Klemens van de Sand

International development cooperation has recently become appreciably more active, in terms of both quality and quantity. One could almost speak of a renaissance of development policy. One of the main driving forces behind this new dynamism is the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Dr Klemens van de Sand is responsible for Millennium Development Goals at the BMZ. The paper is reprinted from: dedBrief, journal of the German Development Service, Vol. 42, No. 2, June 2005, pp. 8 –11.

The Challenge of MDGs Facing German Development Policy  

Donor countries must provide more effective support

In September 2000, 189 member states approved the Millennium Declaration at the largest ever summit meeting of the United Nations (UN). This set out the agenda for international policy in the 21st century, laying down four interlinked areas for programmatic action that are subordinate to the overall goal of ensuring future global security:

1. Peace, security and disarmament

2. Development and poverty reduction

3. Protection of the shared environment

4. Human rights, democracy and good governance

In order to put the Millennium Declaration into effect, a working group composed of the UN, the World Bank, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and other international organizations drew up a road map in 2001, which UN Secretary General Kofi Annan presented to the General Assembly in September of that year. This contains a selection of the internationally agreed goals set out in the chapter of the Declaration dealing with development and the environment, which build on the major UN world conferences of the 1990s and the OECD/DAC (Development Assistance Committee) Resolution Shaping the 21st Century put forward in 1996.

The eight goals in this list have become known as the Millennium Development Goals. They are broken down into 18 specific targets, which can be measured by means of 48 indicators. The MDGs highlight the reduction of poverty as the overarching task. The goals selected are not intended to present a comprehensive vision of human development, but serve rather as a yardstick from which it can be seen how much progress the world is making towards realizing the “balanced globalization” that is called for in the Millennium Declaration.

Progress with Implementation

The core target of halving the proportion of people getting by on less than a dollar a day will be met, thanks largely to the success of the fight against poverty in India and China. The proportion of people with no access to clean drinking water will probably also fall by half. But progress towards the other targets is slow, and varies greatly from region to region. The situation is worst in sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty has increased again in recent years. There have been successes, however – in the provision of drinking water in Tanzania for example, or in the reduction of infant mortality in Guinea and Eritrea. There have also been positive developments in the areas covered by MDG 8: a stop has been put to the downward trend in development assistance. Between 2001 and 2003, ODA (Official Development Assistance) rose overall from 0.22 to 0.25 per cent of the combined Gross Domestic Product of all donor countries. Twenty-seven poor, heavily indebted countries have already benefited from debt cancellation under the expanded HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) initiative, and progress is being made with removing agricultural subsidies in industrialized countries. However, in order to achieve the MDGs worldwide in the next ten years, donors and developing countries will need to make considerably greater efforts.

The MDGs in German Development Cooperation

Together with the Millennium Declaration, the MDGs are the expression of a new, more binding partnership between industrialized and developing countries. The Federal Republic of Germany is among those accepting the obligation to help achieve these joint goals. German development policy reflects the broad agenda of the Millennium Declaration, which coincides with our main aims (reducing poverty, guaranteeing peace and achieving fair globalization) and our view of development policy as global structural policy. In April 2001, the Federal Government set out a practical implementation strategy in its Action Programme 2015, which has now been refined by further action plans in such areas as human rights and crisis prevention.


With the exception of MDG 8, which relates to the commitment to work together in partnership, the MDGs describe the intended outcomes of development. The manner of achieving these outcomes may vary greatly from country to country because of their particular circumstances. The MDGs are therefore not sectoral targets and do not specify national or international priority areas for action. In order to assist developing countries to achieve these goals most effectively, development cooperation (DC) needs to change strategically and institutionally. In making its contribution to international development, German development policy should be guided by four principles:

