Wednesday, January 1, 2014

MDGs need regular evaluation

The achievement of UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) depends on cooperation and interaction among governments, businesses, civil society and, of course, the media, according to the UN.
It is essential to publicise both progress and delays, because when citizens are informed they can exert more powerful demands on government to live up to their development commitments, it said, adding that the achievement of the MDGs requires constant evaluation.

The first goal is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. According to the most recent UN MDG Report 2012, poverty is on the decline in all regions of the world, and the percentage of individuals living on less than $1.25-a-day has been halved since 1990. But overall progress has been slowed by the global financial crisis that began in 2007, and current projections estimate that one billion people – some 16 per cent of the world's population – will still be living in extreme poverty in 2015.
Many governments and organisations have set up food banks and have increased the availability of staple crops to ensure food independence to respond to the continued challenge of hunger. In some places, like in Latin America, community cooperatives have been created in order to deal with food shortages during extreme weather conditions, such as drought.

To achieve universal primary education is the second goal. Figures in 2010 indicated that 90 per cent of primary-age children now attend school, but, here as well, progress is slow. The 2012 UN Report indicated that improvements have dropped considerably since 2004.
While companies and foundations have started building schools, granting scholarships, and offering more incentives to teachers to work in rural areas, improvement in the quality of instruction is still needed, the UN said, adding that governments, meanwhile, have made efforts to increase enrollment at the basic level. "It is important to note that assessments of MDG Goal 2 by local and international NGOs are more rigorous than governmental ones, as the former measure not only how many children go to school, but also what and how they are taught, and whether knowledge is retained.

The third goal is to promote gender equality and empower women. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) provide advice and support to projects designed to increase gender equity. In several countries, civil-society organisations have been trained to promote legislation to ensure gender equality, and to build community centers for women. As with all the MDGs, civil society and the media are critical to the success of furthering gender equality because they champion and evaluate specific policies, and also report unacceptable delays in achievement. For example, there are laws that, in certain cases, exonerate the killers of women, if the perpetrator is perceived to have acted 'in defense of honour'. Journalists can expose such cases while NGOs can lobby legislators to modify the relevant legal statutes.

The fourth goal is to reduce child mortality, specifically, cutting the rate of under-five deaths by two-thirds. But urgent measures are still needed for the fourth foal. While several regions, including northern Africa and eastern Asia have seen improvements of more than 50 per cent, sub-Saharan Africa, for example, has seen a reduction of just 30 per cent, according to the most recent UN figures.
In addition, statistics indicate that despite general gains in under-five mortality, 23 out of every 1,000 children worldwide still do not survive their first month.
Meeting this fourth target requires global involvement, the UN said, adding, anyone and everyone can play a role: even football clubs have joined together to create humanitarian aid programs both to deliver food to the world's poorest households – children born into poverty are far more likely to die early – and to promote sustainable living.

Reducing maternal mortality is fifth goal. Measurement of the fifth goal, to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters, is difficult, but international agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Bank estimate that 290 maternal deaths occur per 100,000 live births worldwide. In an attempt to reduce the figure, health agencies are working together to encourage expectant mothers to have at least three check-ups during pregnancy. "In addition, governments and health-care manufacturers have led joint initiatives to improve maternal health during pregnancy by distributing vitamins and folic acid," the UN added.

The sixth goal is to combat HIV, malaria, and other diseases. Although HIV/AIDS infections have declined in sub-Saharan Africa, the changes are minimal in East Asia, Central Asia, and the Caribbean, and in all regions the highest rates of infection are among young people. As a result, governments, civil-society organisations and entrepreneurs have implemented information campaigns, as well as prevention and detection programmes, including free testing, so that new cases are detected and treated early.

The seventh goal is to ensure environmental sustainability. Although deforestation levels continue to be alarming, the number of protected areas is increasing. Meanwhile, to improve environmental sustainability in high-population, low-income areas, the UN has asked countries to conduct censuses among populations living in slums, and to establish realistic goals at the national, regional, and local levels to improve the lives of slum-dwellers. Priority is being given to housing and basic services, such as water and sanitation infrastructure, transport and energy, and health and education, in a bid to halve the number of people without sustainable access to safe water and sanitation, the UN said, adding that governments and businesses are promoting green-home building, the redesign of urban areas, and the promotion of better local jobs to avoid internal migration. The fewer opportunities people have in their community of birth, the greater the potential increase in urban poverty.
Educational institutions have also participated in the design of risk atlases, which chart a variety of risks in local communities and, thereby, encourage relocation in the face of potential natural disasters, and the avoidance of construction in areas where the environment is threatened.

The reduction of debt and the promotion of humanitarian aid are central to the eighth goal, which is to develop a global partnership for development. Strong economies are essential to accomplishing this goal but because recent recessions have placed government finances under strain, private initiatives and resource management have become all the more critical.

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