The unfinished agenda of the MDGs: Looking toward POST-2015
Since the adoption of the Millennium Declaration 13 years ago, Mongolia has notched up an impressive list of achievements. It has (i) created national awareness on the MDGs and built national ownership; (ii) adapted the MDG indicators and targets to the national context; (iii) added a 9th Goal on democratic governance and human rights; (iv) developed the MDG-based Comprehensive National Development Strategy; (v) channeled budgetary resources and development aid for achieving the MDGs, and (vi) strengthened its statistical system to monitor implementation of the MDGs. Mongolia’s progress on MDGs needs to be analysed within this context.
Mongolia’s progress on the MDGs has varied across goals and targets. Of the 24 targets, eight are either on track or have been fully achieved; seven more are likely to be achieved by 2015 but require additional effort; four targets across three MDGs are unlikely to be achieved; and it is difficult to assess progress on five targets because of data or measurement issues.
Achieving the MDG targets by 2015 will signify progress on the specific indicators, but not the end of the challenges. For instance, even if the target of halving poverty is achieved by 2015 (with extra effort), 18 percent of the population would still be below the national poverty line.
Thus, poverty reduction along with the targets unlikely to be achieved by 2015 such as increasing employment, providing universal primary education, promoting gender equality, improving environmental sustainability and eliminating air pollution, and strengthening governance constitute the unfinished agenda of the MDGs. These require consistent effort that will extend to the post-2015 period.
Mongolia today faces many development challenges. Many of these were also discussed during the series of Post-2015 National Consultations on “The Future We Want” organized by the Ministry of Economic Development in partnership with the United Nations Country Team in December 2012-May 2013.
Driven by the mining sector, Mongolia is growing at a rapid pace and has graduated to lower middle income country status. While economic growth is central for future development, Mongolia’s main policy challenge is how best to utilize the mineral revenues to benefit its people and ensure that the rapid growth is inclusive and shared widely by the Mongolian people.
Reducing poverty and unemployment has remained the most pressing challenge of development in Mongolia for the last 20 years. The government needs to articulate and implement a strategy to reduce poverty and promote inclusive economic growth. There is a strong need to focus on building resilience and on social protection to reduce vulnerability of the poor and the marginal populations. Past experience has demonstrated that non-targeted welfare measures, such as cash handouts, while having some short-term benefits, do not result in sustained poverty reduction.
Economic diversification and development of the private sector and local businesses are essential. It is imperative for Mongolia to diversify its economy and create alternative employment sources, especially for the youth. The tertiary education sector is characterised by a mismatch between the demand and supply of skills. A key challenge for Mongolia is to create a skilled workforce to improve its international competitiveness.
Improving children’s access to education, health, water, sanitation and nutrition are central for Mongolia’s future. At the same time, child poverty, child protection, adverse impact of climate change on children, and their vulnerability to disasters are persistent problems and need additional attention, especially using an equity lens.
Balancing environmental sustainability with economic growth is a particular challenge for Mongolia as the main engine of the economy, the mining sector, puts heavy pressure on the environment. Rapid expansion of mining activities, extraction of minerals and inadequate rehabilitation by some mining companies cause irreversible damage to the environment.
Environmental factors such as climate change, natural disasters, CO2 emissions, water scarcity, land degradation, desertification, and loss of biodiversity have a particularly strong impact in Mongolia, increasing the vulnerability of those dependent on the environment for their livelihoods, especially herders and arable farmers. An additional emphasis is required on sustainable development, with a move towards responsible mining, a green economy, and increasing use of renewable energy.
Sixty seven percent of Mongolia’s population lives in the capital Ulaanbaatar. Within the capital more than 65 percent of the people are estimated to live in slums or ‘ger districts’ with limited access to social security, environmental infrastructure such as safe drinking water, improved sanitation, and electricity, and insecure employment. Sustainable urbanization and urban poverty reduction formed part of the discussions at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development and on the post-2015 development framework. A key challenge for Mongolia is to analyse the barriers to, and devise suitable policies for, economic growth and investments for sustainable urban development.
As a landlocked country, Mongolia relies on regional trading networks and active encouragement of south-south and triangular cooperation can help expand the knowledge base to increase resilience.
Governance, the legal environment, capacity of institutions and human rights are critical for the achievement of the MDGs. The over-riding challenge in improving governance in Mongolia is to ensure the rule of law and trust in public services through judicial reform and more targeted, visible, and fair anti-corruption measures.
Since 2001 the MDGs have contributed at the national level to shaping the development dialogue and galvanising action on achieving a common set of global goals. As we approach the timeline for achieving the MDGs, there is considerable interest in assessment of progress and consideration of a post-2015 development agenda.
With some extra effort, Mongolia is expected to achieve 71 percent of the global MDG targets by 20158. Lack of full achievement of MDG targets does not signify lack of progress. As outlined in the report, Mongolia has shown considerable progress on many MDGs since 2001. But a lot more needs to be done.
MDG progress depends on partnerships and participation, and it is clear that there is a need to pay more attention at the policy level, to improve inter-sectoral coordination and alignment, and ensure more robust participation and cooperation of civil society organizations, citizens, local government institutions and the private sector in achieving the MDGs and addressing the development challenges in the post-2015 period.
Implementation of the MDGs is only a work in progress. Even after the timeline of 2015 is reached, development challenges will remain. MDGs are thus an unfinished agenda and the work to extend the benefits of economic growth to all Mongolian people will continue.