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Media Outlets Examine How Maternal Health, Efforts To Reduce Global Poverty Will Be Central To Next Week’s MDG Summit

Media outlets continued to look ahead to next week’s U.N. Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Summit, with a focus on two of the central themes to be addressed at the meeting – maternal health and poverty.

“Reducing maternal mortality is viewed as critical for meeting” the MDGs, AOL News reports in a piece that examines the progress and challenges to achieving this goal.

“We cannot just accept this intolerable, unacceptable situation where many millions of women die needlessly in the course of their childbirth or pregnancies,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday, according to the news service. “All these complications cause a lot of death, which can easily be prevented.”

The article details the findings of a new U.N. report which found “the number of pregnant women dying has decreased by 34 percent from an estimated 546,000 in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008. However, the annual rate of decline of 2.3 percent is less than half of what is needed to reduce maternal mortality by 75 percent, the U.N.’s goal.” The piece notes Ban’s statements that he would launch a “global strategy for women’s and children’s health” at the upcoming meeting and his selection of former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to head U.N. Women, a new agency committed to promoting global gender equity (Sharma, 9/15).

“Even though there are some countries where women’s rights are in excellent condition, in many parts of the world… women have a very difficult situation,” Bachelet said in an interview with U.N. Radio, during which she addressed the slow progress made in the MDGs relating to women, according to the U.N. News Centre (9/15).

In related news, Reuters reports that while a “new World Bank study shows that one of the major goals – halving global poverty by 2015 – is likely to be met, … There has been far less progress toward meeting the goals of reducing hunger and malnutrition, improving gender equality, access to health care and education, tackling climate change and helping mothers and their newborns, the report said.”

The article examines how the global economic crisis impacted populations living in developing countries and the feasibility of reaching the MDG targets by the 2015. The piece includes statements by Ban and World Bank Managing Director and former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on the importance of sticking to the original MDGs. Hugh Bredenkamp, deputy director of the strategy, policy and review department at the International Monetary Fund, notes the importance of adopting policies that boost growth in rich and poor countries through trade and assist poor nations in using development aid more effectively. Mark Suzman, director of policy and advocacy at the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program, noting “the fiscal constraints that donors and aid recipients are facing … said it will be critical to better coordinate aid interventions in countries” (Wroughton, 9/16).

“The share of the population of developing regions who live in extreme poverty is expected to fall to 15 percent by 2015, down from 46 percent in 1990, according to the U.N. The gains stem largely from robust economic growth in countries such as China and India, the world’s two most populous countries,” the Associated Press reports.

“[T]he overall success in cutting extreme poverty is patchy from region to region. According to the World Bank, much of Asia has already met or is well on its way to meeting the goal, and Latin America is on track to more than halve its rate from 11 percent in 1990 to 5 percent in 2015, but sub-Saharan Africa is likely to fall short at a projected 38 percent. It was 58 percent in 1990” (Cerojano, 9/16).

In related news, Inter Press Service reports on Brazil’s progress towards the MDG target to slash poverty, which it greatly attributes to “the government’s cash transfer programme called ‘Bolsa Familia’.” According to the news service, the country, with its “population of over 195 million, … is also marching towards the achievement of several other MDGs by 2015, including universal primary education, gender equality, reduction in infant mortality, improvement in maternal health, reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS and ensuring environmental sustainability.” The piece includes comments by U.N. Development Program Administrator Helen Clark (Deen, 9/15).

Report Highlights Need For Transparency To Address MDGs

The Manila Bulletin reports on a report (.pdf) released by Transparency International ahead of the MDG Summit which “cited the need for ‘increased transparency, accountability and integrity’ to achieve the MDGs within the next five years… The global anti-corruption watchdog said the intensified corruption initiatives of all 189 U.N. member-state signatories to the 2000 Millennium Development Declaration could be translated into better MDG outcomes on education, health and water.”

“As we take stock, it is clear that anti-corruption and good governance measures need to be fully integrated in all future development efforts,” Transparency International Chairwoman Huguette Labelle said, calling upon all governments, civil societies and donors to do more to stop corruption (Luci, 9/16).

Meanwhile, in a statement marking International Day of Democracy on Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “we have an important opportunity to underline the pivotal role that democracy plays in reducing poverty and promoting human well-being. … Transparency, accountability, and responsive governance are essential if our work for development is to succeed” (9/15).

Obama Nominates U.S. Senators To Represent U.S. At U.N. General Assembly

“President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that he will nominate Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) to represent the United States at this month’s General Assembly of the United Nations,” Roll Call  reports. The U.N. General Assembly meeting is to follow next week’s three-day MDG Summit (Bendery, 9/15).