Progress on MDGs a mixed bag for our Pacific neighbours

Released on 7 July, The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Report 2014 examines the progress that has been made towards realising the MDGs. A set of eight goals to be achieved by December 2015, the MDGs are important stepping stones to improving the lives and futures of the world’s poorest.

The report highlights some big improvements, namely that poverty rates have halved between 1990 and 2010, five years ahead of the 2015 timeframe. This has reduced the number of people living in extreme poverty by 700 million. Other targets have been met, including:

• Improved access to drinking water sources
• Reduced child mortality
• Reduced maternal mortality ratio
• Increased political participation of women
• Gender parity in primary school enrolment

Despite clear progress, substantial effort still needs to be made in many areas to achieve the set targets. For example, “over one-quarter of the world’s population has gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, yet one billion people still resort to open defecation.”

Furthermore, when considering data from Oceania, which concerns our Pacific neighbours, many statistics demonstrate setbacks:

• The proportion of children under 5 who are moderately or severely underweight has increased from 18% in 1990 to 19% in 2012
• The proportion of seats held by women in Parliament decreased from 4% in 2000 to 3% in 2014

As for Pacific island nations, the Pacific Regional MDGs Tracking Report (2012) shows that, while improvements have been made, many of our Pacific neighbours are off track in achieving the MDGs. Papua New Guinea shows the least improvement: it is off track for all eight goals.

The Australian National Committee for UN Women is particularly concerned that none of the Pacific island nations are on track to eliminate hunger and poverty. In the Solomon Islands, the number of slum dwellers is increasing, there is no improvement in under-five mortality or maternal mortality and there remains a very low representation of women in parliament.

With mixed results arising from the MDG reviews, talk is now turning to creating Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon says “will serve as a core of a universal post-2015 development agenda. “Our efforts to achieve the MDGs are a critical building block towards establishing a stable foundation for our development efforts beyond 2015.”