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Millennium Development Goals - How are we doing?

  • ?Not so good,? to put it bluntly. The United Nations? 2009 Millennium Development Goals Report, released last week, documents a slowing of progress in almost every area, and regression in some of the most important ones, the result of the global recession. According to the report, ?Progress towards the goals is now threatened by sluggish ? or even negative ? economic growth, diminished resources, fewer trade opportunities for developing countries, and possible reductions in aid flows from donor nations. At the same time, the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, with a potentially devastating impact on countries rich and poor.?

    According to the report, the number of people living in extreme poverty (less than $1.25/day) will increase by between 55 and 90 million during 2009 ? this after a reduction of 400 million between 1990 ? 2005, and the prevalence of hunger, after years of decline, is now on the rise. The ability of countries to mobilize domestic resources for development is also in jeopardy, due to decreased export earnings and increased welfare expenses.

    In other areas the report finds continued progress, albeit at a slower rate. Women?s political representation is slowly growing, child mortality and birth rates are continuing to decline. The world is actually ahead of schedule in achieving the drinking water target (halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water). But overall, the recession ? set in the context of climate change and associated environmental stresses ? has dealt a major blow to poor countries? prospects of achieving the goals.

    The report notes that advances are most evident where targeted interventions have a relatively quick and visible impact and increased funding has translated directly into expanded services ? e.g., safe water supply or reduced measles deaths. In contrast, progress has been more modest when it requires structural changes, capacity development and strong political commitment -- in other words, where sustainability and strategic impact are at issue. In this context, the effectiveness of development assistance becomes all the more important. As long as countries are not enjoying broad-based growth, are overwhelmed by hunger and poverty, any specific achievements will likely be short-lived. It?s essential that our assistance efforts take that into consideration and adjust accordingly.