Stepping Up Efforts to Reach the MDGs: The Spain-UNDP Fund

There has been too little progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). At present, 40 per cent of the world's population is living below the minimum sanitation threshold, two thirds of all illiterate people are women and over 65 per cent of the people affected by HIV/AIDS live in Africa.

The MDGs, contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration, were adopted by 189 countries, including Spain, in September 2000. In so doing, the international community made a commitment not only to the world's poorest women and men but also to itself.

The Goals explicitly recognize the interdependence of growth, poverty reduction and sustainable development -- development supported by democratic governance, the rule of law, respect for human rights, and peace and security. The MDGs are based on measurable targets with time frames and indicators for monitoring the progress achieved. In that regard, Goal 8 -- develop a global partnership for development -- expressly recognizes the shared responsibilities of both developing and developed countries, and includes a proposal that each developed country should allocate 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to increase official development assistance (ODA).

Spain has embraced the MDGs, convinced that a fairer world is possible. It has therefore made an unprecedented effort in the area of development cooperation during the past four years. In its most recent review of Spain's cooperation activities, the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recognized this effort and Spain's commitment to more than doubling the percentage of GDP allocated to ODA, in order to reach the 0.7-per-cent target set by the United Nations by 2012. The review also recognizes that with budget allocations of 0.5 per cent of GDP for 2008, Spain ranks, in absolute terms, eighth among the world's donors and seems well placed to achieve its goals. The Government realizes, however, that some challenges remain and that, in addition to increasing ODA, Spain needs to continue its effort to improve the quality of assistance, consistency of policies and coordination of stakeholders.

Achievement of the MDGs is an ongoing effort that underlies Spain's development cooperation policy, as reflected in the Master Plan for Spanish Cooperation for 2005-2008. In December 2006, in the overall context of the inadequacy of international resources for achieving the Goals, and in accordance with Spain's commitment to a targeted and strategic multilateralism, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Spanish Government signed an ambitious agreement to establish the Spain-UNDP Fund, designed to accelerate efforts to achieve the MDGs in a number of countries and to support United Nations reform efforts at the country level. Spain has donated a total of €528 million (euros) to the joint Fund, to be allocated and disbursed between 2007 and 2010. These resources are derived from developing countries' external debt payments to Spain. Specifically, this initiative has been launched as a result of the December 2006 adoption of the Spanish External Debt Regulatory Act.

The Spain-UNDP Fund has two primary objectives. Firstly, it endeavours to support the UN reform process -- and is doing so by depositing the funds (€528 million) allocated for UNDP into the Programme's account, so that UNDP can collaborate with other UN agencies. Secondly, the Fund aims to accelerate the achievement of the MDGs in selected countries by supporting policies and programmes that endeavour to have a significant, measurable impact on the Goals. It seeks to facilitate innovation in development practices and the adoption of mechanisms that improve the quality of assistance, as envisaged in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.

The agreement establishing the Fund covers all sectoral and geographic priorities that are included in the Master Plan for Spanish Cooperation, which sets out Spain's policy, justification and financial priorities for achieving the MDGs. Nevertheless, it is important to stress that the Fund is managed in a manner consistent with the processes of a multilateral body and that its decision-making should not focus on the priorities or interests of a particular donor. Based on this premise, the Fund operates through the United Nations development system and the financing of collaborative activities that leverage the unique value of the United Nations in the sector and country concerned.
With respect to resource allocation, the Fund operates through three primary tracks. The first, the "Global Account", provides support for global and regional initiatives. It does so by providing additional funds to supplement the Spanish Government's core voluntary contributions to the regular budgets of various agencies and other development bodies that are working towards achievement of the MDGs. It also finances studies and analyses with the potential to improve the system's efficiency or to identify projects or programmes.
The second track, known as the "One UN Account", will provide contributions to the United Nations Coherence Fund in up to eight of the selected pilot countries: Albania, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Pakistan, Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay and Viet Nam. The first distribution under this account was an allocation of $4 million to Viet Nam's coherence fund in early November 2007.
The third and last track, the "Country Account", will provide support to United Nations joint programmes in accordance with two criteria: the eligible countries will be the 57 nations specified in the Master Plan, and the thematic areas for each account must correspond to its sectoral priorities; and 85 per cent of the Fund's resources are expected to be managed through this account. The country account, through its thematic financing windows, is the primary path for submitting applications to the Fund.
To date, five thematic windows have been established: gender equality and women's empowerment; environment and climate change; culture and development; democratic economic governance; and youth, employment and migration. However, the launching of these thematic windows is not sufficient to achieve the established objectives. Therefore, by mid-2008, three more windows will be created: conflict prevention and peacebuilding; private-sector development and public-private partnerships; and children, nutrition and food security. Simultaneously, with the opening of these three newly established windows, consideration is being given to opening a second funding for "democratic economic governance".
With regard to project selection, each country, in coordination with interested United Nations agencies and in line with its national public policy strategy, will decide what proposal to present. A technical committee will meet to conduct a preliminary review of the programmes received, and a steering committee will select the proposals that will ultimately be financed in the current financial year. At the end of the process, each country will be informed of the proposals selected, which will go back to the secretariat in the form of final joint programmes.
The Fund has achieved some preliminary results with respect to United Nations reform. Over 180 joint programme proposals have been generated by 56 country teams, each of which involves, on average, four to six United Nations bodies and, in some cases, the World Bank. The Fund's investments in joint programmes across the globe has also provided a significant incentive for an upgrading of the UN Development Group's standardized joint programming instrument, a new version of which was released in August 2007.
The Spain-UNDP Fund thus provides a unique example of adequate multi-year financing consistent with the Paris Declaration. With the Fund, Spain wished to give a strong impetus to the achievement of the MDGs. There has been progress, but it is not enough. Greater efforts are needed if the Goals are to be fully met and achieved on target. It is time to take a great step forward and to transform words into deeds because, unless we do so, we simply will not have measured up as an international community and will have left millions of people behind.