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Development is our goal
Saturday, 22 August 2009 21:42

The new millennium was a good occasion to reflect on the past, and chart new directions for the future.  And so it was at the United Nations Millennium summit meeting.

The arrival of the new millenium was an occasion for celebration.  Most people live longer than their ancestors.  They are better nourished, enjoy better health, are better educated, and on the whole face more favourable economic prospects.  Some of the development success stories since the 1960s are: the increase in life expectancy in developing countries, from 46 to 64 years; the halving in infant mortality rates; an increase of more than 80 per cent in the proportion of children enrolled in primary school; and the doubling of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. 

The world was also celebrating 10 years out of the grip of the grip of the Cold War.  This new era of globalization was transforming the world, offering great opportunitiues.

The summit concluded that "the central challenge we face today is to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world's people.  For while globalization offers great opportunities, at present its benefits are very unevenly shared, while its costs are unevenly distributed.  We recognise that developing countries and countries with economies in transition face special difficulties in responding to this central challenge.  Thus, only through broad and sustained efforts to create a shared future, based upon our humanity in all its diversity, can globalization be made fully inclusive and equitable.  These efforts must include policies and measures, at the global level, which correspond to the needs of developing countries and economies in transition and are formulated and implemented with their effective participation."
And so it was that world leaders set far-sighted goals to free a major portion of humanity from the shackles of extreme poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease.They also established targets for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women, environmental stability and a global partnership for development.  In short, they adopted a blueprint for a better world, a vision for the world in which developed and developing countries would work in partnership for the betterment of all.

Let's have a look at some of these goals and see how much progress has really been made (we will leave the global partnership for development for another occasion):

Goal 1 -- eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

The first target is to halve between 1990 and 2015 the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day.  Impressive progress has been made, and globally this goal looks like being achieved.  Already those living on less than $1.25 a day had to fallen from 1.8 billion in 1990 to 1.4 billion in 2005, meaning a drop from around half the world's population to about one-quarter.  But this is mainly due to dramatic falls in poverty in Eastern and South Eastern Asia, especially China.  Elsewhere, progress has been much slower.

Another target is to halve between 1990 and 2015 the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.  The proportion of people who are undernourished dropped from about 20 per cent in the early 1990s to about 16 per cent a decade later.  But escalating food prices in recent years have provided a major setback in Sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and Eastern Asia excluding China.   

Goal 2 -- achieve universal primary education.

The target is to ensure that by 2015 children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.  Progress is being made towards universal primary education.  In the developing world as a whole, enrolment coverage in primary education reached 88 per cent in 2007, up from 83 per cent in 2000.  Major breakthroughs have been achieved in sub-Saharan Africa, where enrolment increased by 15 percentage points from 2000 to 2007, and Southern Asia, which gained 11 percentage points over the same period.  But global numbers of out-of-school children are dropping too slowly and too unevenly for the target to be reached by 2015.

Goal 3 -- promote gender equality and empower women.

The target is to eliminate disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015.  The world continues to progress towards gender parity in education.  In developing regions as a whole, 95 girls were enrolled in primary school for every 100 boys in 2007, compared to 91 in 1999.  However, the target of eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005 was missed. 

Achieving this goal by 2015 is problematic.  Big gaps for primary education remain in Oceania, Western Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa.  For Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, there are virtually no gaps.  The gender gap is even more evident in secondary school enrolment, especially for Sub-Saharan Africa, Western Asia, Southern Asia and Oceania.  In Eastern and South Eastern Asia, girls' secondary school enrolment is slightly higher than for boys.

It is a very different picture for higher education.  The ratio of girls' to boys' enrolment globally at the tertiary level rose from 96 in 199 to 108 in 2007 meaning that girls now outnumber boys in higher education.  But the disparities across regions are dramatic.  Girls are leading boys in the former Soviet Union, Latin America, South-Eastern Asia and Northern Africa, while boys lead in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia, Oceania, Western Asia and Eastern Asia.

Goal 4 -- reduce child mortality.

The target is to reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortlity rate.  For the developing regions as a whole, the under-five mortality rate dropped from 103 in 1990 to 74 in 2007.  Still, many countries, particularly in sub-Sharan Africa and Southern Asia, have made little or no progress at all.  The levels are highest in sub-Saharan Africa where in 2007 close to one in seven children died before his or her fifth birthday.

Goal 5 -- improve maternal health.

The target is to reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio.  Very little progress has been made in the developing world as in 2005 there were 450 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with 480 in 1990.  Half of all maternal deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and another third in Southern Asia.  Soth-Eastern Asia is doing better with a fall from 450 to 300 over this period, while Eastern Asia fell from 95 to 50. 

Another target is to achieve by 2015 universal access to reproductive health.  But fewer than half of pregnant women in developing countries have the benefit adequate prenatal care, with Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa being the worset performers.

Goal 6 -- combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

The target is to have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.  New HIV infections and AIDS deaths have peaked, but 33 million people are still living with HIV.  Two-thirds of those living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa, most of whom are women.  And accurate knowledge of HIV is still unacceptably low.

Another target is to achieve by 2010 universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it.  Wider access to treatment is contributing to the first decline in AIDS deaths since the epidemic began.  Another target is to have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.  And yet nearly a million people still die each year from malaria, mostly young children in sub-Saharan Africa.  Sub-Saharan Africa shows a dramatic rise in the use of bed nets to protect children from malaria.  The incidence of tuberculosis is levelling off, but the number of new cases continues to rise.  Tuberculosis prevalence and mortality rates are falling, but not fast enough to meet global targets. 

Goal 7 -- ensure environmental sustainability.

The target is to integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources. 

But on most scores, environmental sustainability is under threat.  A continued rise in greenhouse gas emissions is another reminder of the urgency of the climate change problem.  A positive point is that strong partnershipss and sound national policies are leading to extraordinary progress in protecting the ozone layer.

Another target is to reduce biodiversity loss, achieving by 2010 a significant reduction in the rate of loss.  But far more effort is needed to protect species and ecosystems under threat.  If we could reduce deforestation that could play a key role in lowering greenhouse emissions.  Global warming poses further threats to the health of the world's fisheries.  Growing food needs require more efficient use of water for agriculture.

Another target is to halve by 2015 the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.  From 1990 to 2006, 1.1 billion people gained access to safe sanitation, but an additional 1.4 billion people will require such facilities if the 2015 target is to be met.  Despite the health risks to their families and communities, 1.2 billion people practise open defecation.  The world is well on the way to meeting the drinking water tagret, though some countries still face enormous challenges.  Access to improved drinking water sources is pfredominantly a rural problem.

Another target is to have achieved by 2020 a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.  Fortunately, almost every region is moving forward to improve the lives of the urban poor.

So what is the overall balance sheet?

As the above report indicates, there has been very important progress, and many successes on which to build.  But overall, we have been moving too slowly to meet our goals.  And today, we face a global economic crisis whose full repercussions have yet to be felt, and which will certainly be a major setback.

As the United Nations Secretary-General, BAN Ki-Moon, said in 2008 "We are the first generation to possess the resources, knowledge and skills to eliminate poverty.  Experience shows that where there is strong political resolve, we see progress.  And where there is partnership, there are gains."


The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009.  United Nations.


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