Good practices for development: El Salvador’s contributions | Stefano Pettinato

27 Oct 2015

 Kids in Cojutepeque, El Salvador. In El Salvador, four MDG goals have been fulfilled (targets related to extreme poverty, education, gender equality, malaria and other major diseases, and access to water and sanitation). Photo: César Avilés / UNDP El Salvador

When El Salvador is at the center of international debates, it’s often focusing on the problems the country faces. People look at the glass half empty. But those of us who have the privilege of working and living in this country are aware of many valuable experiences that give El Salvador an edge in the process of adopting the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

According to the Third Report on the Progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), El Salvador has made important progress in achieving several MDGs.  Of twelve goals that El Salvador have been monitoring since its first National MDG Report, four have been fulfilled (targets related to extreme poverty, education, gender equality, malaria and other major diseases, and access to water and sanitation) and four are almost achieved (child mortality, universal access to reproductive health, maternal mortality and universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS).

If efforts are sustained, it might be possible to also achieve three targets that are lagged-behind (hunger, primary schooling, halt and reverse spread of HIV/AIDS).

In order to speed up the process towards achieving of the MDGs, a number of fundamental actions were carried out. These included using costing tools, recognizing bottlenecks, considering appropriate policies and programs, and pursuing the human talent and financial resources needed to accomplish targets.

In El Salvador, public entities such as the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health made significant efforts to develop their own action plan to pursue MDG priorities, with support from UN partners (Look at the MDG Acceleration Framework).

A powerful example was the work developed to achieve universal primary education. Through a country-specific MDG costing tool it was possible to not only identify 400 lowest-performing schools in the country, but also the financial and human resources to attain both the MDG target and national education goals.

In order to localize the new development agenda, the UN facilitated unprecedented national consultations with different sectors of the population, including vulnerable groups. As a result, over 4,500 people took part in these conversations ultimately aimed at identifying top priorities for the future national development agenda. In this context, people stressed the importance of decent work and social protection, housing and access to water and sanitation. Consultations also were held with Ministers, who agreed on the importance of developing the agenda based on the key national problems.

Based on a recommendation by the 2010 UNDP National Human Development Report (HDR), we built a multidimensional measurement of poverty based on speaking directly with people who live in poverty about the true meaning of this condition. The new methodology will transcend income-related indicators by taking into account other important aspects for people well-being.

This experience provided evidence that a multidimensional measurement of poverty and well-being is the natural complement of a new sustainable development agenda focusing on people.

Following this example, more than 15 countries in the region are currently conducting similar consultations, trying to understand how people conceptualize “progress”. The findings of this study will be important inputs for the upcoming HDR for Latin America and the Caribbean “Multidimensional Progress: transcending the income”.

All these initiatives have generated more and better statistical information in El Salvador, improving methodologies that will help to address new challenges reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals.

No doubt - it is not only possible but necessary to look at the glass half full.

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