Advisory letter 09: Observations on the Sachs report

February 23, 2006 - nr.9
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Advice request
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Government reactions

Mr F. Korthals Altes

Chairman of the Advisory Council on International Affairs

Postbus 20061

2500 EB Den Haag


The Hague

6 June 2005


Dear Mr Korthals Altes,


The Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Defence, the Minister for European Affairs and I thank you for your advisory letter “Response to the Sachs report: how do we attain the Millennium Development Goals?”, which was prompted by the report "Investing in development – A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals", written by the UN Millennium Project Team led by Professor Jeffrey Sachs.


I note that the AIV’s response to the Sachs report is generally consistent with the government response submitted to the House of Representatives on 25 February and with the government response of 26 April to the report “In larger freedom”, written by the UN Secretary-General. Like the AIV, the government praises the Sachs report’s emphasis on action, but has reservations about sharply increasing ODA for fast results if too little attention is focused on a country’s absorption capacity, the quality of its governance, the quality of the aid, and the sustainability of the interventions.


The government considers the AIV’s seven recommendations to be a confirmation of its policy. In clarification, I would add the following.


Recommendations 1, 2, and 3

The government agrees that development in general – and the Millennium Development Goals in particular – are inextricably linked to human rights, and it is pleased that the UN Secretary-General’s report subscribes to the same view. In connection with this point, the government wishes to draw special attention to sexual and reproductive rights, for which it is aiming for an additional MDG. The government also supports the emphasis, called for in the ILO framework, on “decent work” as a means of achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The Netherlands has often stressed the importance of the link between national Millennium Development Goal reports and human rights reports.


Government policy aims to achieve the MDGs in individual countries by means of national poverty strategies. The global Millennium Development Goals must be translated into national priorities, and national monitoring systems must be linked to the MDGs. The government advocates better Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, to be drawn up with the active participation of all the relevant actors at national and local level, including civil society and private sector. These papers can serve as a framework for good governance, democracy, human rights, the fight against corruption, capacity building, better local government, a stronger financial sector, and a better business climate.


Recommendation 4

As to financing, both the government and the AIV believe that the ODA target should remain at 0.7%. As is well known, the EU member states have now negotiated ambitious interim targets for the volume of aid they should be providing by 2010: 0.51% for the 15 established member states and 0.17% for the 10 new ones, with an EU average of 0.56%.


The average is higher than the target for individual member states because some member states already provide more than 0.51%.


Further work is necessary to establish how these new targets are to be achieved. Regarding the sustainability and predictability of development financing, the government would prefer a systematic increase in national ODA contributions from current budgets. The Netherlands takes the view that proposals for innovative financing sources (such as the proposed International Finance Facility, excise duties on jet fuel, and tax on airline tickets) must be additional. As to Dutch efforts to help achieve the MDGs, the government will publish separate reports on progress towards MDG8 (the first report appeared in May 2004) and on development aid in partner countries aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals.


Recommendation 5

The Netherlands provides ODA for achieving the Millennium Development Goals only in partner countries that meet minimum conditions of good governance. In addition, it has established the Stability Fund to finance activities aimed at conflict prevention and management in a number of priority regions, since security is a prerequisite for development.


Recommendation 6

Government policy focuses special attention on Africa, stressing stability and governance. Problems in Africa require an integrated approach, deploying development cooperation resources as well as political, economic, diplomatic, and security instruments.


The Netherlands is not arguing for a fixed ODA percentage for Africa, but supports the EU’s efforts to reserve a substantial part of the additional ODA for Africa. The Netherlands regards HIV/AIDS as a threat to all of society. The struggle against it involves a broad agenda focusing on good governance, human rights, gender equality, health, education, capacity building, absorbing the social impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic (including care for AIDS orphans), food security, and safety and security.


Recommendation 7

The resolution of the UN General Assembly on the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review of Operational Activities for Development of the UN System contains useful guidelines for harmonisation and more effective cooperation at country level. This is an urgent priority for the government, which wants to see the whole international community commit itself to carrying out the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness – Ownership, Harmonisation, Alignment, Results and Mutual Accountability. If organisations perform well, it will be advisable to shift to more predictable financing. The government has recently announced multiyear financing for the UNDP, UNICEF, and UNFPA.


But more radical reforms are also necessary to ensure that the UN system remains relevant and able to act more effectively. The Netherlands supports the UN Secretary-General’s proposal to regroup all the UN institutions into “tightly managed entities” that will concern themselves with development, environment, and humanitarian action. The new discussions on the possible creation of a world environmental organisation are an interesting test case.



Yours sincerely,




Agnes van Ardenne-van der Hoeven


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