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MDG Targets Still Attainable Despite Setbacks From Global Economic Situation, U.N. Report Says

Efforts to curb poverty worldwide have been slowed by the global economic situation, but the developing world is still on track to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the number of people living on less than $1 per day by 2015 – according to an annual U.N. report (.pdf) on the MDGs, which this year shows a “mixed picture” on reaching all eight targets – the Associated Press reports (Lederer, 6/23).

“Ten years after world leaders agreed on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, the U.N. report claimed ‘huge progress’ on a number of goals, but also ‘no progress at all’ in several others,” Deutsche Welle reports (Hessler, 6/23).

Poverty rates are expected to be “slightly higher than they would have been had the world economy grown steadily” as it was doing before the global economic downturn, the report said. “The overall poverty rate is still expected to fall to 15 percent by 2015, due mainly to sharp declines in China and elsewhere in Asia, which means that around 920 million people would be living below the international poverty line,” the AP writes (6/23).

At a press conference to launch the report, “U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said progress on the goals has been uneven, with a spike in hunger and malnutrition in South Asia and ‘stubborn gaps’ persisting between rich and poor, rural and urban, men and women,” Reuters writes. The report highlighted setbacks in efforts to address hunger. “Progress against hunger has been impacted more severely (than other goals) by economic troubles … The number of malnourished, already growing since the beginning of the decade, may have grown at a faster pace after 2008,” it said (Charbonneau, 6/23).

“The U.N. report cites big gains in getting children into primary schools in many poor countries, especially in Africa; strong interventions in addressing AIDS, malaria and child health; and a good chance to reach the target for access to clean drinking water,” a U.N. press release (.pdf) states. But other findings are not as positive. According to the report, “only half of the developing world’s population has access to improved sanitation, such as toilets or latrines; girls in the poorest quintile of households are 3.5 times more likely to be out of school than those from the richest households, and four times more likely than boys from this background; and less than half of the women in some developing regions benefit from maternal care by skilled health personnel when giving birth,” according to the press release (6/23).

The report also highlighted the drop in child deaths from 12.6 million in 1990 to an estimated 8.8 million in 2008, according to the U.N. News Centre. Even though child mortality was reduced “in some of the world’s poorest countries,” the report said, “the fact that most child deaths are preventable or treatable, [suggests that] many countries still have unacceptably high levels of child mortality and have made little or no progress in recent years.” Similarly, “many countries” have been able to reduce maternal mortality rates, but “the rate of reduction in maternal deaths is still well short of the 5.5 percent annual reduction needed to meet the target under Goal 5 – slashing maternal mortality rates by three quarters between 1990 and 2015,” the U.N. News Centre writes.  

Ban said, “For too long, maternal and child health has been at the back of the MDG train …  But we know it can be the engine of development” (6/23). The report said that HIV/AIDS cases seem “to have been stabilised in most regions, but ‘sub-Saharan Africa remains the most affected region, with 72 percent of new infections,'” PANA/Afrique en ligne writes (6/24).  

“The report will be used as a tool in preparation for a high-level summit on the MDGs this September at U.N. headquarters in New York,” Inter Press Service reports. “It noted that development aid continues to rise, but cautioned that the flow of funding has been uneven and only five donor countries – Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden” met or exceeded the U.N. aid target of 0.7 percent of gross national income in 2009, IPS writes (Paez, 6/23). Donors must follow through on aid promises in order to achieve MDG targets, the report said, according to Reuters. “Unmet commitments, inadequate resources, lack of focus and accountability, and insufficient dedication to sustainable development have created shortfalls in many areas,” the report states (6/23).

U.N. Secretary-General Announces Advocacy Group To Lead Efforts To Achieve MDGs

Also Wednesday, Ban “announced the formation of advocacy group in support of the [MDGs] co-chaired by Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to help speed achievement of the goals,” the AP reports. “Nobel Peace laureates Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh and Wangari Maathai of Kenya, former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, Nelson Mandela’s wife Graca Machel, and American entrepreneurs Bill Gates and Ted Turner,” are also included in the group, according to the AP (6/23).

According to Ban, “distinguished” personalities from China, India, Japan and Britain will also join the group, Agence France-Presse reports. “We need to emerge from the September Millennium Development Goals Summit with concrete national action plans for realizing the goals,” Ban said. “These advocates can help get us there. They will help generate political will and mobilize a global grassroots movement to meet the MDGs” (6/23).