With three years remaining until 2015, the 2012 progress report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) released today highlights progress in many important areas including poverty reduction, access to safe drinking water and reduced levels of child mortality. “‘There is now an expectation around the world that sooner, rather than later, the Goals can and must be achieved,” stated Sha Zukang, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General.
A decade has now passed since the historic Millennium Declaration was adopted on 8 September 2000. The Millennium Declaration embodied an unprecedented willingness on the part of governments, the private sector and civil society to help lift millions of people out of poverty. The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) helped to define the United Nations in the 21st Century and built the roadmap upon which we have been traveling towards the alleviation of poverty ever since.
The 2012 report is the eighth of a series launched in 2005 and provides both comprehensive statistics and clear analysis in order to assess achievements and remaining challenges. With just three years to go until the 2015 deadline, expectations are building and the world is watching.
Achievements made ahead of 2015 deadline
Progress towards the achievement of the MDGs has been made ahead of the deadline in many important areas. The 2012 progress report outlines gains in poverty reduction and access to safe drinking water, and an improvement in the lives of slums dwellers in urban areas. The report also highlights important gains towards gender parity in primary education, a decline in levels of child mortality, a downward trend of tuberculosis and global malaria deaths and an expansion of treatment for HIV sufferers.
For the first time since records on poverty began, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen in every developing region, including sub-Saharan Africa. Preliminary estimates indicate that the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 per day fell in 2010 to less than half the 1990 rate and during the same period over two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources. The share of slum dwellers in urban areas declined from 39 per cent in 2000 to 33 per cent in 2012, improving the lives of at least 100 million people.
The ratio between the enrolment rate of girls and boys grew in 2010 for all developing regions and many more of the world’s children are enrolled in primary level education than ever before. In terms of child mortality, despite population growth, the number of under-five deaths worldwide fell from more than 12 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010.
The target of halting, and beginning to reverse, the spread of tuberculosis is on track and projections suggest that the 1990 death rate from the disease will be halved by 2015. For malaria, estimated incidence of malaria has decreased globally by 17 per cent since 2000. Finally, progress has been witnessed by those living with HIV. At the end of 2010, 6.5 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV or AIDS in developing regions. This total constitutes an increase of over 1.4 million people from December 2009.
Remaining challenges and areas for renewed focus
A lot has been achieved and significant strides have been made, however some impediments to reaching all the MDGs by 2015 remain. The 2012 report spells out what we intuitively knew, that recent natural disasters and the global financial crisis has slowed progress and that inequality remains. A particular area of concern includes the slow decrease in levels of vulnerable employment, defined as the share of unpaid family workers and own-account workers in total employment.
Women and youth are more likely to find themselves in this type of insecure and poorly remunerated positions than the rest of the employed population and this category of work accounted for an estimated 58 per cent of all employment in developing regions in 2011. Another area of lacklustre improvement is maternal health. Although improvements in maternal health and a reduction in maternal deaths and adolescent childbearing can be seen, decreases are far from the 2015 target.
The urban/rural divide has been a consideration regarding levels of progress towards the MDGs with urban areas often faring better. For instance, use of improved sources of water remains lower in rural areas and despite a reduction in the share of urban populations living in slums, the absolute number has continued to grow from a 1990 baseline of 650 million. An estimated 863 million people now live in slum conditions.
Lastly, and perhaps most concerning is the fact that hunger remains a global challenge. The most recent FAO estimate of undernourishment set the mark at 850 million living in hunger in the world in the 2006/08 period, 15.5 per cent of the world population. Additionally, progress has also been slow in reducing child under-nutrition, with close to a third of children in Southern Asia deemed underweight in 2010.
The 2012 report presents an assessment of where actions and interventions have delivered successful outcomes to Millennium Development Goals and highlights the areas where progress needs to be accelerated if the targets are to be met by the 2015 deadline.
Development after 2015
The Millennium Development Goals have guided governments, private industry and civil society for over a decade, they have given purpose and a benchmark with which to assess progress. It is clear the way forward is to again summon the collective will witnessed in the 2000 Millennium Declaration and continue to boldly pave the way beyond 2015.
Emerging challenges will need to be tackled such as ensuring food security, gender equality, maternal health, rural development, infrastructure and environmental sustainability, and a global response to climate change.
As the deadline nears, it’s not just about expecting governments to push for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals or hold leaders to this high standard, it’s about understanding, and remaining committed, to the fundamental value of global goals and a shared purpose for the betterment of all.
