Millenium Goals Achievable for Asia-Pacific

MANILA, Philippines, September 7, 2005 (ENS) - To ensure global environmental sustainability, and to wipe out extreme poverty and hunger by the year 2015 are two of the eight goals the nations of the world have set for themselves. All eight goals are within reach for the the Asia-Pacific region, finds a new report released today by the the Asian Development Bank and two UN agencies, but none of the region's developing countries is prepared to achieve all the goals.

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established in 2000, following the Millennium Summit in New York, when the world's governments committed themselves to the ambitious set of development targets.


A new pump in Delhi, India provides clean water even a baby can reach. (Photo P. Virot courtesy WHO)
There are eight goals - eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.

Next Wednesday, world leaders will convene in New York at UN headquarters for three days of stocktaking as part of the opening of a new session of the UN General Assembly. They will assess progress toward the goals they adopted at a similar session five years ago, and map out future actions required to ensure they are achieved by 2015.

The Asian Development Bank and co-authors of "A Future Within Reach" from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) said today that the report is intended to be a key input to this meeting.

"Our region's accomplishments in reducing income poverty are now well recognized, but an immense task lies ahead of us," Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda told a conference today called to discuss the report's findings and recommendations.


President of the Asian Development Bank Haruhiko Kuroda has held the post since February. He is a former Vice Minister of Finance for International Affairs of Japan. (Photo courtesy ENB)
"Not all parts of the region, and certainly far from all the region's poor, are feeling the benefits of this progress," he acknowledged. "And, on the non-income MDGs, the region's performance has not been good."

"Money is important, but money alone is not enough," said Hafiz Pasha, UNDP regional director for Asia and the Pacific.

"Appropriate institutions must be in place to ensure the MDGs are achieved," he said, pointing to institutional bottlenecks that exist in many countries, such as costs, laws, and regulations.

"This creates significant barriers to providing access to the poor for services such as education, health, and water supply and sanitation, which are crucial to the attainment of the goals," Pasha said.

The report notes that one of the most direct ways governments can address poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals is by ensuring adequate basic services, either providing them directly or sustaining a framework for provision of these services through the private sector or civil society.


Poverty in Delhi, India (Photo P. Virot courtesy WHO)
"To achieve the MDGs, the key challenge is to tackle the region's growing disparities by extending the benefits of the region's economic success and prosperity to its 680 million poor," said Kim Hak-Su, executive secretary of UNESCAP. "This is the real battle we will have to fight in Asia-Pacific."

The report identifies the potential for successful regional cooperation in resource mobilization, monetary cooperation, regularizing labor migration, improving food security, tackling HIV/AIDS and other diseases, supporting green growth, improving governance, and strengthening interaction among regional institutions.

With its growing prosperity, some Asian countries are finding scope for regional cooperation in critical areas. The China, India, and others are already spending what the report calls "significant amounts" on assistance to less developed Asian economies.

Geert van der Linden, ADB vice president for knowledge management and sustainable development, says there now are "major opportunities to jointly tackle common threats,"

"A number of Asian nations have had great success reducing income poverty and improving the lives of hundreds of millions of people," he said. "This experience must be shared throughout the region to help the hundreds of millions more still facing dire situations daily."