obama’s speech, Iran and Syria, the widest angle to view the UN General Assembly debates is probably the standing of the MDG 8. One way to do that is to follow the MDG Gap Task Force, the 35-member body charged with monitoring both the indicators of success and the challenges in achieving the Millennium Goals. That’s a pretty tall order. The following is a guideline for understanding the MDG Task Force and a select glimpse at a few of its policy positions. While much of what the task force does focuses on developing nations, its recommendations do not apply solely to developing nations. Their solutions resonate as much for devising local policy in the U.S. as well as national frameworks that align with the general trends occurring in the global community.


The MDG  GapTask Force – what it is:

The MDG Gap Task Force was created by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in May 2007 to improve monitoring of the global commitments contained in MDG 8, the Global Partnership for Development. The main purpose of the Task Force is to systematically track existing international commitments and to identify gaps and obstacles in their fulfillment at the international, regional and country level in the areas of official development assistance, market access (trade), debt sustainability, and access to essential medicines and new technologies. The Task Force integrates more than 30 United Nations and other international agencies. An annual report of the MDG Gap Task Force is published in September.


MDG Gap Task Force Report 2013


One of the lead agencies coordinating the task force is the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat (UN/DESA). No doubt DESA will participate in the upcoming debate process. DESA publishes a number of policy briefs prior to the General Debate. I’ll highlight a few here. They provide descriptors of contrast between how our own national and local policies align (or do not align) with the direction the world community is heading.


UN-DESA Policy Brief No. 38: The potential of financial transaction taxes for development financing

The Conclusion:

The way forward

There is a clear need for additional resources to address global needs. At the same time, the financial sector is se- verely undertaxed compared to other economic sectors. In addition, to the extent that the financial sector has ben- efited significantly from globalization, there is a view that revenues from taxing finance should be used to address global concerns. In particular, a CTT, which taxes inter- national transactions, is by its nature a tax on financial market internationalization. In addition to countries ap- propriating a portion of taxes on domestic financial mar- ket transactions to international development, the inter- national community should look to the implementation of a CTT to be allocated exclusively towards development and global needs, such as combating climate change.

This makes sense from an international public finance perspective: a small tax on currency transactions, which are largely undertaken by the wealthy, would serve the global public good of more stable currency markets and that of more equitable and sustainable global development. International forms of taxation are more than fitting in an increasingly globalized world.

In sum, financial and currency transaction taxes are technically feasible and economically sensible. They could readily provide the means of meeting global development financing needs. International agreement is urgently needed to enable implementation of these taxes, which should play an important role in financing sustainable development goals as part of the post-2015 development agenda.


The multiple challenges that cities face also represent a strategic opportunity to build sustainable cities and reap the benefits of rapid urbanization. Urban development should be understood as balanced and inclusive development of four pillars: economic development, social development, environmental development, environmental management and urban governance. The enabling mechanisms include an integrated investment on green industrial transformation, improved public infrastructure, access to and efficient use of social services, effective urban governance, and the protection and management of natural resources.
The potential for building sustainable cities
Upper-middle-and high income countries with urban populations that already have access to basic public services face the challenge of becoming more efficient in the use of energy and water, reduce the generation of waste, and improve their recycling systems.


Some highlights (emphases mine):
The World Economic and Social Survey (WESS) 2013 on Sustainable Development Challenges, underlines that financing the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development raises a number of concerns. The huge size of investment requirements will necessitate a high volume of public resources to be raised and invested, in view of a lack of incentives for long­term private investment. This is likely to trigger macroeconomic trade­offs that need to be addressed in tandem with options to achieve the rapid and sustained economic growth that helps create fiscal space and maintain solid development standards.

Policy concerns to be addressed

In sum, policy makers need to address the following concerns in their assessments of feasible financing strategies for devel­ opment: (i) pursuing development goals might demand the investment of significant public resources; (ii) financing strat­ egies need to be carefully assessed in order to establish the feasibility and optimality of alternative strategies to minimize negative macroeconomic impacts; (iii) in view of the real ac­ cess to, and the macroeconomic feasibility of using a particu­ lar source of finance, most developing countries likely require a financing strategy including both domestic and foreign sources; (iv) rapid and sustained economic growth is required to make the financing associated with accelerating upfront public spending more feasible; and (v) new investments are needed in areas of the economy capable of creating enough employment opportunities for the better­educated graduates entering the workforce, in order to secure potential long­term economic benefits of development investments.


UN-DESA Policy Brief No. 41: Increasing public spending in agricultural R&D to ensure food security in developing countries

Significant Sections:

Investment in R&D has to increase

The main challenge, however, is the fact that public spending in R&D has been declining in highly food insecure countries. During the last decade, global R&D increased approximately 22 per cent, from $26 billion in 2000 to $31.7 billion in 2008. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, larger emerging economies were the major contributors to the global increase in public spending on agricultural R&D, accelerating significantly agriculture productivity. China and India alone accounted for closer to half of the global increase in agricultural R&D. But the positive pattern in R&D spend- ing observed in larger developing countries is contrasted with negative trends in lower income economies. In sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America, many countries have registered declining public spending in agricultural R&D, affecting negatively their ability to generate and adopt new technologies.

