Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

How much of the MDGs have we achieved?

By Ho Chi Ping (China Daily) Updated: 2013-09-28 07:08

In two weeks' time, the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development will deliver its final report on the UN Millennium Development Goals. The UN General Assembly will take the discussion of global development to a new level when the "post-2015 goals" are debated and outlined. But before that, let us see how we did in accomplishing the MDGs in the last 13 years.

In education, developing regions have made impressive efforts to increase access to primary education, with the adjusted net enrolment rate increasing from 83 percent in 2000 to 90 percent in 2011. In this period, the number of out-of-school children declined by almost half (102 million to 57 million). But the rate of decline is slowing down and we are unlikely to meet the target of universal primary education by 2015.

The situation in Sub-Saharan Africa does not seem as good as in other regions. The region is home to more than half the world's out-of-school children, although the adjusted primary net enrolment rate increased from 60 percent to 77 percent in the 11 years from 2000.

According to a survey covering 63 developing countries, household poverty is the single most important factor for children not attending schools, but the place of residence (rural versus urban) and gender (girls versus boys) also matters.

Reducing the child mortality rate is one of the MDGs. The mortality rate of children (below 5 years) fell 41 percent from 1990 to 2011- from 87 to 51 per 1,000 - which means 14,000 fewer children die every day. In 2011, an estimated 6.9 million children died of mostly preventable diseases. Rapid progress has to be made to meet the target of two-thirds reduction in child deaths.

The maternal mortality rate has dropped 47 percent over the past 20 years, from 400 to 210 per 100,000 live births. All regions have made progress on this front, but meeting the MDG target - that is, reducing the rate by 75 percent - will require quicker interventions, including easier access to emergency obstetrics care, assistance from skilled health workers during childbirth and provision for antiretroviral therapy for all pregnant women who need it.

AIDS was first recognized in 1981 by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirty years later, HIV infection is declining steadily in most regions. Yet 2.5 million new infections are reported every year, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite overall progress, the trends in some regions are worrisome - for instance, HIV infection has more than doubled in the Caucasus and Central Asian region since 2001. We still have a long way to go in controlling the spread of the disease.

On the environmental front, forests continue to disappear at an alarming rate. The irony is, they are vanishing despite the implementation of forest policies and laws by many countries. By far the most devastating loss is being suffered by South America (3.6 million hectares a year) and Africa (3.4 million hectares a year).

Besides, global greenhouse gas emissions have resumed their upward journey. Carbon dioxide emissions did decline 0.4 percent in 2008-09, but they increased by 5 percent between 2009 and 2010. The UN goal is to complete the negotiations on a global agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol by 2015 and begin implementing it in 2020, which would be a decisive step toward averting irreversible changes in the global climate pattern.

The eighth MDG is developing a global partnership for development. In 2012, the net decline in developed countries' GDP in real terms was 4 percent over 2011. The decline can be attributed to the global economic crisis and the eurozone debt crisis, which prompted many developed countries to reduce their aid budgets. But despite current fiscal pressures, countries belonging to the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have maintained or even increased their aid budgets.

Let me conclude by quoting from the report of Wu Hongbo, under-secretary-general in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs: "Efforts to achieve a world of prosperity, equity, freedom, dignity and peace will continue beyond 2015. The UN is working concertedly with all parties to build on the momentum generated by the MDGs and to craft an ambitious, yet realistic, post-2015 development agenda. A successful conclusion to the MDGs will be an important building block for a successor development agenda. And volumes of experience and lessons learned along the way can only benefit the prospects for continued progress."

The author is vice-chairman and secretary-general of China Energy Fund Committee, a think tank on energy and China-related issues.

(China Daily 09/28/2013 page5)

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