PH beyond 2015: What next after the MDGs?
April 5 marked the beginning of the 1,000-day countdown signaling the end of the implementation period of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). But while the Philippines is still struggling with reaching MDG targets, the global community, for almost a year, has already been deliberating on the new development agenda beyond 2015. What is of concern is that there is little discussion about these global processes—which will impact our own national development in the next decades—in our own backyard.
Signed in 2000 by 193 countries, the MDGs provided the world’s development framework for the first part of the 21st century. They are aimed at accelerating human development and uplifting people’s lives by addressing specific issues such as extreme poverty, lack of education, and exclusion of women. All the eight goals contribute to human health; three are directly related to health outcomes—reduction of child mortality, improvement of maternal health, and control of HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
The MDGs paved the way for initiatives by various global players, including multilateral organizations and nonstate actors, as well as ambitious projects on poverty alleviation and disease eradication, especially in countries with strong-willed and committed governments. In the Philippines, the MDGs are manifested in our national development plans crafted under the Arroyo and Aquino administrations. However, despite our devotion to the MDGs especially in the area of health, our progress remains stagnant, if not lagging, both in terms of health outcomes and in addressing the social determinants of health such as income and literacy.
For example, for the past decade the Philippines has dramatically lowered the infant mortality rate, yet too many pregnant mothers die of highly preventable causes yearly. Also, our country, despite having been described for decades as having “low” prevalence and “slow” incidence of HIV-AIDS, was recently named by UNAIDS as one of seven countries with rising infection rates amid the global decline. With this milieu, the Aquino administration’s Health Agenda included the achievement of health-related MDGs as one of its three pillars. But the impact of its programs has yet to be measured.
Numerous streams such as the United Nations Secretary General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons and the UN Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals are conducting global consultations and seeking regional and national contributions to shape “The World We Want,” the slogan of the post-2015 agenda discussions. In the Philippines, the National Economic and Development Authority has been tapped by the Aquino administration to lead the national consultations. However, many sectors have still not been reached by these national discussions, especially the academe (the creator of evidence and source of innovation) and civil society (particularly the groups representing the poor, the marginalized, and the underserved). Most importantly, any framework for sustainable development for the future must involve and reflect the views of young people, which unfortunately are also left out of the equation.
As a country, we have learned from experience that real development only happens when there is active engagement with and full participation of the people in all stages—from the analysis of problems to the implementation of solutions. Therefore, there is a dire need to bring the matter to the people on the ground. Policymakers should begin listening to our farmers, fisherfolk, and factory workers on what kind of development they want. The media should expose the public to these crucial issues instead of wasting our time with the mediocre and the obscene. Our universities should stimulate bright students to develop “futures thinking” and spark conversations on how to evenly spread prosperity to all Filipinos.
Finally, it is not enough to discuss what the Philippines can contribute to the global goals; it is equally important that the Philippines, as a society, begin a national discourse on our shared future beyond 2015. We as a people have acknowledged the myriad problems that persist—abject poverty, widening inequalities, limited opportunities, and unsustainable environment, among others. Unfortunately, we have stopped at recognizing and have not proceeded to act toward our collective destiny. We as a people are still afflicted with a myopic outlook, thinking about the next elections and not the implications of our decisions and actions on future generations. For example, our perennial struggle with flooding demonstrates our utter neglect of the future in the way we plan our national development.
But it is never too late to talk about it. The Post-2015 global consultations may be reaching the finale, with the synthesis and processing of inputs under the auspices of the UN to commence before 2013 ends. Still, everyone can contribute to the ongoing online consultations at www.worldwewant2015.org.
The collective project of nation-building continues. We can begin by directing fundamental questions to the winners of the elections. We can start thinking of innovations and solutions with our peers in schools and workplaces. And we can call on our government institutions to create spaces for an intersectoral, interdisciplinary, and intergenerational dialogue, so that together we can design a positive, healthy, and sustainable future for our nation—in 2015 and beyond.
Renzo Guinto, MD, and Raoul Bermejo III, MD, are graduates of the UP College of Medicine. Guinto is with the Department of Ethics and Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, as an intern. Bermejo is also a graduate of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium.
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