Millennium Development Goals - Progress


Progress towards reaching the goals has been uneven. Some countries have achieved many of the goals, while others are not on track to realize any. The major countries that have been achieving their goals include China (whose poverty population has reduced from 452 million to 278 million) and India due to clear internal and external factors of population and economic development. The World Bank estimated that MDG 1A (halving the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day) was achieved in 2008 mainly due to the results from these two countries and East Asia. However, areas needing the most reduction, such as the Sub-Saharan Africa regions have yet to make any drastic changes in improving their quality of life. In the same time as China, Sub-Saharan Africa reduced their poverty about one percent, and are at a major risk of not meeting the MDGs by 2015. However, even though the poverty rates in sub-Saharan Africa decreased in a small percent, there are some successes regarding millennium development goals in sub-Saharan Africa. In the case of MDG 1, sub-Saharan region started to eradicate poverty by strengthening the industry of rice production. Originally, rice production was one of the main problems since its production rate could not catch up the rapid population growth by mid-1990s. This caused great amount of rice imports and great costs for the governments reaching nearly US$1 billion annually. In addition, farmers in Africa suffered from finding the suitable species of rice that can well-adapt in their conditions with high-yield characteristic. Then, New Rice for Africa (NERCA) which is high-yielding and well adapting to the African conditions was developed and contributed to the food security in sub-Saharan regions including Congo Brazzaville, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Togo and Uganda. Now about 18 varieties of the hybrid species are available to rice farmers and for the first time many farmers are able to produce enough rice to feed their families and to gain profit at the market. Sub-Saharan region also show improvement in the case of MDG 2. School fees that included Parent-Teacher Association and community contributions, textbook fees, compulsory uniforms and other charges were highly expensive in sub-Saharan Africa, taking up nearly a quarter of a poor family’s income. This was one of the barriers for enrollment and thus, countries like Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda have eliminated school fees. This resulted in the increase in student enrollment in several regions. For instance in Ghana, public school enrollment in the most deprived districts soared from 4.2 million to 5.4 million between 2004 and 2005. In Kenya, enrollment of primary school children surged significantly with 1.2 million extra increase of children in school in 2003 and by 2004, the number had climbed to 7.2 million. Fundamental issues will determine whether or not the MDGs are achieved, namely gender, the divide between the humanitarian and development agendas and economic growth, according to researchers at the Overseas Development Institute.

Achieving the MDGs does not depend on economic growth alone and expensive solutions. In the case of MDG 4, some developing countries like Bangladesh have shown that it is possible to reduce child mortality with only modest growth with inexpensive but effective interventions, such as measles immunisation. It has also been found that total government expenditure would not, in most cases, be enough to meet the agreed spending targets in a number of sectors highlighted by the MDGs. Research on health systems and the Millennium Development Goals suggests that a 'one size fits all model' will not sufficiently respond to the individual healthcare profiles of developing countries; however, the study does find a set of similar constraints in scaling up international health, including the lack of absorptive capacity, weak health systems, human resource limitations, and high costs. The study argues that the emphasis on quantitative coverage obscures the measures required for scaling up health care. These measures include political, organizational, and functional dimensions of scaling up, and the need to nurture local organizations.

According to some experts, MDG 7 - to halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation - is still far from being reached. Since national governments often cannot provide the necessary infrastructure, civil society in some countries started to organise and work on sanitation themselves, says the magazine D+C Development and Cooperation. For instance, in Ghana there is an umbrella organisation called CONIWAS (Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation), which today has more than 70 member organisations focusing on providing access to water and sanitation.

Goal 8 of the MDGs is unique in the sense that it focuses on donor government commitments and achievements, rather than successes in the developing world. The Commitment to Development Index, published annually by the Center for Global Development is often considered to be the numerical targeting indicator for the 8th MDG. It is a more comprehensive measure of donor progress than simply Official Development Assistance as it takes into account policies on a number of indicators that affect developing countries such as trade, migration, and investment.

To accelerate progress towards the MDGs, the G-8 Finance Ministers met in London in June 2005 (in preparation for the G-8 Gleneagles Summit in July) and reached an agreement to provide enough funds to the World Bank, the IMF, and the African Development Bank (ADB) to cancel an additional $40–55 billion debt owed by members of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC). This would allow impoverished countries to re-channel the resources saved from the forgiven debt to social programs for improving health and education and for alleviating poverty.

Backed by G-8 funding, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the ADB each endorsed the Gleaneagles plan and implemented the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) to effectuate the debt cancellations. The MDRI supplements HIPC by providing each country that reaches the HIPC completion point 100% forgiveness of its multilateral debt. Countries that previously reached the decision point became eligible for full debt forgiveness once their lending agency confirmed that the countries had continued to maintain the reforms implemented during HIPC status. Other countries that subsequently reach the completion point automatically receive full forgiveness of their multilateral debt under MDRI.

