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Unisa online - Millennium Development Goals: progress achieved and future targe

Prof Makhanya delivered the opening address at the launch of the 2012 Millennium Development Goals Report at Unisa on 19 July 2012

With three important targets on poverty, slums and water having been met, a new United Nations report stresses the need for true global partnerships to achieve the remaining Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline.

This was the theme that emerged from the African launch of the 2012 MDGs Report at Unisa on 19 July 2012. The launch was attended by Prof Mandla Makhanya, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor; Dr Agostinho Zacarias, UN Resident Coordinator; Osten Chulu, UN Development Programme Regional MDG Policy Advisor; Prof Veronica McKay, Deputy Dean: College of Education; Vusi Madonsela, Director-General: Department of Social Development; Dr Moshe Swartz, Acting Deputy Director-General for Land and Tenure Reform: Department of Rural Development; and Fred van Zyl, Manager for Planning and Information: Department of Water Affairs.

The UN officials and expert panellists agreed that meeting the remaining targets, while challenging, is possible, if governments do not waiver from their commitments made over a decade ago.

In his foreword to the 2012 report, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon says that further success depends on fulfilling MDG-8; the global partnership for development. “The current economic crises besetting much of the developed world must not be allowed to decelerate or reverse the progress that has been made.  Let us build on the successes we have achieved so far, and let us not relent until all the MDGs have been attained.”

The report states that, for the first time since poverty trends began to be monitored, both the number of people living in extreme poverty and the poverty rates has fallen in every developing region – including sub-Saharan Africa where rates are highest. Preliminary estimates indicate that in 2010, the share of people living on less than a $1, 25 (about R10) a day dropped to less than half of its 1990 value. Essentially, this means that the MDGs first target (cutting the extreme poverty rate to half its 1990 level) has been achieved at the global level, well ahead of 2015.

Millennium Development Goals Report 2012

However, Chulu said while global progress has been made in reducing poverty (largely due to China and India’s contribution), the sub-Saharan African region still has a long way to go. The region’s poverty rate fell to less than 48% between 2005 and 2008 – the largest drop in the region since international poverty rates began to be estimated. For the first time, the absolute number of people living in extreme poverty also fell in the region, from 395 million in 2005 to 386 million in 2008. This drop, the report states, reversed the long-term trend of increase since 1981. “We have patted ourselves on the back because we have made progress, but we have to look critically at Africa to ascertain why Africa has been left behind in this progress,” said Chulu.

Another recorded success is that the 2010 target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of drinking water has been reached. The number of people using improved water sources rose from 76% in 1990 to 89% in 2010, translating to more than two billion people currently with access to improved sources such as piped supplies or protected wells.

The share of urban residents living in slums in the developing world has also declined from 39% in 2000 to 33% in 2012. More than 200 million have gained access to either improved water sources, improved sanitation facilities, or durable or less crowded housing. This achievement exceeds the target of significantly improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, also ahead of a 2020 deadline.

Nearly half of the population in developing regions (2.5 billion) still lack access to improved sanitation facilities. By 2015, the world will have reached only 67% coverage, well short of the 75% needed to achieve the MDG target.

Parity in primary education between girls and boys has also been achieved. Driven by national and international efforts, many more of the world’s children are enrolled in school at the primary level, especially since 2000. Girls have benefited the most. There were 97 girls enrolled per 100 boys in 2010—up from 91 girls per 100 boys in 1999.

The report says that enrolment rates of primary school age children have increased markedly in sub-Saharan Africa, from 58 to 76% between 1999 and 2010. Many countries in the region have succeeded in reducing their relatively high out-of-school rates even as their primary school age populations were growing.

The UN officials and expert panelists all agreed that while progress has been made in the primary level of education; they have to look at the quality of education, what happens beyond primary school and reasons for drop-out rates after primary school.

The report also states that at the end of 2010, 6.5 million people in developing regions were receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV or AIDS, constituting the largest one-year increase ever. Since December 2009, more than 1.4 million people were being treated.

There have also been important improvements in maternal health and reduction in maternal deaths, but progress is still slow. Reductions in adolescent childbearing and expansion of contraceptive use have continued, but at a slower pace since 2000, as compared to the decade before.
While success has been recorded, the report warns that the 2015 deadline is fast approaching and in order to achieve outstanding goals, governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector need to intensify their contributions.

Gender inequality persists and women continue to face discrimination in access to education, work and economic assets, and participation in government. Violence against women continues to undermine efforts to reach all goals. Further progress to 2015 and beyond will largely depend on the success of overcoming these interrelated challenges.

The report says a new agenda to continue efforts beyond 2015 is taking shape.  With its successes as well as setbacks, the MDGs campaign provides rich experience for this discussion to draw on, as well as confidence that further success is feasible.

Pictured at the launch of the 2012 Millennium Development Goals Report at Unisa on 19 July are, from left, back: Dr Moshe Swartz (Acting Deputy Director-General for Land and Tenure Reform: Department of Rural Development), Osten Chulu (UN Development Programme Regional MDG Policy Advisor), Fred van Zyl (Manager for Planning and Information: Department of Water Affairs), and Vusi Madonsela (Director-General: Department of Social Development); and from left, front: Dr Agostinho Zacarias (UN Resident Coordinator), Prof Mandla Makhanya (Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor), and Prof Veronica McKay (Deputy Dean: College of Education)

The Millennium Development Goals Report, an annual assessment of regional progress towards the Goals, reflects the most comprehensive, up-to-date data compiled by over 25 UN and international agencies. The report is produced by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. A complete set of the data used to prepare the report is available at

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