The Minister speaks up
UN MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS PART II: In the March 2010 issue (issue # 78), New Times interviewed some experts on what is known and the UN Millennium Development Goals. This gave a general introduction to what the goals were, where they were aimed to help and how far they were in terms of being attained. Read it here.
As Denmark is one of the countries which is participating in achieving these goals, has met its own end of the bargain with enthusiasm and is currently meeting all of its deadlines, we thought it would be a great idea to get the opinion of the Danish Development Minister, Søren Pind. He agreed.
NT: Some experts say that the MDG will never be achieved in the allocated time, so why pour so much money into such a project?
Søren Pind: We still believe that the MDGs can be achieved by 2015. It will not be easy and there are many challenges. However, we have seen real progress in many areas since the Millennium Development Goals were agreed upon in 2000. Based on success stories and lessons learnt, we now know what works and what doesn’t. The main focus for the next five years must, therefore, be action-oriented. We need to accelerate the progress we have seen and work at implementing the measures that have proven successful.
ODA [Official Development Assistance – a statistic compiled by OECD to measure aid - Ed.] is also an essential complement to developing countries’ efforts to achieve progress on the MDG’s, and commitments made by donor countries must be met. Denmark is one of only five countries that live up to the UN target of providing at least 0.7 per cent of GNI in development assistance.
NT: How does Denmark monitor its aid and make sure that it gets to the people where it’s needed?
Søren Pind: Denmark’s development assistance is subject to careful planning, supervision and evaluation.
It is extremely important that we monitor Danish contributions closely to ensure that we deliver an efficient assistance. During both preparation and implementation we are very focused on feasibility and progress. Locally we follow progress in close dialogue with our partners, and we launch reviews on a regular basis. Our activities are closely monitored and selected activities are evaluated.
Because we have a solid system in place, I am quite confident that Danish aid is serving its purpose. This has also been confirmed by recent OECD assessments.
Furthermore, to ensure both transparency and knowledge-sharing, we have a general results site and a detailed project database on the Ministry’s website (in Danish), where you can look up most of our programmes and read about our achievements.
NT: What is the Ministry's long term goal?
Søren Pind: I have just made a new draft strategy for Danish development policy public, which charts the course and sets out goals for Denmark's development cooperation in the time to come. It emphasizes freedom as an end in itself and as a means to development. Along with economic growth - freedom, democracy and human rights, including gender equality, are all vital preconditions for achieving the MDGs, not least the goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, and are as such long-term goals for Denmark's development cooperation.
NT: After your commitments have been met, will the Ministry continue to help with the goals, but in different countries?
Søren Pind: Denmark remains committed to supporting developing countries in reaching the MDGs. The MDGs will continue to guide Danish development policy and Denmark's engagement with its partner countries. In the future, Denmark's development cooperation will be even more focused on assisting Africa in combating poverty through in particular economic growth and job creation. Africa will continue to need our assistance and partnership in this regard for some time to come.
NT: Are there ideas on where donations will go after 2015?
Søren Pind: It is difficult to know with certainty where we will be in five years time and to predict the world’s main development challenges in 2015. However, one thing that is certain is that the Millennium Development Goals for the first time set out a commonly agreed-upon agenda for global development that has helped mobilise and direct support to the poorest countries in a way that has never been seen before. It is important that the development agenda from 2015 and beyond continues to be based on a global partnership working together to address the challenges facing the developing countries.
NT: What criteria are used to decide which countries to give aid to? In other words, how does Denmark choose which specific countries receive aid, and which do not?
Søren Pind: Even though Denmark is one of only five countries which has met or surpassed the UN target of providing at least 0.7 per cent of GNI in development assistance, funds are of course limited. We therefore need to focus our development cooperation based on our comparative advantages in order to make a lasting impact on development. Achieving results and greater impact therefore requires us to concentrate our aid on a limited number of countries where the needs are greatest. Denmark will continue to keep Africa at the centre of our efforts.
While choosing partner countries is ultimately a political decision, Denmark remains firmly committed to the principles of aid effectiveness and international division of labour. We will in the future limit our development cooperation to fewer partners and be present in fewer sectors in each country. This will enable us to foster stronger development partnerships and achieve greater results.