Jul 14 2011

Citizen Monitoring of the MDGs

Published by at 10:32 am under Global Health

As the turn of 21st Century, member states of the United Nations made a political commitment to eradicate poverty by promising to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.  The proposal I am preparing assesses citizen monitoring of the MDGs and the implications it has on the Campaign to End Poverty 2015.

Amartya Sen, an Indian Economist, studied the underlying mechanisms for poverty and found that no major famine has occurred in a democracy allowing free expression.[1] One of the main initiatives that the UNMC office currently advocates for is citizen monitoring of the MDGs.  Citizen monitoring is a process of the MDGs that allows citizens to hold governments to account for the delivery of basic services and the delivery of more and better aid.

The citizen monitoring model works by four key actors: citizens, technology providers, government agencies, and media and advocacy groups.  First, ordinary citizens (supported by civil society organizations) directly provide real time feedback about basic services like education, health, water and sanitation, and food security.  Second, the feedback is channeled through a technological platform (mobile phones/computers) which is supported by technology providers.  Third, the feedback is reported to the responsible government agencies and officials to effectuate changes in regulations.  Fourth, media and advocacy groups disseminate any negative factual finding of government action if needed.

As I am learning more about the Citizen Monitoring initiative I realize that it is a different way of empowering and engaging citizens.  This bottom-up approach focuses specifically on empowering citizens to exercise their right of speech and expression by demanding for services (ie. absent teachers, medicines, doctors, etc).  In addition, this model develops a stronger relationship between citizens and those who hold power in government to make decisions.  It empowers the poorest individuals to act for themselves and their community and turn information into positive change.  Currently, the program is being piloted in India, Philippines and countries in Africa during the year of 2011.  I am hoping the results in these countries are optimal so that the UNMC office will be able to expand to other underdeveloped countries in the future.

The work I am doing at the UNMC office is incredibly rewarding because I am able to utilize the skills I have acquired in law school in a way that is not legally related. I embrace the challenges presented because the caliber of work at the United Nations forces me to work to my potential.  Law school has taught me to remain relentless, but working at the United Nations has taught me the meaning of pursuing social justice to ensure positive change in the world.

Au Revoir,

Halak Mehta

“Give me a firm place to stand and I will move the Earth.” – Archimedes

[1] www.un-kampagne.de/…/final_human_rights_and_mdgs_brochure.pdf

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