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IMF First Deputy Managing Director John Lipsky addressing the audience at the launch of the new IMF MDGs paper in Washington DC. ( Photo: IMF Staff)  

The IMF and Civil Society

Urgent Action Needed to Reach the Millennium Development Goals

September 20, 2010

The IMF published a background paper ahead of next week’s Millennium Development Goals Summit that focuses on urgent policy actions to help attain the MDGs.

The IMF released the background note “Reaching the Millennium Development Goals: Macroeconomic Prospects and Challenges in Low-Income Countries” at an event on September 16, 2010 in Washington DC, just before the United Nations High-level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG Summit) on September 20-22 in New York, as part of an effort to raise awareness of the challenges ahead and to persuade the international community to take action.

The panel that participated in the launch of the background note included IMF First Deputy Managing Director John Lipsky, George Ayittey, President of the Free Africa Foundation, Nancy Birdsall, President, Center for Global Development, Hugh Bredenkamp, IMF Deputy Director, Strategy, Policy, and Review Department, Mark Plant, Deputy Director, Africa Department, and it was moderated by IMF Director of the External Relations Department, Caroline Atkinson.

The new IMF paper focuses on the policy actions needed to achieve the MDGs. It explains that economic growth and stability are the foundation of the public spending that is needed to meet these goals, so the prospects for further progress on the MDGs have to be assessed in light of macroeconomic developments in emerging and developing economies. It also talks about how the international financial institutions and international community responded quickly and strongly to the crisis, but it emphasizes that more action is needed to help developing countries regain their momentum toward achieving the MDGs.

Broad Range of Policies Needed to Attain the MDGs

Progress on the MDGs has been slowed by the financial crisis. Before the economic meltdown, there were some grounds for optimism, as strong growth and macroeconomic stability—driven mainly by good homegrown policies—was translating into falling poverty and improving social indicators. But because of the crisis, years of progress have been lost. To regain momentum, a broad range of policy actions will be required.

“Everything hinges on restoring balanced and sustainable global growth,” IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said in a statement. “This is the foundation upon which everything else is built. Growth is not enough but certainly, without it, other efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals will be frustrated,” Strauss-Kahn added.

The advanced economies and the leading emerging markets have to focus first and foremost on securing a sustainable global recovery. The developing countries need room to invest in infrastructure and strengthen social safety nets. Donors will need to deliver on their aid commitments and improve the predictability of aid flows. Healthy and expanding world trade and better market access for developing countries are also important to see substantial progress before 2015.

During the crisis, the IMF increased its support for low-members to support growth—sustained, pro-poor, inclusive growth, but the living conditions of poor people in low-income countries will improve only with additional resources and a favorable external environment.

Call for Action

Free Africa Foundation President George Ayittey called for a change to “the aid-driven model” of support for Africa that was based on more foreign aid from Western donors. He told the panel discussion that Africa needed a market-driven economic model that was driven by entrepreneurship. “Entrepreneurs can be found in Africa. They are called the ‘cheetah generation,’ and it’s about time we identified them and supported them.”

Center for Global Development President Nancy Birdsall said the IMF background note was “way too modest” about economic management in low-income countries—especially in Africa—prior to the global economic crisis. Good policies had enabled these countries to manage well the effects of the crisis. “Not enough credit was given to the countries’ policy leadership,” Birdsall told the panel.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on world leaders to attend a summit in New York on September 20–22 to accelerate progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut poverty, hunger, disease, maternal and child deaths, and other ills by a 2015 deadline. Strauss-Kahn will address the summit on September 20.

The international community needs to act now to help attain the MDGs. Without this sense of urgency, achieving these goals will become extremely difficult. To get there, there must be a sense of shared responsibility between the various actors—the developing countries themselves, the advanced economies, and the international institutions.

Several CSO representatives attended the event and asked questions to the panel. (Photo: IMF Staff)