The financial needs of developing countries have long outstripped the willingness and ability of donors to provide aid. In 2011, aid flows declined in real terms for the first time in many years. With a focus on new and innovative ways to finance development and address this challenge, the “World Economic and Social Survey 2012”, will be launched on 5 July at 11 am EST.
This year’s edition of the World Economic and Social Survey (WESS), titled “In Search of New Development Finance”, analyses current and proposed mechanisms for innovative development finance and highlights mechanisms that can 1) increase the scale of development financing available and 2) provide stable and predictable financing to enhance sustainable development.
Such innovative sources should be complements to, not substitutes for, traditional forms of development aid. The report finds that new sources of financing are technically feasible and could raise significant resources for development. To realize the potential of these new development financing mechanisms, however, greater political will and an international agreement are needed. The report also stresses that how the money is allocated is as important as how it is raised.
Innovations in financing for health
The report searches for new sources as a complement to aid and also notes that a number of innovative initiatives have been launched during the past decade, most of which have been used to fund global health programmes aimed at providing immunizations and AIDS and tuberculosis treatments to millions of people in the developing world.
It finds that while these initiatives have successfully used new methods to channel development financing to combat diseases, they have hardly yielded any additional funding on top of traditional development assistance. The report also warns that in some cases these global funds have bypassed broader national health priorities in developing countries and contributed to the fragmentation of international support to health systems in low-income countries.
In the area of health, the report concludes that instead of an array of disease-specific funds, it would be better to focus on finding new resources for more general budget support for health systems in developing countries in need and to consolidate the existing disease-specific disbursement mechanisms into a single “global fund for health”.
Climate change generates new mechanisms
According to the report, the potential for innovative development finance is particularly high in the area of fighting climate change. Innovative development finance mechanisms have raised about $1 billion for climate change, and has the potential to increase substantially in the coming years. For example, the European Union will be shifting to auctioning emissions allocations, potentially generating some $20-35 billion in annual revenues. However, with the exception of Germany, European Union members have so far been unwilling to commit to allocating a specified proportion of these revenues to international programmes, in part due to domestic financial pressures. $3-5 billion per year could be raised if other countries were to match Germany’s commitment. Other mechanisms with the potential to raise more substantial resources are discussed below.
Increasing finance for climate change-related issues in recent years has given rise to a proliferation of separate climate funds, with limited coordination among them. The WESS stresses that it is important to avoid further fragmentation as traditional and innovative financing increase.
As in the case of health, a more effective approach would be to consolidate disbursement mechanisms. The report concludes that the international agreement to establish the Green Climate Fund could serve as the starting point for such a consolidation.
New funding options identified
The report also highlights a number of technically feasible and economically sensible options to obtain considerable new funding, all which will be revealed at the launch of the report on 5 July at 11 am EST.
Without disclosing any of the details, Rob Vos, Director of UN DESA’s Division for Development Policy and Analysis and the lead author of the report, says, “Realizing the potential of these mechanisms will require international agreement and corresponding political will, both to tap sources as well as to ensure allocation of revenues for development.”
The WESS sums up that the design of appropriate governance and allocation mechanisms is crucial for innovative financing to ultimately meet development needs and contribute to financing the post-2015 development agenda. It also concludes that realizing this potential requires strong political will to follow through on available proposals as well as transparency in the allocation and management of those resources.
The WESS 2012 will be featured in a panel discussion arranged as one of the side events of the Development Cooperation Forum on 5 July.
“Rio+20 has been a great success,” said Rio+20’s Secretary-General, Sha Zukang, as the UN Conference on Sustainable Development concluded on 22 June in Rio de Janeiro with $513 billion pledged in funding to achieve a sustainable future. In his closing remarks, Mr. Sha listed major outcomes of the conference which gathered some 40,000 participants including more than 100 Heads of State.
“I have not the slightest doubt that the outcome document you have adopted will provide an enduring legacy for this historic Rio+20 Conference: The Future We Want,” said Mr. Sha, referring to one of the key elements of the Conference – the outcome document entitled “The Future We Want” – which Member States agreed upon ahead of the high-level meeting.
In addition, nearly 700 concrete commitments have been registered at the Conference from governments, business, industry, financial institutions and civil society groups, amongst others.
“Sustainable development is the only option for humanity, for our shared planet, and for our common future. Let the spirit, partnership, and commitment of Rio be with us all as we continue our shared journey to a sustainable future,” concluded Mr. Sha.