A chance to strike

As Government of Papua New Guinea launches its final Millennium Development Goals Progress report, our expert Kia-Henry Nema, who was behind the report, reflects on the work surrounding the report and the MDGs.

Last year when the Government approached me — a freelance development expert at the time — to write the final Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) report I was deeply humbled.

I was into the MDGs and felt passionate about them. It all started in 2009, when I visited a lecture of Jeffery Sachs, professor at the Columbia University and one of the architects of the MDGs. He spoke passionately about packaging some of humanities biggest challenging through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to address it. It was clear at that time that unless aggressive targeted interventions were taken by PNG, most of that goals would not be reached by 2015.

I also knew that although the MDGs were set out to achieve some global goals, all areas it touched upon were things PNG aspire for its people as articulated under the Constitution and cascading strategies and plans. Thus the MDGs was a call for coordinated global efforts to address common development challenges.

And I knew the challenges very well. I grew up in the village. I used to walk nearly two hour each morning to the nearest school and back. The same for health services. We also walked miles to fetch clean drinking water. My relatives walk two hours to the main highway with heavy loads of produce to reach the market or catch the bus to town. The story is the same for many in PNG and to make it out is a tough ask for government, development partners and all of us.

Photo credit: WFP/Mats Persson

I also know that life can be different, it can be just the opposite, with all the supreme comfort human can get. Soon after my primary schooling years, I went to study in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia for several years. For a village boy, my life in Toowoomba was heaven: with access to one of the best private schools in Queensland, medical care, pastoral care, communications technology, etc. Therefore, every time when I returned to PNG for holidays, it used to feel like stepping back in time with stare contrast in both soft and hard development.

Years later, when I was asked to work on the MDG progress report I knew it won’t be easy. The bottom line is that, according to global indicators, PNG did not achieve any of the MDGs. But as with many things there could not be only one answer. In different circles, sentiments are shared that despite all the challenges, the country had some successful interventions and initiatives.

Photo credit: WFP/Mats Persson

PNG has recorded some unprecedented economic growth with over 2 billion kina going into rural development annually for the last few years. So much targeted interventions were made in health, education and other enabling infrastructure such as roads, communications, etc. but we lack the data to have a fair reflection of the progress of the country within the MDG period. We also have set up all the enabling policies and mechanisms to make it happen. We need to appropriately fund them and rigorously implement and monitor them.

Taking corrective measure from our MDG experience will make us better positioned for the next challenge — the Sustainable Development Goals. We already have enough years of mistakes and more so opportunities to learn from the past 15 years. We’ve been exposed to best practises, lessons-learnt, technology and innovative approaches from other counties.

We just need to get it right and do what we know is best for the country.

Read the full MDG progress Report

Kia-Henry Nema works with UNDP in PNG Governance team. He is passionate about development, Sustainable Development Goals and how we can turn global goals into local reality.