MDGs matter only minimally for development in Côte d’Ivoire

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      This article was published on 6 December and is available on the European Report on Development blog ++ SERIES: BUILDING THE POST-2015 DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK++ Preparation of the European Report on Development 2013 is now well underway. It will focus on “Elements for a Post-2015 Agenda” and aims at feeding into the debate about what development framework should replace the Millennium Development Goals after their expiry date in 2015. As part of the background research work for this report, the ERD team is conducting four country case studies (in Nepal, Peru, Rwanda and Côte d’Ivoire) to ensure that the report reflects different developing country experiences and perspectives with regard to the Millennium Development Goals and what should follow. ECDPM has been engaged on the country case study of Côte d’Ivoire along with our local research partner CIRES, the Centre Ivoirien de Recherches Economiques et Sociales. Our research, also discussed at a workshop in Abidjan in July, looks not only at Ivory Coast’s performance on achieving the MDGs but also attempts to measure what impact – if any at all -– the goals framework had on national policy making. Oxfam’s Duncan Green and his colleagues have pointed to the fact that “when it comes to assessing the concrete impact of the MDGs, the key issue is evidence of their impact at national level. What influence did they have on decisions made by national governments? Have they strengthened or weakened the social contract between citizens and the state?”. While they point to the “startling lack of research into these questions”, this was part of the objective of the ERD country case studies. We need an understanding of the past when proposing ideas to shape the future framework. While the lack of rigorous research relates to the difficulty of attributing any kind of outcome to the existence of the MDGs rather than other factors, it may also be that such an analysis might unveil unwelcome lessons for those keen to carry on as usual. The Côte d’Ivoire case study and the discussion we had in Abidjan raised 4 main points for me about the MDGs and their role in the country’s development path.
      1. Despite major socio-political disruptions starting with the first military coup in 1999, counter-coupattempts and a division of the country from 2002 to 2007, and culminating in the post-electoral conflict in 2011, there have been a number of elements of continuity.These center on the strong economic and political ties to the cocoa and coffee sectors, with cocoa revenues acting as a source of Côte d’Ivoire’s post-independence economic boom, a cash cow for political patronage, a driver of inwards migration, planting the seeds for current instability when cocoa prices declined in the late 1970s, and ultimately unseating Gbagbo’s when cocoa exports were banned in 2011. At a technocratic level there has also been continuity with technical staff in ministries maintaining their posts through different governments,  and using the MDGs as a continuing kind of guiding framework for policy design. Strategies from predecessor governments have to a large extent been carried over to their replacements, at least in the interim. While this perhaps raises questions about the degree of ideological dispute over development policy, the MDGs undeniably had some kind of policy role. .
      2. But even with this continuity, given the political upheaval the MDGs did not get very far beyond their appearance on paper in strategies and policies. Our country case study looks at budget implementation and – unsurprisingly – finds that having the MDGs written into the policies and strategies did not translate into implementation. As such, the poverty headcount increased from an estimated 10 percent in 1985, to 33 percent in 1998 and almost 50 percent in 2008. MDG achievement by 2015 is largely off-track. According to a 2010 Country Update report only the objective on maternal health is realistically achievable by 2015, but only thanks to targeted donor support for this priority area. So in practice the MDGs framework appears to have very little impact on development policy as implemented.
      ...continue reading the full article on the European Report on Development blog. - Bruce Byiers is Policy Officer Trade & Economic Governance at ECDPM. This blog post features the author’s personal views and does not represent the view of ECDPM.
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