The countries of the world stand a fair chance of cutting poverty by half in the coming decade and enabling billions more people to enjoy the fruits of the global economy, says a new landmark report by the United Nations.
The report, Investing In Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve Millennium Development Goals, predicts that if the MDGs are achieved by 2015, more than 500 million people will be lifted out of extreme poverty, that 300 million will no longer suffer from hunger while dramatic progress in child health will see 30 million children able to live beyond the age of five.
“There is more. Achieving the Goals will mean safe drinking water for another 350 million people, and the benefits of basic sanitation for 650 million, allowing them to live healthier and more dignified lives. Hundreds of millions of more women and girls will lead their lives in freedom with more security and more opportunity,” the report says.
The report presented to Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week by the project director, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, adds that long-term poverty reduction requires sustained economic growth, which in turn depends on technological advance and capital accumulation. The MDGs play two roles in the growth process – both as ends in themselves, and as “capital inputs” to economic growth and further development, it says.
It says that the number of people living in slums and slum-like conditions in the world’s cities is growing, adding that rapid rural-to-urban migration has produced massive slums in the cities of many developing countries, where inhabitants lack secure tenure and may not have access to basic water and sanitation services.
Between 1990 and 2001 the slum population grew in every region except North Africa and the CIS countries of Europe. An estimated 900 million people live in slum like conditions, more than 250 million of them in South Asia, where roughly 60 percent of the urban population lacks secure tenure.
In Sub-Saharan Africa more than 70 percent of the urban populations live in slums. The problem is also severe in Latin America, where roughly a third of the urban populations live in slums.
With water and sanitation one of the most critical problems in the world’s urban slums, it says, “improved water and sanitation infrastructure raises output per capita through various channels, such as reduced illness.”
According to the report, many countries are reaping the benefits of globalization and are on track to achieving at least some of the Goals by the appointed deadline of 2015. It cites World Bank estimates showing that between 1990 and 2001, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from 28 to 21 per cent in the developing world, with the number of people living in extreme poverty dropping from 1.21 billion to 1.09 billion.
However, the report cautions that there is still cause for concern especially if the world regions are looked at broadly. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, AIDS infections, resurging malaria, falling food output per person, deteriorating shelter conditions and environmental degradation might see most of the countries missing most if not all of the Goals.
The Project drew on the contributions of eminent people. They include Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico; Mari Pangestu, Minister of Trade, Indonesia; M.S. Swaminathan, World Food Prize Laureate; Amina J Ibrahim, National Coordinator for Education for All at the Federal Ministry for Education, Nigeria, and Pedro Sanchez, winner of the MacArthur Genius Award and World Food Prize laureate.
Others were Agnes Binagwaho, Executive Secretary of the National Commission to Fight AIDS, Rwanda; Awash Teklehaimanot, Director of the Malaria Program at Columbia University; Yolanda Kakabadse Navarro, President of the World Conservation Union; Albert M Wright, Chairman of the Africa Water Task Force, Yee-Cheong Lee, President of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, and Calestous Juma, former Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
“We are in a position to end extreme poverty within our generation,” Sachs said. “Not just cutting poverty in half— if we want to eliminate extreme poverty, we can do that by 2025.”