MDGs: some targets met, but much remains to be done

A group of United Nations independent experts on poverty, water and sanitation, education, health, food, international solidarity and foreign debt warned today there is no room for complacency with only three years to go until the 2015 deadline to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and urged States to intensify efforts towards the ultimate goal of full realization of human rights for all.

The 2012 Millennium Development Goals report, published last week, highlights the progress made towards some of these development targets. However, the UN experts pointed out a number of areas that must be addressed urgently, asking world governments to strengthen their efforts to achieve the MDGs while also ensuring that the post-2015 development agenda will be based on human rights obligations.

“Human rights standards provide a normative framework that grounds development work within a universal set of values, but also provide an important tool for ensuring that development is pursued in an equitable, just and sustainable manner,” they said.

Extreme poverty
“If the preliminary estimates shown in the report are confirmed, the target of reducing the extreme poverty rate by half will have been reached at the global level ahead of the 2015 deadline. That is very good news,” said Magdalena Sepúlveda, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. “However, the scale of extreme poverty remains appalling, with more than 1 billion people still affected.”

“Additionally, progress has been very uneven, with certain regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia being left behind,” Ms. Sepúlveda stressed. “Many of those who have not been reached are ‘the poorest of the poor’, suffering from profound marginalisation and social exclusion.” In her view, “States must prioritise the plight of these individuals in accordance with human rights obligations, understanding that extreme poverty cannot be defined just in terms of income.”

Access to water and sanitation
According to the report, the target on access to an improved source of water has also been met in 2010; nonetheless, “significant disparities still exist and the most vulnerable people in the world have not benefited from progress,” noted the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque.

“Nearly half of the population in developing regions still lacks access to improved sanitation facilities, making sanitation one of the most -if not the most- off-track of the Millennium targets. States should now focus on the unserved and forgotten people in the world,” she underscored.

Education
“Universality in access to primary education is an important target of the MDGs; and significant progress has been made towards universal primary education. However, in order to fully implement the right to education, it is vitally important to do away with marginalization and exclusion in education, and ensure that primary education fulfills the relevant standards of quality,” highlighted the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh.

“The central role of education in accelerating progress towards all MDGs, recognized in the context of the MGD Review Summit 2010, deserves much greater emphasis and should be placed higher on the development agenda,” added Mr. Singh.

Health
While commending the global reduction in under-five deaths and increased access to treatment for people living with HIV, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, stressed that “more still needs to be done to meet the 2015 target of reducing maternal mortality by three quarters. It is unacceptable that in this day and age nearly one third of a million women worldwide die annually while or after pregnancy.”

Mr. Grover also expressed concern over gaps and shortfalls in health funding that could jeopardize success in achieving health-related MDGs, especially in least developed countries.

Food
Despite the efforts made, progress towards the goal of eradicating hunger has been very limited. The number of people suffering from malnutrition and hunger remains largely unchanged since 1990, and though progress has been made in some countries and regions, the situation has worsened in others. The situation remains particularly grave in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, and rising global food prices have led to further set-backs, particularly in countries dependent on food imports, noted the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter.

“The human rights principles of accountability, transparency and participation should be brought to bear to address the current failing of world States to live up to their MDG commitments,” said Mr. De Schutter.

Development aid
The 2012 MDGs report reveals that core development aid has fallen in real terms for the first time in more than a decade, as donor countries face fiscal constraints.

“Without genuine cooperation based on equality and mutual respect, these targets will not be fully met, nor will human rights obligations be properly fulfilled,” said the UN Independent Expert on international solidarity, Virginia Dandan. “International cooperation must be imbued with international solidarity to transcend the barriers of fiscal constraints. The MDGs are an opportunity for global partnerships that build on mutual interests in development initiatives; an opportunity we cannot afford to miss for the sake of billions of people all over the world.”

Debt burden
Growing export earnings of developing countries and steady public debt ratios have reinstated the downward trend in the ratio of public debt service to exports in developing countries. “While this trend had been interrupted in 2009 due to the global economic crisis, the ratio has now improved from even pre-crisis levels in some developing countries,” said the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt, Mr. Cephas Lumina.

Mr. Lumina welcomed the progress made in this area, but expressed concern that “the ratio continued to increase in the least developed countries and small island states, mostly as a result of declining export earnings.” He highlighted “the continued vulnerability of poor countries and the importance of development cooperation, fair terms of trade and debt relief efforts in addressing their debt problems.” With the HIPC initiative coming soon to an end, Mr. Lumina called upon the international community to “renew its debt relief efforts in line with MDG 8.”

SOURCE: OHCHR