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Using indicators for public policy management

Reducing maternal mortality by three-fourths between 1990 and 2015 is one of the goals proposed by the United Nations Millennium Declaration, referring to one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Individual countries must analyze their current situation so that each goal can be adapted to each particular situation, explained Diana Alarcón, a development specialist with the Inter-American Institute for Social Development (INDES) at the IDB.

Alarcón highlighted the relevant use of development indicators in public policy management in a workshop on the subject recently hosted by the INDES at Bank headquarters. The workshop was directed at public servants and Latin American non-government organization (NGO) leaders, tasked with the responsibility of designing, implementing, supervising, and evaluating social policies and programs in Latin America.

Development indicators show how far we are from the goals outlined by the MDGs and highlight progress already achieved, so that the magnitude of the problem can be assessed and achievements could be evaluated. Those responsible for public policy design and implementation find themselves hard-pressed to clearly and transparently show progress, seeking to demonstrate the relationship between public fund placement and development results.

The MDG indicators, Alarcón suggests, are used to highlight those development priorities based on empirical data, helping to inform the public and policy makers based on progress made in specific areas.

“A better understanding of social statistics widens its use and strengthens an approach on management for results, while it contributes to improve the impact of public policies and programs in the development process,” said Alarcón.

Before making a decision in what and how to invest, “we need a comprehensive quantitative assessment to identify the necessary actions or resources needed to meet each of the goals” Alarcón suggested.

More complex methods or methodologies are needed to set goals, mainly to understand the synergy between various actions, according to Alarcón. Development indicators are useful in assessing a current condition, and based on that, formulating policies with MDGs in mind.

In national policy-making, MDGs and their indicators must be adapted to the current condition of each country. Although worldwide indicators are useful, they cannot be used directly in national policy-making. Only national indicators are useful for the design, implementation, and evaluation of national policies.

Alarcón coordinated the “Social Indicators form the MDG and Development Effectiveness Workshop,” held at IDB headquarters from April 25 to 30. The training included the appropriate use of social statistics for public policy management, using the indicators that are a part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for the consensus that exists about them. Ten Latin American countries were represented by 30 participants in this workshop. The materials used for this workshop and its design were prepared jointly with the United Nations System under the coordination of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

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