Eight Goals for 2015

By extending basic services to their most vulnerable people, Asia-Pacific countries can achieve MDGs by 2015

Asia and the Pacific has already taken considerable strides towards achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly in reducing levels of poverty. However, the region is still lagging on some important targets, particularly those related to health. Maintaining a good balance between economic, social and environmental sustainability is also a challenge for Asia-Pacific countries.

Looking beyond aggregate results, significant disparities surface both across countries and within them in terms of achievement against the Goals. East Asia has fared much better than South Asia. The region’s 13 least developed countries (LDCs) have had slow progress against several of the MDGs. Even in middle income countries, progress has been uneven. There are equally wide disparities within countries attributing to various factors, including marginalization and discrimination on the basis of gender, class, ethnicity and location.

Tangible improvements can be made on lagging MDGs by 2015 through additional and persistent efforts. “Attention must be directed at those being left behind and specific interventions devised, according to each country situation, to eliminate these imbalances,” said the 2012 ESCAP/ADB/UNDP Asia-Pacific MDG Report: ‘Accelerating Equitable Achievement of the MDGs: Closing the Gaps in Health and Nutrition Outcomes’.

Asia and the Pacific is classified as an early achiever in halving the proportion of people living below $1.25 a day. However, the region is still home to two-thirds of the world’s poor. Since Asia-Pacific countries, on average, have relatively low unemployment, one reason for persistent income poverty is lack of decent work, particularly for women and young people. The region is lagging behind in reducing hunger and improving nutrition status of children.

As for children’s access to basic education, Asia and the Pacific has made good progress on enrolment in primary education but is slow in the retention as many drop out of school. 

Despite the successes in achieving gender parity at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, women in the region face severe deficits in decision-making power and in their access to non-agricultural wage employment.

Achievement of health goals shows a mixed result. Asia and the Pacific underperforms with respect to reducing infant, child and maternal mortality rates. On the other hand, the region has performed well on communicable diseases: the spread of tuberculosis has been reversed, and a number of countries managed to reduce the rate of new HIV infections.

With respect to environment, Asia and the Pacific, on average, has been good in forest management and maintaining terrestrial and marine protected areas. However, there is a significant variation in terms of country level performance, largely owing to the net loss of forests in many Asia countries. While most of the accumulated carbon dioxide emissions are owing to the developed economies, an increasing contribution is coming from Asia and the Pacific.

The region has failed to extend basic sanitation sufficiently rapidly with over 1.7 billion persons or more than 70 percent of the developing world’s poor remaining deprived in this respect. The proportion of population receiving access to safe drinking water is still low.