Despite progress, developing countries still need cooperation and assistance from the developed world
The United Nations General Assembly set up the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) a decade ago.
More than 190 heads of state and governments gather again at the UN headquarters in New York to review the progress, assess obstacles and gaps, and agree on concrete strategies and actions to meet the goals by 2015.
Since the 1990s, increased globalization has led to fast global economic growth. But not all parties have benefited from the dividend of globalization. As a result, the North-South gap is widening, extreme poverty and hunger still exists, and environmental and ecosystem degradation is getting worse. The development problem has become a crucial issue concerning the entire international community.
In September 2000, at the dawn of a new millennium, world leaders gathered at the UN headquarters in New York for the Millennium Summit and adopted the Millennium Declaration. The declaration set a series of specific goals by the year 2015 for human development, including halving extreme poverty and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, ensuring universal education for children, reducing the mortality rate of children aged under 5 by two-thirds, improving reproductive health services, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases, protecting our common environment and supporting the principles of sustainable development as well as establishing the global partnership for development.
These goals represent human needs and basic rights that every individual around the world should be able to enjoy. Since the launch of the MDGs, all nations are doing all they can to meet the goals.
Not long ago, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a report about the implementation of the MDGs.
According to UN statistics, developing countries have made encouraging gains in implementing the MDGs, especially in cutting the rate of extreme poverty, getting children into primary schools and addressing HIV/AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases.
However, there are still a number of regions lagging behind. Progress has been uneven across the world. For example, many children in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are still unable to go to school. In developing countries, much remains to be done to improve the enrollment rate and gender equality of secondary education and maternal health services, as well as combat HIV/AIDS, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, the most heavily affected region.
In establishing the global partnership for development, only Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have raised the proportion of official development assistance in GDP to the goal of 0.7 percent.
China has always been a staunch supporter and practitioner of the MDGs. The ambitious goal put forward by the Chinese government to build a harmonious and a fairly well-off society in an all-around way is consistent with the MDGs in the fundamental direction.
China has made remarkable progress in pushing forward the implementation of the goals. It has managed to halve the poverty-stricken and hungry population, popularize elementary education, reduce child and maternal mortality rates and eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education ahead of time. Other goals are also expected to be achieved smoothly before 2015.
In the remaining five years, China will put more emphasis on addressing gaps between urban and rural development, environmental degradation and aging problems.
As a member of the developing world, China is an important participant for promoting the implementation of the MDGs. China has offered assistance to other developing nations within its capacity. Aid measures highlighted by Chinese leaders in multiple international occasions have won positive reception from the international community.
Now, due to the impact of the global economic crisis, progress on combating extreme poverty and hunger has slowed and even suffered a setback. The international community should further broaden thinking on the issue and create new mechanisms to ensure the fulfillment of the MDGs.
First, underdeveloped countries should put poverty elimination through development as the central task and developed countries should provide favorable development conditions for them. Second, countries should be encouraged to seek a development path suited to their national conditions and in line with domestic development and poverty reduction. Third, international assistance, particularly for the least-developed countries and regions, should continue to increase without attaching additional conditions. Finally, efforts should be made to perfect the working mechanisms to implement the MDGs, coordinate different international organizations, draw up action plans and raise more funds toward the cause.
Assistance from developed countries and their institutions are important for fulfilling the goals. Newly emerging economies like China, India, Brazil and Russia, which are expanding trade and investment volume among developing countries, have also added new vigor to the process and helped South-South cooperation reach a new stage.
As long as the international community makes concerted efforts and jointly weathers the impact of the global financial crisis, it will surely lay a solid foundation for realizing the MDGs.
The author is former vice-minister of foreign affairs and currently a Chinese member of the MDG Advocacy Group.
(China Daily 09/21/2010 page8)