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    Millennium Development Goals Work for Trade


    International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2003, © International Trade Centre

    Trade Forum magazine interview with Eveline Herfkens, Executive Coordinator for the UN Millennium Development Goals Campaign

    What are the Millennium Development Goals (MDG)?

    These commit 189 countries to reach eight development goals by 2015. Heads of state made this commitment, under the auspices of the United Nations, in September 2000.

    Why are these goals relevant to trade development?

    First, what is important is that governments committed themselves at the highest level. The voting public in their countries can hold them accountable.

    Second, achieving these goals is either a precondition for trade or directly affects trade development. Reducing poverty (goal 1) concerns business, because development won't come about through handouts. Entrepreneurship will make the difference, through jobs and income. Tackling primary education, gender equality, environmental sustainability and health issues (goals 2 to 7) creates the conditions for private sector development and trade.

    Commitment to an open trading system (part of goal 8) is most directly relevant. Two things to focus on are the percentage of aid given for trade capacity building (progress indicator 41) and untying aid (indicator 35).

    Aid for trade can help poor producers meet market standards, for example, while untying aid can double its impact, by allowing developing country suppliers to bid. We also need to bind market access initiatives like the EBA (Everything but Arms) or AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act), which have short horizons, in WTO, because investors need longer guarantees before they commit. Harmonization is also important - market access agreements are a spaghetti bowl of rules.

    Why should business get involved to achieve trade development goals?

    One of the reasons that developing countries got a bad deal in the Uruguay Round was because there was not enough private sector presence in the delegations. Even now, I am amazed at how little the private sector is getting involved in business advocacy.

    It's not for nothing that governments are advised by business in OECD countries. If the system is skewed in their favour, in part it's because developing countries have not organized themselves sufficiently, and they have not invested enough. Businesses in developing countries should give governments a wake-up call on the importance of investing time and money to boost exports.

    What are some areas developing countries should focus on?

    To cite a few areas: developing countries have not participated enough in meetings where standards are set. Many didn't have an ambassadorial presence at the WTO, while they were present in countries where it made less of a difference. On TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights), businesses should call for a provision to protect or remunerate traditional knowledge. In the recent Trade Forum magazine issue on trade law, you cited the case of Antonio Meucci, a poor immigrant to the US, who has just been recognized as the real inventor of the telephone - not Alexander Graham Bell, who acquired the patent and became rich from it. Meucci's case is being repeated in developing countries today.

    What can business groups do?

    In developing countries, business groups should work more closely with their own governments, and hold them accountable. They should also use their channels to contact their peers in rich countries to advocate with their governments for an open trading system. Governments don't readily listen to suggestions from a foreign source - they act because their own electorate wants them to.

    In developed countries, any major business that exports to developing countries has a stake in their growth. Business groups in developing countries should also speak out more. I was pleasantly surprised when CEOs of big British transnational corporations teamed up with Oxfam to let their voices be heard on the need for the Doha Development Agenda to produce market opportunities and put an end to agricultural subsidies. But alas, it's a unique example of political advocacy.

    Eveline Herfkens is the UN Secretary-General's Executive Coordinator for the Millennium Development Goals Campaign. Ms Herfkens formerly served as a Member of Parliament of the Netherlands, Ambassador to the United Nations and WTO, and Minister of Development Cooperation.

    UN Millennium Development Goals1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

    - Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day

    - Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

    2. Achieve universal primary education

    - Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling

    3. Promote gender equality and empower women

    - Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015

    4. Reduce child mortality

    - Reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under five

    5. Improve maternal health

    - Reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio

    6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

    - Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS

    - Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases

    7. Ensure environmental sustainability

    - Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources

    - Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water

    - Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020

    8. Develop a global partnership for development

    - Develop further an open trading and financial system that is rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory. Includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction - nationally and internationally

    - Address the least developed countries' special needs. This includes tariff- and quota-free access for their exports; enhanced debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries; cancellation of official bilateral debt; and more generous official development assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction

    - Address the special needs of landlocked and small island developing states

    - Deal comprehensively with developing countries' debt problems through national and international measures to make debt sustainable in the long term

    - In cooperation with the developing countries, develop decent and productive work for youth

    - In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries

    - In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies - especially information and communications technologies

    For more information, see http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

    Natalie Domeisen (domeisen@intracen.org), ITC Senior Public Information Officer, interviewed Ms. Herfkens for Trade Forum.