May 22, 2024 Last Updated 6:09 AM, May 21, 2024

Making the Millennium Development Goals real

Published: Feb 08, 2015

Anindita Sitepu and Natasha Ardiani

Following its declaration by the 189 member states of the United Nations in New York in 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have since been integrated into the national development programs of many nations, including Indonesia. It is probably difficult to find another country that embraced the MDGs as much as Indonesia. Under former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s (SBY’s) second administration (2009-2014), the MDGs were incorporated into all phases of the national development plan, from budgeting to implementation. Indonesia was also one of only two countries with a Special Envoy managing the MDGs within the government – Professor Nila Moeloek, now Minister of Health.

Indonesia made significant inroads in relation to the MDGs, many of which are discussed by other contributors of this edition. The proportion of people living on income per capita less than US$1 per day has dropped by about 15 per cent. The goal of achieving universal primary education is on track. The goal on gender equality is expected to be met by 2015. There has been an improvement in tuberculosis detection by more than 50 per cent and a decrease of the disease by the same amount. The financial climate and trade, as well as the national banking system, are improving.

Despite these successes, it has been a rocky road implementing the MDGs in Indonesia. Even with such high-level support for the MDGs within the government, many practical challenges had to be overcome to achieve these goals. The approaches undertaken to manage such challenges would thus serve as useful lessons when implementing the post-MDG development agenda in Indonesia.

Complexities of the MDGs

Over the years of working towards achieving the MDGs in Indonesia, a significant challenge has been coordinating all the relevant stakeholders. The Presidential Instruction for the MDGs of 2010 lists government institutions responsible for achieving the MDGs. They included the National Development Planning Agency, the President’s Delivery Unit, ministries, non-ministerial agencies and local governments. Each goal was intended to be viewed holistically, with intervention planning completed within the relevant sectors. However, more often than not, goals and targets were divided amongst the different sectors, and then developed separately.

Achievement of the health-related goals and targets, for example, has lagged the most. Indonesia has under performed in achieving its targets in the areas of malnutrition, HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality rate. There are some serious gaps in infrastructure. For example, there are solid primary healthcare centre buildings, but no roads to them. Vaccines are readily available, but there is no electricity to power the fridges used to store them. There are good hospital beds, but not clean water to wash the tools. These gaps indicate that communication is inadequate, which can hinder the overall efforts to improve the health-related goals. These challenges need to be the priority of not just the obvious stakeholders in the health sector, but also the Public Works Agency, Home Affairs, the Ministry of Education and the local planning agency. If these stakeholders worked together, they could update each other on their progress, communicating across the sectoral fences within the bureaucracy.

Gaining long-term commitment from stakeholders was also no walk in the park. The high-level targets in the MDGs have not always been front and centre of leaders’ minds when they are faced with the practical realities on the ground. Some areas, Java in particular, have really taken to the MDGs, especially when they had the benefit of having easy access to information, the infrastructure to implement action plans, and the exposure to global development. However, leaders in less-developed areas, such as parts of eastern Indonesia, have had a harder time understanding the relevance of the MDGs, without as much exposure to or means of implementation. One way of giving stakeholders an incentive to take the MDGs more seriously was through the Indonesia MDG Awards. These were awarded at a national event that celebrated best development practices within academia, business, civil society, and local government.

Another challenge was translating an ambitious set of national goals and targets into local action plans. Commitment from the government to mainstream the MDGs in its development plan was defined in the 2005-2025 National Long-term Development Plan and in the 2005-2009 and 2010-2014 National Medium-term Development Plans. However, implementing these locally was not always easy. Indonesia has diverse geographical conditions, cultures and beliefs. Local governments need support to understand the relevance of MDGs, more encouragement to tailor development plans according to the needs of the local area and guidance with the implementation of plans. With around 400 districts, each with their own implementing agencies, awareness and understanding of the MDGs was uneven across the archipelago, which in turn created obstacles to local implementation of the national plans. Disseminating information in the remote Mentawai Islands in North Sumatra, for example, was more challenging than in Bandung, West Java, where information was just a phone call away, and access to technology much easier.

Lessons for the post-MDG era

Looking ahead at the post-2015 development agenda and the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is much that policy-makers in Indonesia and other parts of the world can learn, based on the challenges encountered when implementing the MDGs.

One message for political leaders and decision makers is that complex and multi-layered goals cannot be implemented by just one ministry or by the government alone. The proposed SDG on the environment does not merely address environmental issues and forest management, but also the need to adapt and prevent environmental degradation. This goal will require collective ownership from the Ministry of Agrarian and Spatial Planning and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, as well as partnership with relevant stakeholders from the private sector, non-government organisations (NGOs), civil society organisations (CSOs), academics and international organisations. One of the ways to coordinate these inputs from a wide range of stakeholders and minimise the ‘implementation gap’ is through effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. For example, the Format 8 Kolom (8-column format or F8K) used by the President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4) is an effective tool to monitor action plans.

It is also important for policy-makers to ensure that post-2015 goals and targets are integrated into national and local development planning and translated into targets and indicators that can be monitored. It wasn’t until 2010 that SBY issued an instruction for incorporating the MDGs into Indonesia’s national development plans. It took a long time to translate international goals and targets into national indicators and to collect baseline data. In some cases, like the maternal mortality rate, Indonesia did not have a baseline figure, and it was the introduction of the MDGs that led to this information being collected and monitored. If this information had been on hand, the gap between Indonesia’s baseline position and the MDG target would have been known and resources could have been promptly allocated. The post-2015 agenda certainly cannot afford this sort of time lag.

Finally, there is an urgent need for broad-based partnership. National governments need to engage businesses, civil societies, academia, youth and all segments in society to be able to communicate and implement the post-2015 goals effectively. Communicating the post-2015 goals to everyone from mothers to ministers, and from urban dwellers to indigenous and local communities, will not only bolster implementation but also ensure that the goals themselves make a difference. Marketing the goals is as much a defining factor of success as the content of the goals themselves.

MDG implementation in Indonesia provides many lessons for the post-MDG period. Baseline data was collected and partnerships were nurtured. But the experience in Indonesia also showed that high-level commitment from the government for international development goals did not automatically ensure an easy ride. The new administration’s vision—to support development that is focused on human rights, equitable and environmentally-friendly growth, and to strong law enforcement—aligns very closely with the post-2015 development agenda. Time will tell whether Indonesia’s lessons with the MDGs will lead to better development outcomes.

Anindita Sitepu ( is a Health Psychologist and former Program Manager at the Office of the President’s Special Envoy on MDGs. She is currently Program Director at the Center for Indonesia’s Strategic Development Initiatives (CISDI).

Natasha Ardiani ( is currently Assistant to the Head of Indonesia National REDD+ Management Agency, and previously worked for the President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4).

Inside Indonesia 119: Jan-Mar 2015

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