BANGKOK, THAILAND - Asia and the Pacific has led the world in the drive to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 per day projected to fall from 53% in 1990, to 12 per cent by the end of the year.
But even where the goals have been met, millions of people are still deprived, says a new United Nations report.
The final assessment of regional progress toward the MDGs, Making it happen: Technology, finance and statistics for sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific presents an optimistic picture of how far the region has come. Yet, it underlines the crucial need to address ongoing challenges in the post-2015 development agenda.
The report, jointly published by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), comes at a critical point, as the UN transitions from the development focused MDGs to a post-2015 development agenda.
To maintain the momentum for the post-2015 agenda, the report notes, the region will need to address three key areas of implementation: extending the benefits of technology to all, mobilizing the necessary financial resources, and building statistical systems that can monitor the progress of the poorest groups to ensure that no one is left behind.
“The Asia-Pacific region has made great progress, helping drive the world towards major success but unfinished business remains,” explained Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. “To maintain momentum for the post-2015 agenda, the region needs a data revolution. The world is seeing explosive growth in the production of data, particularly Big Data, generated from the use of the internet, our mobile electronic devices and satellite imagery. To fully utilize these new sources we should be exploring new technological possibilities for the production of statistics.”
“Technology has made major contributions to economic growth and human development in the Asia Pacific region,” said Haoliang Xu, UNDP’s Assistant Administrator and Director for the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific. “To continue to effectively deal with our complex development challenges and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to focus even more on data, technology and innovation that can help us attain transformational impact on the lives of the poor and excluded groups in society.”
Stephen Groff, Vice-President of ADB, also called for a shift from an aid-centric approach on development finance to much wider financing for development: “Governments, development partners, municipalities, businesses, financial and civil society groups will have to explore all possible sources of finance—public and private, whether domestic or international—to see how these can be coherently combined around shared agendas to meeting the SDGs.”
The report shows that between 1990 and 2012, the proportion of the region’s population living on less than $1.25 per day fell from 53% to 14%, and by 2015 it is projected to fall to 12%. In addition to the dramatic drop in poverty level, more than two-thirds of countries are expected to halve the proportion of the population without access to safe drinking water by 2015. Nearly all primary-aged children now complete school, and students at all levels of education benefit from gender parity.
Even for some of the targets that have not been achieved, there have been impressive advances. For instance, the rates of under-five and infant mortality fell short of the required two-thirds reduction, but passed the 50% mark. Often the most rapid progress was registered in countries that started furthest behind.
In some instances, where goals have been met, there is still much progress to be made, and several goals continue to lag behind. In 2012, 569 million people were still living on less than $1.25 per day, 21 million children were not enrolled in primary school, and more than one-fifth of under-five children—75 million—were underweight. In addition, 1.2 billion people in rural areas, and 480 million in urban areas, still lacked access to basic sanitation.
It is clear that although progress has been made in achieving in the MDGs, more work still needs to be done to improve the lives of people in Asia and the Pacific and beyond. As the UN Secretary-General has said, the post-2015 development agenda offers us a “once in a generation opportunity” to end extreme poverty, reduce inequalities, achieve shared prosperity and foster real sustainability.