Were the MDGs Successful?

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September 23, 2015 – The Millennium Development Goals expire at the end of this year and will be replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals that will be adopted by UN member states on Friday.

But as advocates have pointed out, particularly those from the least developed countries, the MDG agenda is still unfinished business and will be incorporated into the new, and expanded, global goals that will run until 2030.

Here we take stock of what has been achieved since 2000 when the eight Millennium Development Goals were adopted, and the gaps that remain.

Goal 1 – Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen from 1.75 billion in 1999 to 836 million in 2015 but about 800 million people still live in extreme poverty and suffer from hunger. Over 160 million children under the age of five have inadequate height for their age due to malnutrition.

Goal 2 – Achieve universal primary education

The number of out-of-school children of primary school age worldwide fell by almost half, to an estimated 57 million in 2015, down from 100 million in 2000. Primary school net enrollment rate in the developing regions has reached 91 percent in 2015 from 83 percent in 2000. Further efforts needed to achieve universal primary education.

Goal 3 – Promote gender equality and empower women

The average proportion of women in parliament has increased from 14 percent to 22 percent since 2000, but remains low in absolute terms. Globally, about three-quarters of working-age men participate in the labor force, compared to only half of working-age women. Women earn 24 percent less than men globally.

Goal 4 – Reduce child mortality

The global under-five mortality rate has declined by more than half, dropping from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births between 1990 and 2015. More work is needed to improve child survival rates. Every minute around the world, 11 children die before their fifth birthday, mostly from preventable causes.

Goal 5 – Improve maternal health

The global maternal mortality ratio has fallen from 330 to 210 deaths per 100,000 live births between 2000 and 2013. Only half of pregnant women receive the recommended amount of antenatal care.

Goal 6 – Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

New HIV infections fell by 40 percent between 2000 and 2013, from an estimated 3.5 million cases to 2.1 million. In sub-Saharan Africa, still less than 40 percent of youth aged 15 to 24 years had correct knowledge of HIV transmission in 2014. Over 6.2 million malaria deaths have been averted between 2000 and 2015

Goal 7 – Ensure environmental sustainability

Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the global population using an improved sanitation facility has risen from 54 percent to 68 percent, and those using an improved drinking water source increased from 76 percent to 91 percent. Globally, 147 countries have met the MDG drinking water target, 95 countries have met the MDG sanitation target and 77 countries have met both. Emissions of carbon dioxide rose from 23.8 to 33.0 billion metric tons from 2000 to 2012.

Goal 8 –  Develop a global partnership for development

Official development assistance from developed countries rose 66 percent in real terms between 2000 and 2014, to USD 135.2bn. Funding will remain a critical factor for the post-2015 development agenda.

Related Story: Understanding the Sustainable Development Goals – Five Key Questions

US Senators Urge Funding for UNFPA as Republicans Hold Purse Strings

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Feb. 6, 2015 – A group of US senators is urging President Obama to continue funding the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) as the threat of Republican-controlled legislatures pulling funds for the agency looms.

The Republican Party won significant gains in the house and senate in the midterm elections and US funding for UN climate and population programs are under threat. Under President George W. Bush, the US withheld funds for the UNFPA claiming in part that the agency supported Chinese government programs which include forced abortions and coercive sterilizations.

The 22 senators, including Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Kirsten Gillibrand, in a Jan. 27 letter, wrote that “U.S. funding for UNFPA supports a range of global activities including the provision of voluntary family planning information, education and services, training and deployment of skilled birth attendants and midwives, and work to help end the harmful practices of female genital mutilation and child marriage.”

We are disappointed that despite UNFPA’s critical work around the world, a number of misperceptions about the organization persist,” the letter added.

On its website, the UNFPA says it “does not promote abortion as a family planning method.”

The US has contributed some $30 million annually to the agency under the Obama administration. From 2001-2008, a total of $244 million in Congressionally approved funding was blocked by the Executive Branch.

The UNFPA receives some $450 million yearly with Sweden ($66M), Norway ($59M), the Netherlands ($49M) and Denmark ($44M) the top donors.

Since the Helms amendment to the foreign aid package in 1973, US foreign aid is prohibited from being used to pay for abortion as a method of family planning “or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.”

The senators conclude their letter by saying, “support for UNFPA is cost-effective, saves lives and supports our broader diplomatic, development and national security priorities.”

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz