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Tracking the International Goals

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April 16, 2007—Margaret Wabire lives in two small rooms on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda. A widower with three children, she earns a living by making custom made bed nets.

Making ends meet is Margaret Wabire’s immediate goal. But she says it’s a task undertaken in a climate dominated by men.

“You know, in Africa, it’s a man’s world. It’s not ladies first. It’s gents first,” Wabire says.

Yet as she points out, it’s the women who’re taking care of the children.

Her comments underline one of the main themes of this year’s 2007 Global Monitoring Report – the need for greater international attention to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The report takes stock of where the world is today in meeting the Millennium Development Goals – the set of global targets agreed by world leaders back in the year 2000. 

The first of these goals is to halve poverty by the year 2015. Some of the other goals include achieving universal primary school education, reducing infant and maternal mortality, and ensuring environmental sustainability.

According to the 2007 Global Monitoring Report, joint efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals are falling short.

But on the plus side, the number of people living on less than US$1 a day has fallen.

“Globally we’re on target to reduce poverty – extreme poverty – by half by 2015. And that between 1999 and 2004, extreme poverty fell by 135 million people, so there’s a very positive message here,” says Mark Sundberg, the report’s lead author.

“However, region-by-region, performance varies dramatically. Sub-Saharan Africa in particular is very unlikely to meet that goal.”

In terms of the other goals, Sundberg says the report card is equally mixed.

“There have been areas of tremendous progress. There have been an additional 35 million children completing primary school since 2000. There has been a tremendously successful program in vaccinating children against measles in Africa, so the incidence of disease and death from that has fallen dramatically.

“However there are still large gaps to fill. Less than 80 percent of countries are on target to meet the child mortality goal. In the area of nutrition, most countries are not on track to meet those goals. “ 

And as Sundberg points out, while most countries are on target to meet the completion rate for primary school education, a nagging question lingers. Is the quality of education matching the quantity of children passing through the school gates? 

The 2007 Global Monitoring Report says more effort is needed to monitor outcomes and to understand what students are actually learning and retaining.

And while there are increasing number of girls in the classroom, the report points out the increase in women’s participation in the economy and in political decision making has been modest at best.  It says better education levels without employment opportunities and a greater voice for women is squandering a valuable asset.

Another key focus of this year’s report is what the Bank calls “fragile states” – 35 nations around the globe characterized by weak governance and institutions, often frequently facing conflict and crisis within their borders.

“There are close to half a billion people living in what we call fragile states,” Sundberg says.  “These countries face the largest millennium development challenge-deficit -- that is the longest distance before reaching the finish line. While they represent 9 percent of the developing world’s population, 27 percent of the extreme poor are in these countries. 

“Close to a third of all child deaths occur in these countries, so it’s a category in which problems are most concentrated – but it is a varied group.”

“The dilemma is that while these countries face the greatest need, donors face the toughest challenge in ensuring aid will be effectively used.  The key is to respond rapidly when turnaround opportunities arise, such as in post-conflict countries.”

The report also assesses aid to the developing world. And as Sundberg points out, the results are sobering.

“There is a failure to really meet the commitments following the Gleneagles summit in Scotland in 2005,” he says.

“Aid is not keeping pace with commitments. And we’re seeing that major problems with the quality of aid are also rising – that there has been a proliferation in the number of donors. This is leading to problems with fragmentation, which takes a toll on countries that have weak capacity. For these reasons, the international community needs to look at improving the quality of aid and aid delivery,” he concludes.


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