Africa and EU in Partnership official website. With only five years to go to meet the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), African states are mobilising resources to stay on track. Delegates from the African and European Unions met in Addis Ababa for a Joint Expert Group Meeting on 12 March 2010 to discuss progress since the MDG partnership was launched two years ago, and to look ahead to the future.
Chaired by the UK (who is the EU lead on the MDG partnership), the meeting kicked off with a conundrum: the partnership is not directly responsible for delivering the Roadmap goals. The UK made it clear that considerable changes would have to be implemented to make sure the partnership could deliver and work in a timely and efficient manner.
However, despite this issue, the many successes the partnership has brought to Africa were highlighted: the Food Facility, the Vulnerability Flex, and the annual MDG report on sexual and reproductive health rights. Among other achievements noted in the meeting was the launch of the AU’s Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA), which relates to the 5th MDG, although shortcomings in the implementation phase were observed.
Moving towards a 2nd Action Plan
Delegates at the meeting agreed on the fact that, in order to secure a more concentrated approach, the partnership would have to focus on fewer subjects in an effort to increase effectiveness and add “real value”.
Despite there being substantial funds available from the EU and EU Member States, financing MDG partnership projects in Africa remains a significant problem. It was agreed at the meeting that more should be done to attract enough investment for specific projects within the partnership.
Overhauling the system
The UK proposed to change the structure of the partnership to reflect “ownership” of it. A steering group was suggested, which would be made up of two member states – one each from the AU and EU sides. The role of civil society, the European Commission, the African Union Commission (AUC), regional economic communities and the private sector would be maintained in the proposed new structure. It was agreed that the term ‘Joint Experts Group’ may have to be revised to reflect the different makeup.
The fact that the MDG partnership has taken on too much was highlighted again, with the UK proposing to tighten the focus down to a few key issues.
Linking up with other Africa-EU partnerships would have to be considered to secure as much synergy and efficiency as possible. Involving the private sector in policy decisions was a matter delegates agreed to consider.
Potential focus areas
Disability was highlighted as a cross-cutting topic that needed more exposure at the regional and continental levels. The AUC could contribute to this issue, as it already has a disability framework set up.
Maternal health was raised again as a possible future focus for the partnership. Unfortunately, progress has been slow and the targets have not been met in any sub-Saharan country. As a consequence, it will probably be given more attention at the upcoming MDG Summit in New York in September.
A look at how to help achieve the MDG from another angle was discussed, whereby the focus was not so much on individual MDGS, but rather on the institutional system that is there to support Africans to achieve the targets. Institutional innovation is the key here: change the system in areas such as social protection schemes; the role of midwives; establishing micro-finance industries to support small-scale programmes; as well as a look at innovative financing alternatives.
Both sides agreed to come to a common position regarding MDGs for the upcoming MDG Summit in New York in September 2010.
Various experts on MDGs in Africa came together in Addis Ababa, a day before the JEG meeting, to discuss progress. The overwhelming feeling was that progress in achieving the MDGs in Africa is slow. Despite the challenges posed, for example by climate change, solutions should come from within Africa, they concluded.
The reasons and main challenges faced by African countries in implementing the MDGs were summed up as being a lack of statistical data to verify progress; a lack of internal and external resources; conflict; the recent food and fuel crises and the global financial crisis.
Performance was poor in maternal and child healthcare in Africa, and not enough was gained from international partnerships. However, the picture painted was not all bleak, as among the successes were progress in poverty reduction, primary enrolment, empowerment of women and combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
The experts agreed that, despite increased resources and innovative ways to achieve the MDGs, Africa is not on course to meet all of them.
For a look at the progress of African countries in achieving the MDG targets, please click here.