Concluding remarks

In the coming years, governments in developing countries, particularly food insecure countries, will need to foster long- term productivity by investing heavily in agricultural R&D, while introducing institutional reforms to create an environ- ment that is conducive to the adoption of new technologies. In parallel, investments in rural infrastructure will be crucial to improve food production and distribution. However, given fiscal constraints in many countries, such important national efforts will not be possible without continuous and stable in- ternational support, including from the CGIAR[The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research].

Governments will also need to create the right incentives and regulations to encourage private investments. The role of the private sector should increase in the future, as economic opportunities in the food sector increase. But the insufficiency of public goods and services limits potential returns for pri- vate investments. Finally, uncertainties regarding long term productivity gains should be an incentive for policy makers to design concrete measures to reduce food waste and to change consumption patterns. Additionally, investments on the sup- ply side need to be complemented by programmes designed to increase the incomes of the poor, as well as social protection and safety nets, as food insecurity is more often the result of limited access to food than lack of available food.



The Millennium Development Goals Report 2013



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2 thoughts on “UN General Assembly 2013: MDG 8 and DESA

  1. Nonquixote,

    Thank you for the link, but unfortunately EmoMedia isn’t a true foil to the failures of MSM but rather the former is simply another form of failed media. Swanson’s brand of combined Libertarian quip and Bartonesque proof-texting achieves little more than petty sniping. He doesn’t achieve any analytical depth, therefore no meaningful synthesis – largely due to contorting history to fit an unmistakable quasi-anti-authoritarian narrative. Hence his 45 Theses exude empty cynicism rather than imbue thoughtful skepticism.

    The first on Swanson’s list is a fallacious cast of the objective reality that led up to the Syrian resolution. Swanson, therefore, perpetuates an insidious lie; making his first argument more of a projection than a thoughtful critique. By contrast, Obama didn’t lie by not acknowledging irrationalist reaction to Syria. He did acknowledge both positions that opposed his course: belligerent neocons bent on regime change and magical thinking revisionists who can’t seem to bear the 21st century itself. Nor did Obama avoid vocalizing that he had considered the use of force against the Assad regime and he did contextualize the UN Security Council’s dithering position on Syria. There was nothing disingenuous about this portion of his address.

    Likewise number two on the list casts another fallacious shadow. Yes, it did actually take two world wars to shift not only our thinking but that of much of the world. To suggest otherwise is either phenomenally gross distortion or shocking ignorance.

    For my part, the poor quality of Swanson’s first two remarks leads me to disregard the remaining 43, these first two are an encouragement to spend time elsewhere on more sophisticated analyses. I skimmed the rest; the bulk of it looks as unsound as the first two if not more unfounded, shamefully inaccurate, or swathed in curious denial. Actually, I’m confident in my own evaluation of Obama’s remarks, and I thank you again for the link, but I don’t value the position contained therein. I’m afraid on this one we must agree to disagree again.

    I’d have to also respectfully disagree with your implication that Obama is the biggest obstacle to the MDG 8. That position twists the already hyperbolic Green Lantern Theory beyond the pale. It suggests Obama is a special brand of dictatorial authoritarian with some sort of ubiquitous power hold over the global community. Not a realistic assessment of this president or the office of the presidency.

    His NeoLiberal pandering to supranational interests (the investment class and multi-national corporations) and his indefensible support for trade liberalization are valid criticisms. Both of these are definitely inhibitive to Millennium Development Goals. I’m sure I can think of more – his tepid approach to green energy (admittedly I haven’t reviewed his new roll out yet), also his resistance to energetic government, his lack of commitment to revitalizing the public sector, public investment, public enterprise, and to re-envisioning unionization — these would be sweeping criticisms I’d make – all of which tend not to promote MDGs either directly or via “leading by example.” But anything in Swanson’s little list that points to “the great obstructionist” – no. I think not.

    For the “great obstructionist” look to the absurdity of the GOP, the subversive influence of the Libertarian Aristocracy, and forget not the bigotry and misogyny of social regressives in the right-wing. These are the values and the actions inspired by those values that most hamper Millennium Development Goals here at home and abroad. As far as obstructionists go, I’d put Swanson in that category too for proliferating his species of antagonistic muddling. Funny how FDL and MSM manage to achieve the same ends though through varying means.

    I think it was to be expected that Obama’s speech would focus on Syria, Iran and global conflict. Not doing so would be disingenuous. I would like to have seen more of a focus in his speech on the thrust of the Assembly debates – and that’s the MDGs. But, I think he’d have a difficult time with disingenuous on that score unless he signaled a switch from our current policy of “economic statecraft” – at least I think that is still our current policy. I’m pretty certain Kerry assuming Sec of State didn’t alter state department philosophy, but I’m not positive about it.

    Glad you liked the DESA info. Now that we’ve gotten Obama out of our systems we can move on to the Millennium Development Goals. Any thoughts on those?

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