Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, July 12, 2007

U.N. Millennium Development Goals: Many successes, but still much progress to be made

This month officially marks the half way point on the timeline for the United Nations Millennium Development goals. In light of this benchmark, the United Nations Development Program and the Society for International Development held a round table discussion, “Inclusive Globalization and the Millennium Development Goals,” Wednesday to assess the progress that has been made so far. The keynote speaker, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Hafiz Pasha, discussed the millennium development goals (MDGs), along with commentators Johannes Linn of the Brookings Institution and Geeta Rao Gupta, the president of the International Center for Research on Women.

The session began with optimistic, yet realistic words from Pasha. He discussed the status of the MDGs in Asia, noting first that while East Asia has been a success story, southern Asia has fallen short. East Asia’s success is due large in part to China, Pasha said. However, he pointed out that China’s gains should not be viewed without a critical eye. Remarkably, China was responsible for bringing three-fourths of impoverished East Asians above the poverty line, but that came at the expense of environmental setbacks. Additionally, Pasha commented on the disappointment of that such a drop in poverty wasn’t accompanied by better health care and education. All three must come together if there is to be a sustainable reduction in poverty, Pasha said. Also, he emphasized that in all areas, the disparity between the rich and the poor is worsening. While China has progressed overall, other smaller, oft-overlooked East Asian nations like Bangladesh, Bhutan and Cambodia have not. Finally, Pasha said that in order to ensure progress during the second half of the MDG timeline, several steps must be taken including enhanced development in rural areas, better absorption of unskilled workers, increased public investment, and improved overall social development, particularly in the areas of healthcare, education, and the advancement of women’s and minorities rights.

After Pasha, Geeta Rao Gupta focused on the MDGs, specifically in the context of women’s progress. Gupta asserted that if the millennium goals were to be reached at all, they must be done in conjunction with achieving key gender-equity goals that include access to primary education for all women, the protection of reproductive rights, women’s property rights and expanded female roles in government. Gupta concluded by declaring that if gains in women’s education were to be successful, they must be accompanied by an increase in female economic empowerment.

Finally, Johannes Linn opened by stating that the fact that “MDGs keep us accountable collectively” is crucial for the international community. However, he then followed by warning that not all the MDGs would be met by 2015, and that there needed to be sound development plans in order to ensure some tangible progress. Otherwise, the MDGs would lose their audience once 2015 has come and gone. Linn stressed that the MDG implementation process needed to be improved, saying that there is too much fragmentation in implementation plans, which is exacerbated by general agency ineffectiveness. Currently, only 20 percent of aid actually reaches the beneficiaries, and if nations are to continue contributing, that number must increase, he argued. If the MDGs are to maintain international importance, they need to have practical implementation plans, Linn said.

To access the United Nations Millennium Development Goals 2006 Report, click here.


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