Sustained growth in developing countries is keeping the world on track to reduce the global poverty rate to below 15% by 2015, the United Nations (UN) said at the launch of ‘The Millennium Development Goal Report 2011’ on Tuesday.
This is significantly below the 23% target prescribed in the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) framework.
Despite the global financial crisis, which resulted in a decline in commodity prices, trade and investment, current trends suggested that the momentum of growth in the developing world remained strong enough to sustain the progress needed to reach the global poverty-reduction targets, the report stated.
The East Asia region was leading in its efforts to reduce poverty, with China and India expected to decrease the number of people living in poverty by 320-millon by 2015, adding to the already 455-million people from 1990 to 2005.
But, the report does paint a mixed picture of progress and challenges globally, as echoed by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.
“Even where we have seen rapid growth, as in East Asia and other parts of the developing world, progress is not universal, nor are the benefits evenly shared. Stubbornly high unemployment persists in rich and poor countries alike. And in many cases, the wealth gap is widening between the prosperous and the marginalised and between urban and rural, “ said Ki-moon.
Despite the number of people in developing countries living on less than $1.25 a day projected to fall below 900-million by 2015, one in five workers and their families are living in extreme poverty worldwide.
The report alludes to a flattening slope of the working poverty incidence curve, and from 2009, 40-million more working poor were at the extreme $1.25 level than would have been expected pre-crisis. Further, despite reductions in poverty, in developing nations the number of people who went hungry from 2005 to 2007 remained stable at 16%.
In developed countries the employment to population ration decreased from 56.8% in 2007 to 55.4% in 2009 to 54.8% in 2010, suggesting that these economies are not generating sufficient employment to absorb growth in the working-age population.
The ratio in developing regions has shown no significant improvement, from 36.2% in 2000 to 62.7% in 2010, with sub-Saharan African countries above the average ratio of developing countries at 64%.
Despite sub-Saharan Africa showing significant improvement in literacy of 7% points, it still remained the region with the lowest youth literacy rate of 72% in 2009.
Some 127-million young people are without basic reading and writing skills.
Ninety percent of all illiterate youth live in the southern Asia region (65-million) and sub-Saharan Africa (47-million).
“Gender parity in primary and secondary education is still beyond reach in many regions. Moreover, enrolment disparities are notable between girls from wealthy families and girls from poorer families. This disparity is significantly greater for girls than it is for boys,” said Ki-moon.
NOT ON TRACK FOR WATER AND SANITATION TARGET
Over 2.6-billion people still lacked flush toilets and other forms of improved sanitation. In fact, the report indicated that it would take until 2049 to provide 77% of the global population with flush toilets and other forms of improved sanitation.
In sub-Saharan African countries, 20% of the population in urban areas are almost six times more likely to rely on an unimproved drinking water source than the richest 20%.
However, about 1.1-billion people in urban areas and 732-million people in rural areas gained access to an improved drinking water source from 1990 to 2008, the report states. In sub-Saharan Africa, this doubled from 252-million in 1990 to 492-million in 2008.
The report alludes to challenges in monitoring progress in poverty reduction in sub-Saharan Africa, where data and information to make comparisons regarding the MDGs were available in less than half the countries.
To achieve its MDGs, the sub-Saharan region has many challenges to overcome, UN Development Programme (UNDP) MDG policy adviser Osten Chulu said.
Governance, data and information and exclusion of the private sector were some of the key constraints, he told Engineering News Online. “MDGs and not just developmental issues that needed to be handled by the State. It needs to be an inclusive process, in which the private sector and all other key stakeholders have a key role to play in realising the targets of the MDGs.”
UN resident coordinator Dr Agostinho Zacarias agreed that attaining reliable statistics was a key challenge to accurately measuring MDGs.
“Between 2007 and 2009, the countries that had collected, analysed and disseminated survey data, represented only 20% of the region’s population,” the report states.
Zacarias stressed his support for South Africa’s National Planning Commission (NPC), and Minister in The Presidency responsible for the NPC, Trevor Manuel, who recently called for statistics-based evidence and reliable information in realising the vision expressed in South Africa’s Constitution and creating the visibility needed to deal with the current impediments to economic growth and development.
“The NPC plays a role in mobilising society around a vision and a development plan. It will do this through active engagement with the public, ensuring that experts’ views are canvassed on its proposals, and through a wide range of interactions.
“The UN welcomes this and will support the process of consultations over the next three months when the NPC will host public forums to discuss the vision statement and the diagnostics document - another effort by the South African government to achieve MDG’s by 2015,” Zacarias said at the launch of the report in Johannesburg, on Tuesday.
But, what is key to achieving MDGs globally, is rejuvenated global partnership for development, breakthroughs in trade negotiations and in climate action, Ki-moon stressed.
UNDP regional poverty reduction practice leader Babatunde Omilola also called for a “collective effort” in achieving the MDGs. “There is evidence that when governments take the lead with effective policies and public investments, and when the international community provides adequate financial and technical support, significant progress can be made,” he said.
What now remained key was to sustain the momentum in achieving the MDGs and to set the debate and stage for the post-2015 development agenda.