13 September 2010
With only five years left until the deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), South Africa wants to use the United Nations summit in New York later this month to push for accelerated progress towards the goals.
The MDGs, crafted at a UN meeting 10 years ago, are regarded as the world’s most focused time-bound and quantified targets for addressing poverty, hunger, disease and lack of adequate shelter and sanitation worldwide.
South Africa’s progress report towards meeting the goals, expected to be tabled at the summit, identifies gender-based violence, HIV/Aids and maternal and infant deaths as key priorities the country’s delegates will be focusing on.
The meeting of world leaders is scheduled to take place from 20 to 22 September.
Ahead of the summit, South African non-governmental organisations met with President Jacob Zuma to brief him on progress made by the sector towards the achievements of some of the goals.
SA ‘making good progress’
Zuma said that while there were still a lot of challenges, South Africa had made significant progress in achieving many of the goals.
“There has been good coordination between all sectors and government including the [non-governmental organisations] to ensure that we are on time to meet some of the goals,” Zuma said.
The non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the government have also agreed to meet after the UN summit to do a “post-mortem” of what happens in New York and to assess the progress made by other countries.
Zuma said that, through the millennium goals, for the first time the world was able to identify priorities that were “very serious” and leaders were able to work together towards achieving common goals.
“I believe the summit will be an important [test of] whether we have made progress or not, and certainly from the South African point of view we have made a lot of progress, and, yes, in some aspects we have to do more.”
Escalation of partnerships
Mandisa Monakali of Ilitha Labantu, one of the NGOs to represent South Africa at the three-day UN summit, said one of the recommendations that civil society made to Zuma was to step up partnerships.
“We have touched a lot on that, and the message we are taking to the world is how we as a country are progressing in achieving our MGDs, because for us it is important to be seen as pushing towards the same direction,” Monakali said.
She added that if South Africa were to achieve all its MGDs, including alleviating poverty, it had to tackle gender-based violence and make it part of the MGDs. “It is an issue that cuts across and therefore should not be treated separately.”
Progress ‘far from uniform’
According to a report commissioned by the UN, between 1990 and 2002 average overall incomes increased by approximately 21%, while the number of people in extreme poverty declined by an estimated 130-million.
Child mortality rates fell from 103 deaths per 1 000 live births a year to 88. Life expectancy rose from 63 years to nearly 65 years. An additional eight percent of the developing world’s people received access to water.
But it said progress had been far from uniform. “There are huge disparities across and within countries. Within countries, poverty is greatest for rural areas, though urban poverty is also extensive, growing, and under-reported by traditional indicators,” reads the report.
Answering a question on the slow progress among other African nations, Zuma was adamant that there was “no need to be pessimistic” about Africa’s MDG targets. He said the fact that the countries were ready to give reports was an indication of their eagerness to show what has been done.
“So I don’t think we should be pessimistic in any way, because progress is being made, and I’m hoping all of us will be able to meet our targets,” he said.