Global perspective Human stories

Progress timely on some development goals, but lags on others – UN report

Progress timely on some development goals, but lags on others – UN report

Developing countries have made strides in providing access to clean water and schooling, but efforts to achieve other internationally agreed targets to combat extreme poverty and a host other global ills are falling behind schedule, according to a United Nations report released today.

Launched in Geneva, where the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) opened its annual policy session on Monday, this year’s progress report on the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) comes amid the drive to ratchet up international support for development aid and debt relief and mounting mobilization campaigns at the national level.

The MDGs were endorsed by world leaders at the 2000 summit in New York to achieve, by 2015, a measurable improvement in combating such problems as high infant and maternal mortality and lack of access to education and health care.

While highlight the MDG success stories in water access and schooling, the new study, entitled the “UN Millennium Development Report 2006,” points out that some of the goals, such as halving the percentage of the world’s population who have no access to decent sanitation facilities, are unlikely to be met “without greatly accelerated efforts.”

In most areas, progress is mixed, the report indicates. For example, the effort to control infectious diseases has seen awareness and funding soar in the battle against malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, while the number of TB and HIV cases has risen as well.

Similarly, women and girls are benefiting from maternal health programmes and equality initiatives in primary schools, work places and parliaments. At the same time, the study notes that discriminatory practices persist across the board.

Along with some progress in the protection of natural resources, the study finds that the question remains whether protective measures can take effect swiftly enough to head off rapid climate change, runaway pollution and exhaustion of fresh water sources.

The main objective commonly associated with the MDGs is the eradication of extreme poverty, and the related target for cutting in half the proportion of people in the developing world living on $1 a day or less.

As reported last year, the new study finds that the world is on track to meet this target by 2015, primarily because of large gains in South and East Asia. This huge victory is undercut by disturbingly slow progress in Latin America, and by a rate of extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa that is stuck at around 44 per cent.

Progress in the eighth MDG, the strengthening of international partnership to fight poverty, lends some hope in that area, however, the report says. Last year Official Development Assistance (ODA) surpassed $100 billion for the first time ever, though some of this included the write-off of debt.

The Millennium Development Goals Report 2006 is published by the ECOSOC Statistics Division and includes contributions from statistical departments of more than 20 UN funds, programmes and agencies and other international organizations.