The pan-European region is highly diverse, and includes the high income economies of Western Europe, which are also key Official Development Assistance (ODA) donors; middle-income emerging donors from Central Europe, which have joined the European Union; and a group of 18 ODA eligible nations, half of which are classified as landlocked developing countries with a few being low-income nations and having similar characteristics to the least developed countries.
Achievement of the MDG targets has been varied in the region, which can be split into three country groupings: Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia (EECCA); South-Eastern Europe (SEE); and the New Member States of the European Union (NMS).
On one hand, the region achieved remarkable progress on the poverty front between 2000 and 2008, characterised by vibrant economic growth, followed by a bounce-back from the great recession in the emerging economies. Considerable gains were also made in other MDG related areas, such food security, child and maternal mortality, women employment, and environmental sustainability and energy efficiency.
On the other hand, progress has been rather uneven, with huge and persistent disparities between sub-regions and countries, as well as between geographical areas and population groups within nations. The 2008/09 economic crisis seriously threatened some countries in the pan-European region with regard to acute poverty.
Other major challenges with regard to the MDGs include the quality of primary education, unequal access to primary health care and reproductive health, underrepresentation of women in decision-making positions, growing informal settlements, lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation in rural areas, and rise in the prevalence of HIV and tuberculosis in some parts of the region.
Highlights with regard to MDG progress in Europe and CIS
Growth and Poverty reduction
The poverty rate increased in the Europe and Central Asia region in the early 1990s, pushing many states off track to attain the first MDG – halve the proportion of poverty by 2015. However, a rebound and strong growth significantly reduced poverty in many ECA nations and put many back on track.
In the five year period between 1998 and 2003, an estimated 41 million people in the ECA region moved out of $2-a-day poverty measure, which is considered a more appropriate measure for the cold climate.
The low-income nations are growing at a remarkable rate. The per capita GDP growth rate in 2006 was estimated to be 11.5 percent, which is faster than any other region, and is attributed to strong commodity prices and export earnings.
The increase in economic and social inequality has affected the distribution of incomes, access to good education, employment opportunities, and access to property. Inequality has increased considerably in nearly all the countries over the last ten years, largely due to the rise in inequality of wages following the liberalisation of labour and product markets.
This is still the biggest factor preventing the achievement of MDG 2 in emerging Europe and Central Asia. Factors like poverty, culture, gender, ethnicity, race, disability, health, and geographical location have resulted in marginalised groups studying for fewer years, and receiving education of poorer quality.
Gender parity has practically been achieved in the region. Countries with transition economies have made significant strides in this area, including free access to schools and universities, universal enrolment for basic schooling, with strong emphasis on equity.
There has been steady decline in estimates for under-five mortality rates across emerging Europe and Central Asia, with considerable variations between sub-regions and countries.
The average maternal mortality in the entire region fell from 39 deaths per 100,000 live births to 27 between 1990 and 2005. Progress in reducing maternal mortality rates has been unsatisfactory, being neither consistent nor universal. Even in nations that are on track to achieve the MDG targets, there are still populations with lower access to services.
There has been a sharp increase in HIV infection over the last 10 years, especially among populations experiencing significant exclusion across social, cultural, political, and economic dimensions. In 2008, there were over 100,000 newly diagnosed cases of HIV in Europe – the highest in the decade.
There has been enormous reduction in the number of malaria cases reported, from 90,712 cases in 1995 to 285 in 2009. Tuberculosis cases have also reduced, though slowly, from 53 per 100,000 persons to 39 between 2000 and 2008.
Since 1990, all sub-regions have been quite successful in reducing their CO2 emissions. The region has improved production efficiency, retrenched energy-intensive extraction industries, and concurrently shifted to service-oriented economies to green sources of fuel.
Achieving the MDGs has proven more difficult than initially foreseen. Contrary to the insightful expectation that money and other resources were the key requirement, if not the only one, progress in many instances has been slow or absent. The New EU Member States have done remarkably well to achieve most of the MDGs, while the south-eastern countries have managed to address hit more than 50 percent of the targets. Middle-income nations in the CIS have also achieved more than 50 percent of their MDGs.
Progress has, however, been slowest in the low-income CIS countries, with terrible performance of MDG 6 due to increasing levels of HIV and tuberculosis. It is unfortunate that the countries that need the MDGs the most will not achieve 50 percent of the target, but better focus on singular aspects with the SDGs should yield better results.