UN and Russia: Solving Development Problems

On 25 October 2006 in Moscow, the UN Office in the RF with the support of the Institute for Complex Strategic Studies (ICSS) held a round table ''United Nations and Russia: Development Priorities'', dedicated to the UN Day and the end of the annual international poverty week.
The round table was aimed at discussing the emerging role of Russia, which is becoming an international donor and provider of technical assistance to the poorest countries regionally and globally, while continuing to implement an ambitious national poverty reduction programme, focused around the four National Priority Projects, with improved life expectancy and quality of life as two overarching priorities. In this context, UN through the lens of the Millennium Development Goals concept adapted for Russia (or MDG+) seeks to facilitate effective knowledge sharing on both the international and national poverty reduction agenda of Russia and socio-economic reforms in the country.

The agenda of the round table included an expert discussion of the two key topics: 1. World poverty and hunger: Russia''s role as an emerging donor and regional leader in poverty reduction. 2. Poverty in Russia: paradoxes of sustainable economic growth. National Priority Projects and MDG+.
The participants of the round table included Ms. Marta Ruedas, UNDP Regional Director for Europe and CIS a.i., Mr. Oleg Vikhansky, General Director of the Institute for Complex Strategic Studies, representatives of federal ministries and agencies, embassies, heads of UN agencies in the Russian Federation and independent experts.
Speaking at the round table on behalf of United Nations Development Programme, Ms. Marta Ruedas noted, that "Russia is increasingly making a contribution to solving the most acute global problems in areas as diverse as environmental sustainability, avian flu prevention, and food aid... This is particularly visible at the regional level, within the CIS context, where Russia plays the role of a regional leader, often setting the standard for achieving the Millennium Development Goals".
Within the discussion of the second theme a new publication prepared by ICSS for the UN in the RF entitled ''The Millennium Development Goals and Russia''s National Projects: Strategic Choices'' was presented. The publication looks at the possibilities of implementing the Millennium Development Goals concept, adopted for Russia (MDG+), for improvement of the quality of implementation and further development of the national projects.
General orientation of MDG+ and national projects at poverty reduction and better access to education and healthcare resources allows for implementing approaches of the MDG+ concept and a system of progress indicators to improve monitoring of the national projects.
MDG+ approaches provide a possibility for strengthening the orientation of the national projects at poverty reduction. In particular, to make the measures, which are being taken, more targeted, an MDG+ approach can be used, based on identifying target groups on the basis of overlapping income, socio-demographics and geography poverty profiles.

Long-term development priorities formulated in MDG+ form a basis for intensifying the strategic component and setting additional tasks to provide better access to education and healthcare. The tasks in these areas could include development of pre-school education and modernization of the system of primary and specialized secondary vocational education and development of preventive care and promotion of healthy lifestyle.
The MDG+ system of indicators can help improve monitoring of the national projects through introduction of additional indicators that reflect the quality and availability of education and healthcare services, in particular for specific population groups. In this case, in the course of the national projects monitoring it will be possible to evaluate both budget spending and final results reflected in changes in the social sphere.

MDG+ potential can be also used in the course of implementation of the country''s demographic policy. Within a set of measures to stimulate the birth rate, the MDG+ concept allows for the introduction of additional instruments that would ensure gender equality in the labour market and development of pre-school education by providing equal opportunities to children from various social groups.
More active involvement of civil society institutions in development, implementation and monitoring of the national projects can help increase their effectiveness. In this connection, measures aimed at providing support to NGOs in various forms are of high relevance.
An interesting comparative analysis of the MDGs implementation in the countries of Eastern Europe and the CIS was presented at the launch of the UNDP report ''National Millennium Development Goals: a Platform for Action''.
The report presents a diverse picture of development trends in the region. Positive examples include the Czech Republic and Slovenia that managed to eradicate extreme poverty. In these and other Central European countries the problems of economic inequality and integration of such vulnerable groups as the Roma are yet to be solved.

Other countries of the region face more serious challenges. Per capita GDP in Tajikistan is lower than per-capita GDPs of Rwanda, Uganda and Cote d''Ivoire. Uzbekistan''s per capita GDP is lower than that in Sudan and Cameroon. About half of the population of Moldova and Georgia live below the poverty line. Obviously, these countries require urgent attention and assistance of the international community.
The experience of these countries demonstrates that prospects of achievement of the MDGs are closely connected with the quality of governance. The countries that succeeded in carrying out economic, political and social reforms managed to make better progress in poverty reduction, attainment of gender equality, improvement of the population''s health and education, and successful combination of economic growth and environmental sustainability.