This week, we’re blogging and tweeting from New York, trying to keep up with the blizzard of events, meetings and talks intended to spur global progress toward achieving the eight development goals agreed to by UN member nations in 2000. You’ll see coverage elsewhere on this blog, as well as on our newly-revamped @worldbank Twitter feed. And we’re only one of many voices online this week talking about the MDGs.
The World Region
MDG Summit participants were off and running yesterday, speaking, blogging, Tweeting and texting from the main U.N. campus and at several marquee side events nearby.
A high-level “Education for All” advocacy session—focused on MDG 2, to achieve universal primary education—got the ball rolling, with Queen Rania of Jordan and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaking out for universal access to quality schooling.
Almost two thirds of developing countries reached gender parity at the primary school level by 2005. Maternal mortality rates have dropped by a third. As many as 76 developing nations are on track to reach the goal of access to safe drinking water.
The statistics tell us there is a clear path to achieving the goals. So in New York, the focus should be on action and the next concrete steps to turning the goals from paper targets to reality. Given a decade has passed, the time for just more talk has also passed.
Malnutrition happens early in life, and we have a critical, 1,000-day window of opportunity between the time before birth, (what we call pre-pregnancy) until the age of two. This is a special time when we can make a huge difference in a child’s life. If we miss that opportunity, we miss an entire generation because the damage that happens in the early months is irreversible. Such damage affects not just the child’s ability to learn, but also his or her ability to become a fully capable and productive citizen.
Over on the World Bank's climate change blog, Andrew Steer, Special Envoy for Climate Change, notes that the effects of climate change will be felt most acutely by the poor:
There is an old-fashioned view that rich countries can afford to think about climate change but developing countries have more urgent short-term needs. This is well and truly debunked by the evidence of where developing countries are putting their money. Four out of five countries we work with, list climate change among the top priorities for their anti-poverty plans. In the past twelve months, nearly 90% of Country Assistance Strategies requested by developing countries, and approved by the World Bank’s Board, listed climate change as one of the major pillars for World Bank support.
Read the full post.
Following months of preparation, the U.N. Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) officially kicks off this morning in New York. Traffic is bumper-to-bumper and security tighter than usual in Manhattan’s Midtown East area, but the 140+ country delegations gathered here are focusing on how to accelerate progress on the goals to meet the 2015 deadline.
At today’s U.N. General Assembly plenary session, World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick called for a redoubling of global efforts to achieve the MDGs, which he said were “central to the World Bank Group’s mission and our everyday work.”
New research by Chris Murray at the University of Washington gives us powerful evidence of the importance of achieving MDG 2 -- education for all. Murray found that half the reduction in child deaths over the past 40 years can be attributed to better education of girls. For every one-year increase in the average education of reproductive-age women, a country experienced a 9.5 percent decrease in child deaths.
Fifty countries have already achieved universal primary education, but there are still 70 million school-aged children who are out-of-school - more than half are girls. Girls also lag behind boys in completing school. This is unacceptable. World Bank President Bob Zoellick just announced an additional $750 million in IDA support over the next five years to help girls and boys - mostly in Africa - to get in school, stay in school and learn.
This morning, on my way to an advocacy event on “Delivering for Girls, Women, and Babies” at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, I was thinking about a pregnant Tanzanian woman in a film preview I saw recently. The preview of No Woman, No Cry had captured with terrifying clarity the helplessness of a sick pregnant woman in a remote village in Tanzania. I couldn’t help thinking the Manhattan streets around me were far removed from such painful realities.
But, as Graca Machel pointed out during the event, this wasn’t always the case. A women’s hospital had once occupied the site of the historic Waldorf Astoria—it was in fact the last hospital in the United States for women with obstetric fistulas. “We should make every fistula hospital in the world just as unnecessary as this one was found to be,” Machel said.
It’s been 10 years since the World Bank signed on to the Millennium Development Goals. At the time, I managed the Bank's HIPC initiative, providing debt relief for the most heavily indebted countries, and I remember the hope we all felt. I am now responsible for IDA—the World Bank’s fund for 79 of the poorest countries, for whom the MDGs are critical, and I can say that our commitment to these goals remains as strong today, if not stronger.
We have made considerable progress on many of the goals. Growth over the past decade has contributed to reductions in extreme poverty. In 1990, over 40 percent of the population in developing countries lived on less than $1.25 per day. By 2005, that share fell to roughly 25 percent and is expected to fall to 15 percent by 2015, more than meeting the goal to halve extreme poverty.
As the global summit gets off and running in New York to look at progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, we have a great deal to celebrate. At the same time, we have some big challenges ahead in order to realize the promise of the goals: a world that overcomes poverty and hunger, where all citizens have access to opportunity and hope.
On the celebration side: 30 years ago, 52 percent of people in developing countries lived in extreme poverty; by 2005, that share had been cut by more than half. In Africa before the triple blow of the food, fuel and financial crises in 2008, primary school enrollment rates were rising faster than in any other continent, and child mortality rates had fallen by 25 percent in about 13 countries in just 4 years.