Winning the war against poverty and inequality: what is our next battle plan?

Winning the war against poverty and inequality: what is our next battle plan?

The UN just released it's The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015. Photo Credit: www.UN.org

The UN just released it’s The Millennium Development Goals Report
2015. Photo Credit: www.UN.org

On Monday, the United Nations published its Millennium Development Goals Report 2015 assessing the past fifteen-year efforts to achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – on poverty, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, disease, the environment and a global partnership. The findings bear two important messages.

Firstly, unprecedented progress has been achieved and the world has won many battles against extreme poverty. The number of people living under $1.25 a day has more than halved since 1990, falling from 1.9 billion to 836 million in 2015.

Global poverty rate. Photo Credit www.UN.org

Fall in global poverty rate since 1990. Photo Credit www.UN.org

Undeniable improvements in the lives of girls and women have been achieved. Many more girls are in school and gender parity in primary school has been achieved in the majority of countries. The maternal mortality ratio declined by 45% since 1990.

Global health has improved. New HIV infections fell by around 40% between 2000 and 2013 and over 6.2 million malaria deaths have been averted between 2000 and 2015, primarily of children under five in sub-Saharan Africa.

Yet this report also bears a second – far less positive- message. Progress has been uneven and the world will not meet the eight MDGs in time for 2015 deadline. The globe is still far from winning the war against extreme poverty and inequality as the poorest and most vulnerable are being left behind.

Millions of people still live in poverty and hunger, without access to basic services. About 800 million people still live under $1.25 a day and suffer from hunger. Although the world is close to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, sub-Saharan Africa and least-developed countries (LDCs) are very far behind. 58% of the world’s children of primary school age who are out of school are in sub-Saharan Africa. The region also still has the highest child mortality rate.

School children doing their homework! in Kenya. Photo: Hailey Tucker

School children doing their homework! in Kenya. Photo: Hailey Tucker

Although gender equality has improved, poverty remains sexist. Girls and women are more likely to live in poverty than boys and men. Women continue to face discrimination in access to work, economic assets and participation in private and public decision-making. More than half of primary-school-age children who are not enrolled in school are girls.

Investments in more and better data are necessary to monitor progress and successfully channel resources to achieve development outcomes. About half of the 155 countries analysed lack adequate data to measure poverty. In addition to large data gaps, most development data has a time-lag of 2-3 years, hindering real-time assessment.

As the MDGs come to an end this year, the world will agree this year on a new set of Global Goals, the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’, to end extreme poverty and leave no-one behind by 2030. The MDG Report 2015 released yesterday reveals that a concerted focus on the poorest people and the poorest countries will be a prerequisite to ensure the most vulnerable aren’t left even further behind beyond 2015.

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Photo Credit: www.globalgoals.org

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Photo Credit: www.globalgoals.org

If world leaders are serious about eradicating extreme poverty and tackling growing inequalities, their first task will be to agree on a financing plan that lives up to these aspirations. Next week is THE week to make it happen. World leaders will meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 13 to 16 July to set the financing strategy of the new goals.

Some key measures currently on the table can help make the post-2015 aspirations a reality. The latest version of the Addis Accord includes a commitment to a new social compact to deliver essential services, including health and education, for all to ensure basic needs are met. A new target to allocate 50% of development assistance to LDCs is also included in the text and a growing number of donor countries are getting behind this new measure. The text refers to the importance of a data revolution to improve our ability to track progress.

Besides the commitments included in the Addis Action Agenda, countries and other stakeholders are now working on some concrete deliverables to be announced in Addis to turn words into reality, such as countries investing more resources and time into data collection and reporting. Such commitments and deliverables will be game-changers in ensuring the poorest countries get sufficient resources to meet the basic needs of all their citizens and no-one is left behind.

World leaders need to show leadership and support these deliverables by making meaningful and clear commitments to hold themselves accountable to, so that the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2030 only bears one message: mission accomplished!

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