The UN’s Annual Monitoring Report, analysing the progress made towards the Millennium Development Goals, was released recently. With only three years to go before the deadline is reached, now is an important time to reflect on the progress made – or lack thereof.
There was good news as the number of people in extreme poverty fell in all regions. In 1990, 47 per cent of the world was living on less than $1.25 a day, but by 2008 this had fallen to 24 per cent. Other targets on drinking water access and slum-dwellers were also met and exceeded respectively. With regards to health, there was positive news as levels of access to HIV treatment widened, rates of tuberculosis fell since 2002 and global malaria incidents, as well as deaths, decreased.
It also reports on other achievements in furthering primary school education and tackling child mortality rates. There is now greater equality between the number of girls and boys in primary education. Enrollment in primary school has generally increased, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa; between 1999 and 2010, enrollment rose from 58 to 76 per cent. In addition, more children are living past the age of five, with the number of under-five deaths dropping from more than 12.0 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010, worldwide.
Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, reflected positively on the results in the report: “These results represent a tremendous reduction in human suffering and are a clear validation of the approach embodied in the MDGs. But they are not a reason to relax.”
This is because despite these gains, progress was uneven and positive results were not shared equally across and within regions and countries. For instance, few or slow gains are being made in some areas such as secure employment, gender equality, maternal healthcare, child malnutrition, sanitation and hunger. Indeed, nearly half of the population in developing regions – 2.5 billion people – still lack access to improved sanitation facilities. At this rate, 2015 targets in this area will not be met. Meanwhile, estimates reveal that around 850 million people are living in hunger in the world. Alarmingly, close to one third of children in Southern Asia were underweight in 2010.
Ban Ki-Moon is right to be cautious, especially in current economic climates: “The current economic crises besetting much of the developed world must not be allowed to decelerate or reverse the progress that has been made. Let us build on the successes we have achieved so far, and let us not relent until all the MDGs have been attained.”
It was over a decade ago that world leaders agreed to the Millennium Development Goals and it is clear that much has been achieved. Nevertheless, as the 2015 deadline draws closer, it is also clear that there is still much more to be done. Not to mention looking forward and planning what will happen beyond 2015.