1. Focus on poverty

2. Partnership/shared responsibility

3. Focus on the impact to be achieved

4. Coherence

Focus on Poverty

Reducing poverty remains the aim and yardstick of DC. The MDGs and the German Action Programme 2015 have once again emphasised this. It does not mean a narrowing of development policy, since a focus on poverty and a perception of development policy as a global structural policy are by no means mutually exclusive. On the contrary: in many of the disasters and crises that have arisen since the end of the Cold War, it has become apparent that there is a connection between development with dignity on the one hand, and security, peace, human rights and a healthy environment on the other. All the steps taken in all these areas must therefore be pursued together if sustainable, fair development is to be achieved. In order to do so, it is therefore logical that we should link our investment in the material and social infrastructure with support for good governance and the rule of law, institutional development, conflict prevention and conflict resolution through capacity building, and that we should continually increase the funds devoted to the poor.

Partnership/Shared Responsibility

The partnership principle requires the industrialized countries in particular to establish a coherent overall policy in order to fulfil their commitments under MDG 8. Among other things, this means increasing the level and effectiveness of development assistance, and granting trade and other forms of debt relief. In the context of ODA, the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is endeavouring step by step to reach the 0.7 per cent target by 2014. Partnership with developing countries also demands that we tie our DC to national poverty reduction strategies and policies (PRSP). One problem, however, is that many strategies reveal considerable shortcomings in relation, for example, to baseline analyses of the causes of poverty, concrete planning and budgeting of activities, and involvement of parliaments and groups within society. German DC will therefore give more targeted support to partners not only for the implementation but also for the design and monitoring of national strategies. It is important that disadvantaged groups and core societal actors are involved, that strategies take account of the Millennium Declaration and the MDGs, and that domestic resources are mobilized and shared out more fairly in order to achieve long-term, self-sustaining development.

The new challenges facing DC also mean that donors must make their support more effective. All donors – multilateral and bilateral – undertook in the Rome (February 2003) and Paris Declarations (March 2005) to harmonize their procedures and activities, so that they offer recipient countries consistent, transparent assistance. In future, therefore, German DC must plan and implement its measures more closely with other donors than in the past. The BMZ has appointed a harmonization coordinator and drawn up an action plan to simplify procedures. Germany aims continually to expand its participation in programme-oriented joint funding and in future to act increasingly as coordinator of donors in sectoral programmes.

In the international context, German DC needs a clearer profile. Against this background, the BMZ is working to focus more on its specific strengths.

So that German DC can best support partners and donors, it also needs to introduce a more sensible internal division of work. Delivery organizations are committed to a shared vision (“DC from a common mould”). Their contribution, which will complement the overall approach determined by the policies of partners and build on their own comparative strengths, needs to guide the selection, design and even the external presentation of activities.

Focus on Impact

It follows from the setting of shared goals such as MDGs that all those involved should be accountable for the effectiveness of their contributions. The BMZ is therefore working with the delivery organizations to develop the set of tools available for impact analysis, in order to be able to measure and report on German contributions to the achievement of MDGs appropriately. New methods of impact analysis are needed, based on the outcomes of joint efforts by partners and donors.

It is a task for nation-states and multilateral organizations to monitor the achievement of MDGs. One task of DC is to help partner countries to create and develop statistical capacities and monitoring systems. Delivery organizations have experience in this field and need to play a more active role.


The Millennium Declaration and the MDGs document the consensus within the community of nations that successful poverty reduction and development can today no longer be the task of development ministries and institutions alone, but require a coherent interplay between a range of policy areas. In its Action Programme 2015, the Federal Government stressed the importance of a coherent development policy and adopted poverty reduction as the guiding theme running through its policy. The Action Programme is an important tool for using the resources of all departments to guide the international implementation of the Millennium Declaration. Basing DC on the MDGs and the Millennium Declaration is a political process. For the achievement of the MDGs, it is more important that developing countries should make structural progress in reducing poverty and ensure that the results obtained are sustainable than that everything should be “spot on” . In many developing countries, including Africa, this process has become appreciably more thorough and extensive through the PRSP and MDGs. This increases hopes for the people there and should encourage us to optimize our contribution.