Time to accelerate progress

01 Aug 2009

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Focusing on the effects of stagnant and partially negative economic growth, the Millennium Development Goals 2009 Report indicates that progress is now threatened resulting in diminished resources, fewer trade opportunities for the developing countries, and possible reductions in aid flows from donor nations.

New Horizons - Concurrently, the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, with a potentially devastating impact on both rich and poor nations. 

The report presents an annual assessment of progress towards the MDGs. Although the impact of the recent economic downturn is not yet fully evident, data points to areas where progress has slowed or, in some cases, reversed.

For instance, in 2009, an estimated 55 million to 90 million more people will be living in extreme poverty than anticipated before the crisis. Inadequate progress on child nutrition from 1990 to 2007 is insufficient to meet the 2015 target, and will likely be further affected by increased food prices and economic turmoil. Despite the decrease in international food prices in the second half of 2008, lower prices did not reflect onto affordable food. Furthermore, ongoing crises may also get in the way of progress towards gender equality, as they will inadvertently place new obstacles against women’s employment. 

According to the report, the economic hardships will continue to exert pressure on an already fragile global environment, where deforestation and the extinction of species proceed at alarming rates, and a global water crisis is strikingly imminent.

Most importantly however, for many developing countries, lower levels of aid caused by the global financial crises would not only impede further progress, but could reverse some of the gains made so far.

The gloomy picture must not dishearten the global community as the report also portrays the exceptional advances that many countries and regions have made before the economic landscape changed so radically in 2008.

  • Those living in extreme poverty in the developing regions make up more than a quarter of the developing world’s population in 2005, compared to almost half in 1990.
  • Enrolment in primary education in the developing world reached 88% in 2007, an increase of 5% from 2000.
  • Deaths of children under five declined steadily worldwide —to around 9 million in 2007, down from 12.6 million in 1990.
  • At the global level, the world came together to achieve a 97% reduction in the consumption of substances that deplete the Earth’s protective ozone layer.
  • Such accomplishments demonstrate that the goals are within reach at the global level. The report advocates that the vision of a world without poverty which lies at the heart of the MDGs must continue to provide a focus for global efforts.

    In order to stay on course, the report puts forth the following:

  • Efforts to provide productive and decent employment for all, including women and young people, must be revitalized. The share of women in paid employment outside the agricultural sector has increased only marginally over the years. And in Southern Asia, Northern Africa and Western Asia, employment opportunities for women remain extremely low.
  • The war against hunger must continue especially in countries hardest hit by the recent rise in food prices, by taking measures to increase the availability of food and strengthening social policies that address the negative impact on the poor.
  • Work must be intensified to get all children into school, especially those living in rural communities, and eliminate inequalities in education based on gender and ethnicity. It is also worth noting that the target of eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005 has already been missed.
  • Greater political will must be generated to reduce maternal mortality, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, where negligible progress has been made so far.
  • Rapid acceleration of progress is needed to bring improved sanitation to the 1.4 billion people accounting for consequences concerning the health of communities and the local environment. At the present rate of progress, the 2015 sanitation target will be missed.
  • Efforts to improve the living conditions of the urban poor must pick up speed and extend even further. Although every region except one has made progress in this area, slum improvements are barely sufficient to keep up with the rapid growth cities in developing countries.
  • Lastly, greater priority must be given to preserving the world’s natural resource base. The global community have has to unite and more convincingly combat climate change; as fisheries are endangered; forests are receding; and water scarcity has become a reality in a number of arid regions.
  • Advances are most evident in the fight against malaria, in the dramatic reduction in measles deaths, and in the coverage of antiretroviral treatment for HIV and AIDS, which increased tenfold over a five-year time span. In contrast, progress requiring structural changes and strong political commitment to guarantee sustained funding has been more modest.


    Achieving the MDGs will require that the development agenda be fully integrated into efforts to jumpstart growth and rebuild the global economy. At the top of the agenda is the climate change problem, which will have to be regarded as an opportunity to develop more efficient ‘green’ technologies and make the structural changes needed that will contribute to sustainable growth. Achieving the MDGs will also require targeting areas and population groups like rural communities, ethnic minorities and who will all help to shape the world’s common future.

    Please click here to read the full report.