While the World Bank and ADB limit MDRI to countries that complete the HIPC program, the IMF's MDRI eligibility criteria are slightly less restrictive so as to comply with the IMF's unique "uniform treatment" requirement. Instead of limiting eligibility to HIPC countries, any country with annual per capita income of $380 or less qualifies for MDRI debt cancellation. The IMF adopted the $380 threshold because it closely approximates the countries eligible for HIPC.

The International Health Partnership (IHP+) also aims to accelerate progress towards the MDGs by putting international principles for effective aid and development cooperation into practice in the health sector. In developing countries, money for health comes from both domestic and external sources, and governments must work in coordination with a range of international development partners. As these partners increase in number, variations in funding streams and bureaucratic demands also increase. As a result, development efforts can become fragmented and resources can be wasted. By encouraging support for a single national health strategy or plan, a single monitoring and evaluation framework, and a strong emphasis on mutual accountability, IHP+ builds confidence between government, civil society, development partners and other stakeholders whose activities affect health.

Yet, as 2015 approaches, increasing global uncertainties such as the economic crisis and climate change have led to an opportunity to rethink the MDG approach to development policy. According to the 'In Focus' Policy Brief from the Institute of Development Studies, the 'After 2015' debate is about questioning the value of an MDG-type, target-based approach to international development, about progress so far on poverty reduction, about looking to an uncertain future and exploring what kind of system is needed after the MDG deadline has passed.

Further developments in rethinking strategies and approaches to achieving the MDGs include research by the Overseas Development Institute into the role of equity. Researchers at the ODI argue progress can be accelerated due to recent breakthroughs in the role equity plays in creating a virtuous circle where rising equity ensures the poor participate in their country's develop and creates reductions in poverty and financial stability. Yet equity should not be understood purely as economic, but also as political. Examples abound and include Brazil's cash transfers, Uganda's eliminations of user fees and the subsequent huge increase in in visits from the very poorest or else Mauritius's dual-track approach to liberalisation (inclusive growth and inclusive development) aiding it on its road into the World Trade Organization. Researchers at the ODI thus propose equity be measured in league tables in order to provide a clearer insight into how MDGs can be achieved more quickly; the ODI is working with partners to put forward league tables at the 2010 MDG review meeting.

The effects of increasing drug use have been noted by the International Journal of Drug Policy as a deterrent to the goal of the MDGs.

Other development scholars, such as Naila Kabeer, Caren Grown, and Noeleen Heyzer argue that an increased focus on women’s empowerment and gender mainstreaming of MDGs-related policies will accelerate the progress of the MDGs. Kabeer argues that increasing women’s empowerment and access to paid work will help reduce child mortality. She supports her point with evidence that South Asian countries with the high levels in of gender discrimination that limit women’s access to food and healthcare cause these same countries to have the highest rates of low birth weight babies in the world. This is because women experiencing malnutrition have low birth weight babies. Since low-birth weight babies have limited chances of survival, improving women’s health by increasing their bargaining power in the family through paid work, will reduce child mortality. Another way empowering women will help accelerate the MDGs is the inverse relationship between mother’s schooling and child-mortality, as well as the positive correlation between increasing a mother’s agency over unearned income and health outcomes of her children, especially girls. Increasing a mother’s education and workforce participation increases these effects. Lastly empowering women by creating economic opportunities for women decreases women’s participation in the sex market which decreases the spread of AIDS, a MDG in itself (MDG 6A).

Grown asserts that the resources, technology and knowledge exist to decrease poverty through improving gender equality, it is just the political will that is missing. She argues that if donor countries and developing countries together focused on seven "priority areas": increasing girl’s completion of secondary school, guarantying sexual and reproductive health rights, improving infrastructure to ease women’s and girl’s time burdens, guaranteeing women’s property rights, reducing gender inequalities in employment, increasing seats held by women in government, and combating violence against women, great progress could be made towards the MDGs.

Both Kabeer and Heyzer believe that the current MDGs targets do not place enough emphasis on tracking gender inequalities in poverty reduction and employment as there are only gender goals relating to health, education and political representation. In order to encourage women’s empowerment and progress towards the MDGs, increased emphasis should be placed on gender mainstreaming development policies and collecting data based on gender.

Graphs from the Millennium Development Goals Report 2010
Proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day (1990, 2005)
Enrolment in primary education (1999, 2008)
Under-five mortality rate (1990, 2008)
Numbers of people living with, newly infected with and killed by HIV (1990-2008)
Proportion of population using an 'improved water source' (1990, 2008)
External debt service payments as a proportion of export revenues (2000, 2008)
Internet users per hundred people (2003, 2008)

Read more about this topic:  Millennium Development Goals

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