Transparency: A Key to Jumpstart MDG Progress

Time is not on the side of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of development promises made by world leaders in 2000 on everything from education to the environment.

 There are only another five years left to meet the ambitious targets, which include halving the number of people living on less than US$ 1 per day. Yet a recent UN assessment shows the prospects looking dim for achieving this and other MDG targets both regionally and globally. For Transparency International, a key reason for this derailment has been the failure to ensure that transparency, accountability and integrity principles are integrated into the design and implementation of MDG policies.

There are only another seven weeks left until the UN convenes a high level summit in New York to see what can be done to change the current course of slowed progress. The summit, to be held on 20-22 September, will bring together all UN member states in open discussions on how they can meet the 2015 timeline. Among all the governments’ talking, hopefully civil society organisations like Transparency International will have the chance to have their ideas heard. For TI, a key part missing from the debate is how good governance and anti-corruption efforts need to be linked to MDG strategies – whether on education, health, poverty or any of the goals. A forthcoming TI report, to be released ahead of the summit, will make the case for how to do this in practice.

 Civil society organisations also are working together to make sure that the summit does not produce another set of empty gestures. For example, the International Budget Partnership has launched the Ask Your Government Campaign. The aim is to get citizens in 84 countries to petition their governments for details about how much of its budget is going to key development sectors linked to the MDGs. Different TI chapters are helping out with this work, including in Morocco, Serbia and Venezuela. Everyone in any country can sign up to the campaign’s petition, which demands that governments at the MDG Summit adopt concrete steps for greater budget transparency.

Without public access to information about what governments are spending on the MDGs, the door to accountability is closed.

As TI’s upcoming report will show, new empirical analysis done on more than 150 countries demonstrates the clear, strong and positive correlation between transparency and accountability, and better MDG outcomes. For example, the literacy rate of youths (MDG 2) is significantly higher in countries with greater public access to information. Findings also show that people who live in countries where government accountability mechanisms are in place have increased access to clean water (MDG 7).

What the empirics demonstrate is what is known in practice: transparency and accountability have an MDG pay-off. Let’s hope the world’s leaders at the summit remember this.

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