With some of the world’s most dynamic economies, and more than half of the global population, Asia and the Pacific region has helped drive the world towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The MDGs have made a significant contribution to the growth of Asia-Pacific by helping to direct attention and resources towards common objectives, which has, in turn, spurred action and achievement on a wide range of vital issues. Across the region, governments acknowledge the value of having a clear set of goals, and many have incorporated the MDGs framework into their national development planning.
Overall regional progress
One of the greatest successes in the region has been for poverty. Between 1990 and 2012, the proportion of the Asia-Pacific region’s population living on less than US $1.25 per day decreased by two-thirds, from 53 to 14 percent (from 1.7 billion people to 569 million). The MDG target was to reduce the poverty rate by half, and the nations in the region with sufficient data have met the target, except one.
The second notable success is in regard to safe drinking water. Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion fell from 28 to 7 percent. Between 1990 and 2012, the proportion fell from 1.7 billion to 1.2 billion, while that in urban areas increased from 380 million to 480 million. As with poverty, the target was to halve this proportion, and more than two-thirds of the nations with data have met the target.
The Asia-Pacific region has also been successful in meeting other targets. Notable achievements include:
- Nearly all primary-aged children are enrolled in school, and manage to complete their primary educations. Additionally, students at all levels of education benefit from gender parity. Between 1990 and 2014, the number of pupils not enrolled in primary school reduced from 74 million to 21 million, though some countries in the region have the highest numbers of out-of-school children in the world.
- Three countries in the Asia-Pacific region have attained a proportional representation of 30 percent women in national parliament.
- With regard to health, the Asia-Pacific region has reduced the incidence and prevalence of tuberculosis.
- On the environmental front, the region has maintained the proportion of land covered by forests, and increased that which is protected. The region has also reduced CO2 emissions per unit of GDP.
- There has been considerable reduction of mortality rates. Between 1990 and the latest available year, under-5 mortality fell by 58 per cent, and infant mortality by 54 percent – though this did not meet the target of a two-thirds reduction.
- Maternal mortality fell by 61 percent, though this also fell short of the MDG target of 75 percent reduction. Nevertheless, most countries in the region achieved a 50 percent reduction in maternal mortality.
However, there are a number of targets that the region not only failed to hit, but also made slow progress, including:
- Nutrition – The Asia-Pacific region has struggled to reduce the proportion of children who are either moderately or severely underweight. An estimated 20 percent (75 million) children under-five are underweight.
- Maternal health services – Although the proportion of live births without skilled birth attendance fell by 36 percent, while that of expectant mothers without access to antenatal care declined by 57 percent, the achievements were still from the MDG target of universal coverage. In the region, 27 percent of births still occur without any qualified medical attention.
- Sanitation – The proportion the population without access to basic sanitation declined by only 37 percent compared to the 50 percent MDG target. Additionally, an estimated 1.7 billion people in the Asia-Pacific region – 42 percent of the population – don’t have access to basic sanitation.
- Gender equality – In 2012, the proportion of women in non-agricultural wage employment was estimated to be 32 percent, compared to a target of 45 percent
- Infectious disease – Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people living with HIV increased from 2 million to 7.1 million. The highest prevalence is in South-East Asia – though it is declining in Thailand and increasing in Indonesia and Vietnam. By 2012, an estimated 8 million people were affected.
Post MDG 2015
Of all the subregions in Asia-Pacific, including South Asia, Southeast Asia, North and Central Asia, and the Pacific, South-East Asia has had the most success, and is expected to meet 14 of the 21 MDG targets. Markedly, it had achieved three targets that the entire region has missed, namely the reduction in the proportion of underweight children and the target for access to antenatal care and basic sanitation.
North and Central Asia is expected to meet 12 of the targets, while South Asia is expected to meet 11 of them. Tracking progress in the Pacific has been a challenge, with data only available for 17 targets, 8 of which are expected to be met.
The entire Asia-Pacific region has done remarkably well in regard to achieving the MDGs, and to maintain this momentum post 2015, and push forward with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the region needs to address three key areas of implementation: mobilising the necessary financial resources; extending the benefits of technologies to all; and establish statistical systems that can monitor the progress of the poorest groups to ensure no one is left behind.