Targeting efforts to meet expectations (Photo: FAO)

Targeting efforts to meet MDG expectations

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.

For more information:
Millennium Development Goals Indicators