Indicators Support MCC Goals for Low-Income Country Development

The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN recently released the 2016 update of the Natural Resource Protection and Child Health Indicators, a data collection that supports the goals of the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation by providing data used in developing selection criteria for low-income countries’ eligibility for development funding.

For the past 10 years, CIESIN—the Center for International Earth Science Information Network—has updated the Natural Resource Protection Indicator and Child Health Indicator annually for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a grant-making arm of the U.S. government. According to the Millennium Challenge Act of 2003, independently developed indicators should be used to identify eligibility for funding. To be eligible, countries must meet or exceed the selection criteria on a majority of indicators, and show clear opportunities for reducing poverty and generating economic growth. The 20 indicators fall into three categories: ruling justly, investing in people, and encouraging economic freedom.

graphic showing Ghana’s scores for indicators in the category, “Investing in People.”

Ghana’s scores for indicators in the category, “Investing in People.”

















Both the natural resource and child health indicators are based on proximity-to-target scores ranging from 0 to 100 (at target); each country is measured in terms of how close it gets to the target. The target for the Natural Resource Protection Indicator is set at 17 percent protection of terrestrial land area, established by the Aichi Target of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The indicator is the weighted average of the protection scores for all the different biomes within a country, with the weight determined by biome area. A score of 100 means at least 17 percent of all biomes are protected.

The Child Health Indicator is set at 100 percent coverage for access to water and sanitation and child mortality levels that are equivalent to the highest performing country. The 2016 release of the indicators includes a consistent time series of Natural Resource Protection Indicator scores for 2012 to 2016 and Child Health Indicator scores for 2010 to 2016.

One of the benefits of the Millennium Challenge Corporation approach has been to increase the incentives for countries to perform well across a wide range of indicators. In CIESIN’s work, we have had contact with a number of countries about how to perform better on the natural resource protection indicator. Countries have requested maps showing under-protected ecosystems, and have used this information to propose new protected areas.

In addition, through the NASA-funded Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center, CIESIN provides access to the data (for use in a range of studies), and also provides a list of resources for countries that will help them design interventions for biodiversity protection, water and sanitation, and child health.

On the other hand, it is also possible for countries to game the system. In 2013, Morocco’s score on the Natural Resource Protection Indicator climbed from 87 to 100, partly as a result of including big swaths of the country as protected areas. It is unclear how many of these protected areas are “paper parks”—in name only.

Developed by Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, and Malanding Jaiteh, geographic information specialist.





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