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Feature
July 3, 2007

Millennium Development Goals: Progress in ASEAN in 2007
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a global commitment by the United Nations (UN) and the countries of the world to make progress towards significantly reducing disease and poverty and promoting agreed development goals in the years leading up to 2015. By 2007, the world is well on its temporal way to reaching 2015 but a new UN report indicates the progress that must be made in order to reach the agreed goals. According to the report, the key challenges that remain to be overcome include:

• Over half a million women still die each year from treatable and preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth. The odds that a woman will die from these causes in sub-Saharan Africa are 1 in 16 over the course of her lifetime, compared to 1 in 3,800 in the developed world.
• If current trends continue, the target of halving the proportion of underweight children will be missed by 30 million children, largely because of slow progress in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
• The number of people dying from AIDS worldwide increased to 2.9 million in 2006, and prevention measures are failing to keep pace with the growth of the epidemic. In 2005, more than 15 million children had lost one or both parents to AIDS.
• Half the population of the developing world lack basic sanitation. In order to meet the MDG target, an additional 1.6 billion people will need access to improved sanitation over the period 2005-2015. If trends since 1990 continue, the world is likely to miss the target by almost 600 million people.
• To some extent, these situations reflect the fact that the benefits of economic growth in the developing world have been unequally shared. Widening income inequality is of particular concern in Eastern Asia, where the share of consumption of the poorest people declined dramatically between 1990 and 2004.
• Most economies have failed to provide employment opportunities to their youth, with young people more than three times as likely as adults to be unemployed.
• Warming of the climate is now unequivocal. Emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary contributor to global climate change, rose from 23 billion metric tons in 1990 to 29 billion metric tons in 2004. Climate change is projected to have serious economic and social impacts, which will impede progress towards the MDGs.

Progress in ASEAN
Focusing on the Southeast Asian region, it is apparent that progress in terms of indicators now exceeds the global average overall, although there is still a long way to go to reach developed country status (please note that country-level statistics are not yet available). In 1990, 20.8% of ASEAN’s people lived on less than US$1 per day – that proportion has now fallen to 6.8%. The proportion of underweight children has also declined, from 39% to 28% in the same time period. Meanwhile, universal primary education has risen to 90% across the region, which is partly a reflection of the importance placed upon education by the parents of Southeast Asia.

Gender inequalities are slowly being reduced, although women are still more likely to be involved in unpaid labour or to receive lower compensation to men for equivalent work. Nevertheless, prospects for women are rather better in most of ASEAN than in many other parts of the world because of the willingness of women to work outside of the house and hence put their human resources into the national development plan. Nevertheless, men still hold political control (and probably executive control as well, although private sector figures are less easily available). The proportion of parliamentarians in ASEAN has risen to 17% from just 10% in 1990.

Healthcare has improved considerably in terms of several important indicators. The proportion of women attended by skilled healthcare workers during childbirth has risen from 38% to 68% and this is also evident in the survival rates of children generally. Vaccinations have also slightly increased in proportion, although there is still plenty of scope for further improvements in this case. The proportion of people living with HIV/AIDS receiving retroviral care has reached 49% across all the region and recent innovations in licensing of generic drugs is likely to improve this figure further. However, in terms of overall numbers of patients, the situation is less sanguine. Tuberculosis remains a threat, although absolute numbers of infections are coming under control in most of the region.

Environmental issues, however, have continued to worsen, with declining forest cover, increased pressure on water resources and increasing pollution. Sanitation has improved, though, with 67% of ASEAN’s people now able to enjoy improved sanitation facilities. Nevertheless, more needs to be done to address the emergent global warming crisis.

The UN’s global progress report on the MDGs and progress to 2007 may be downloaded for free from the UN website at: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/mdg2007.pdf.

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