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The UN Millennium Development Goals

The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aim to halve global poverty by 2015. All members of the United Nations have agreed to work to the achievement of these goals, pledging aid assistance and integrating commitments to the MDGs in aid and development programs. The reality is, though, that the funding provided by the developed world is falling far short of the targets set and the levels required and undermining the achievement of specific goals.

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

2006 progress:
In 1990, more than 1.2 billion people – 28 per cent of the developing world’s population – lived in extreme poverty. By 2002, the proportion decreased to 19 per cent. However the number of people going hungry increased between 1995-1997 and 2001-2003. An estimated 824 million people in the developing world were affected by chronic hunger in 2003.

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

2006 progress:
Net enrolment ratios in primary education have increased from in 79 per cent in 1990 to 86 per cent in 2002 in the developing world, ranging from 95 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean to 64 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

2006 progress:
Women’s political participation has increased significantly since 1990. One in five parliamentarians elected in 2005 are women, bringing the percentage of parliamentary seats held by women in 2006 worldwide from 12 to almost 17per cent.

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

2006 progress:
Though survival prospects have improved in every region, 10.5 million children died before their fifth birthday in 2004 – mostly from preventable causes.

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

2006 progress:
Though the issue has been high on the international agenda for two decades, ratios of maternal mortality seem to have changed little in regions where most deaths occur (sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia). Skilled care at delivery is one of the key elements necessary to reduce maternal mortality. Though all regions show improvement, only 46 per cent of deliveries in sub-Saharan Africa, where almost half the world’s maternal deaths occur, are assisted by skilled attendants.

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

2006 progress:
Several countries report success in reducing HIV infection rates, through interventions that promote behaviour change. However, rates of infection overall are still growing. And the number of people living with HIV has continued to rise, from 36.2 million in 2003 to 38.6 million in 2005.

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

2006 progress:
Deforestation, primarily the conversion of forests to agricultural land, continues at an alarmingly high rate – about 13 million hectares per year. Per capita CO2 has remained fairly constant between 1990 and 2003, at 4 metric tons per person. But due to population and economic growth, overall CO2 emissions continue to rise, especially in the developing world, where growth has been most rapid.

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

2006 progress:
Aid to developing countries has increased steadily since 1997, reaching $106 billion – one third of one per cent of donors’ combined national income – in 2005. Developing countries have gained greater access to markets over the past decade. Three quarters of their exports entered developed country markets duty-free in 2004. Future debt payments for 29 heavily indebted countries have fallen by $59 billion since 1998, bringing their debt service to less than 7 per cent of export earnings.

AIDS and HIV

At the end of 2006 it was estimated that 39.5 million human beings worldwide were affected by AIDS. Sixty-four percent of this figure is concentrated in Africa and 22 percent in Asia.

Human behaviour is integral to the transmission of HIV and all efforts to halt its spread need us to understand the social and cultural traditions and values that relate not just to risk behaviour, but also to the appropriateness of talk about sexually transmitted diseases, the stigma of having acquired HIV/AIDS or being in contact with those who are affected. Frontline service workers working in AIDS-affected communities often must deal with government denial and impediments to controlling the spread of AIDS as well as with gender, class and racial discrimination which amplifies the impacts of HIV/AIDS on the poorest people.

In many countries children and families are particularly affected. It is estimated that globally 15 million children under the age of 15 have lost one or both parents to AIDS and that by 2010 this number will exceed 25 million. Frequently the oldest child, grandparent or another household assumes the responsibility of care for the family, but often children whose parents have died of AIDS are stigmatised and ostracised by their communities because they are assumed to be HIV positive themselves. The consequences of HIV/AIDS for children are far-reaching, increasing their exposure to poverty, malnutrition and illness (physical and psychological) as well as the risks of homelessness, exploitation through labour, begging, neglect or prostitution, violence and abuse, and the likelihood of not acquiring an education.

Child labour

According to UNICEF approximately 246 million children across Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa are engaged in child labour. Almost 70 per cent (171 million) of these children work in hazardous conditions in mines, with dangerous machinery and vehicles, or exposed to chemicals and a high risk of injuries related to heavy lifting and fatigue. Most child labourers are invisible, working within homes, workshops or isolated agricultural plantations where detection is unlikely. Millions are forced into work – including prostitution, pornography and as child soldiers in armed conflict – as a consequence of trafficking and kidnapping, debt bondage or other forms of slavery.

The demand for child labour continues due to factors such as poverty, family dysfunction, unemployment, obligations to help support the family, and parents’ negative attitudes towards education. Around the world, children are typically recruited from poor, rural communities. The parents or caregivers of these children often have little education so the children are vulnerable to all forms of exploitation. The invisible nature of their work increases a child’s vulnerability to physical, emotional and sexual abuse, working long hours with little or no pay and prevents children from attending school.

Education

The right to education is one of the basic human rights enshrined in the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. For an estimated 115 million children worldwide this right has been denied or disrupted. There are many factors contributing to and perpetuating this, including the impacts of conflict, violence and natural disasters in displacing people or leading to the destruction of education facilities and infrastructure.

Gender inequalities, expressed through the relative economic and cultural value of an education for boys and girls, out-and-out discrimination, or a lack of safety for girls outside the home, also mark the record with women and girls making up approximately two-thirds of the world population that lacks basic literacy skills.

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