Challenges Remain for Achieving MDGs in Central Asia

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Countries in the Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus have made significant progress in working toward some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but efforts to achieve others have slowed or even regressed, an Asian Development Bank expert said ahead of a regional meeting on the issue.

The region has already achieved some of the MDGs, particularly those related to carbon emissions, primary education and partly also drinking water and sanitation.

But major problems remain in income poverty, malnutrition, access to tertiary education, HIV/AIDS, the environment, as well as soil and water management.

While countries in Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus drew up detailed programs for growth and poverty reduction in the early 2000s, effective implementation remains a challenge, even for the resource-rich nations, said Armin Bauer, a Senior Economist at ADB.

“It is worrisome that some countries show regressing trends and slow MDG progress,” he said.

Special attention needs to be given to the non-income poverty indicators related to early childhood development, affordability of health and new lifestyle related diseases, social protection and water and soil management to address environmental poverty, Mr. Bauer said.

While the region has achieved full primary enrollment, progress also needs to be made in improving tertiary and vocational education so that it’s more affordable for the poor and more relevant for labor market needs. Regional cooperation is an opportunity to strengthen pro-poor growth.

Addressing the challenges will be the topic at the MDG Forum for Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus on July 19-20 in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic.

About 100 high-level government officials, members of civil society, donors, media and academe are expected to attend.

Participating countries will include Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Neighboring regional cooperation countries such as the People’s Republic of China, Iran, Mongolia and Russia have been invited by ADB and UNDP as observers.

The Bishkek MDG Forum is part of a regional partnership between ADB, ESCAP and UNDP to accelerate progress towards MDG results in Asia and the Pacific. The partnership supports monitoring MDG progress, raising awareness and develop capacities and improving policies and institutions for achieving the MDGs. Major activities are regional reports, technical papers, MDG data base improvement, and dissemination and advocacy.

ADB has supported growth and livings standards in this region since 1995. It has been involved particularly in education and early childhood development, in agriculture and rural small scale finance, in water and land management, in drinking water and sanitation schemes, and especially in transport and energy programs. In recent years, ADB’s support to the region shifted increasingly to regional cooperation.