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How politics stalled the Millennium Development Goals
Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, and ripe for attention through the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. But with its turbulent recent political history, are these goals just wishful thinking?
Gerard Hoareau, a former director of multinational IT firm Hewlett Packard, inherited a property on the island of Sainte-Marie off the coast of Madagascar.
Hoareau has close ties to the Island. His mother was born on this impoverished – yet stunningly beautiful – property in the Indian Ocean (pictured).
His project is to build a hotel and a clinic to serve the local population, using profits from tourism to fund the healthcare initiative.
He has all the permits he needs to start building the “Andzaha Ecolodge” – but now he needs the funds.
“This project is a concrete contribution towards the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he tells FRANCE 24. “I want to see MDGs being something more than a theoretical or emotional gesture by its UN signatories.”
The MDGs were signed by 189 UN member states in 2000. They aim to reduce by half the number of people living below the poverty line ($1.27 a day) by 2015.
Madagascar’s political hurdles
In Madagascar the MDGs are taken very seriously. Meetings take place every month, involving funding organisations such as the World Bank, the EU, the African Development Bank and the UN itself. Also around the table are USAid and its French equivalent the French Development Agency (AFD).
“The MDG meetings don’t only take place in New York,” says Olivier Pezet, head of AFD in Madagascar. “Here in Madagascar it’s the first time everyone is taking a unified line. We have so often been criticised for factionalism…”
But in this country of 20 million inhabitants where the Human Development Index (HDI) is one of the lowest in the world (Madagascar was classed 145 out of 182 countries ranked by the UN in 2009), achieving MDGs are a monumental challenge.
This challenge is compounded by the country’s turbulent recent political history. In 2009 fighting broke out between supporters of President Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina, then mayor of capital city Antananarivo.
Ravalomanana fled to exile after a coup and Rajoelina became head of state. But the political uncertainty led the EU to suspend aid in 2010, while the World Bank’s funding is down by two thirds.
Half of the government’s funding came from international aid. But public investment across the country is now more or less frozen and the MDGs evaporated.
Madagascar's EU office, when contacted by FRANCE 24, replied: “Seriously, you want to talk about MDGs? You must be joking…”
The AFD continues to maintain minimum funding for education and health projects, but Olivier Pezet is pessimistic about the MDGs: “They were on track at the beginning of 2009, but now we just don’t know. One thing is certain – there are delays to the MDGs that we will never make up.”
Glimmers of hope
For some in Madagascar not all hope is lost. Jean-Brunnel Motidi, head of the local authority that includes the picturesque island of Sainte-Marie, believes he can recoup enough from tourism to allow concrete development to take place.
International aid is enough to maintain the roads while donations from UNESCO mean the schools have just about enough essential facilities.
“Yes, the situation in Antananarivo is holding the country back,” he tells FRANCE 24. “But we have some autonomy which means we can push forward with other projects on our own initiative,
“We are looking at twinning projects and at attracting private investment for projects such as the Andzaha Ecolodge, which now has to look beyond public funding - because there is none.”
It is unlikely that by 2015 Madagascar will be a model example of how to achieve MDGs. By 2007 the country could only claim to have tackled three of its eight goals (education, the fight against AIDS and combating malaria).
“We don’t expect much more,” says Pezet.