8 September 2005

Millennium Development Goals in Reach in Asia, Says UN/ADB Report

(Reissued as received.)

BANGKOK, 7 September (UN Information Service) -- Asia and the Pacific is one of the world's most dynamic regions, and many of its countries are making progress towards achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  But none of the region's developing countries is on track to achieve all the Goals, according to a new report from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

"This region has made rapid progress towards many of the MDGs.  But not all the developing countries in Asia and the Pacific are making sufficient progress; indeed, none are currently on track to meet all the Goals by 2015", according to the report, A Future Within Reach: Reshaping Institutions in a Region of Disparities to Meet the Millennium Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific, which was released today in Manila.

The report argues that many countries should be able to achieve many of the Goals if they invest sufficient resources and make appropriate institutional changes -- in particular, reforming the way they deliver public services to reach their poorest and most marginalized citizens.

"To achieve the MDGs, the key challenge is to tackle the region's growing disparities by extending the benefits of the region's economic success and prosperity to its 680 million poor.  This is the real battle we will have to fight in Asia-Pacific", said Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary of ESCAP.

Asian developing countries will need to invest more resources to win this battle, according to the report.  But financial resources alone will not be sufficient.  The report argues that countries need to strengthen national and local institutions in many areas to support efforts to achieve the Goals.

The MDGs were established in 2000, following the Millennium Summit in New York, when the world's governments committed themselves to a series of development targets to be reached by 2015.

There are eight MDGs -- eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.

On 14-16 September 2005, world leaders will reconvene in New York to assess progress toward the goals and future actions required to ensure they are achieved.  A Future Within Reach will be a key input to this meeting.

"Money is important, but money alone is not enough", said Hafiz A. Pasha, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for the Bureau of Asia and the Pacific.  "Appropriate institutions must be in place to ensure the MDGs are achieved; however, institutional bottlenecks exist in many countries, particularly in terms of costs, laws and regulations.  This creates significant barriers to providing access to the poor for services such as education, health, and water supply and sanitation, which are crucial to the attainment of the Goals."

The report notes that one of the most direct ways Governments can address poverty -- and meet the MDGs -- is by ensuring adequate basic services, either providing them directly or sustaining a framework for provision through the private sector or civil society.

While most institutional changes to promote the MDGs will need to take place at the national level, the report highlights opportunities, particularly in the Asia-Pacific context, for concerted international action on the pursuit of "international public goods" such as open trading systems and clean air.

The report identifies the potential for successful regional cooperation in areas including resource mobilization, monetary cooperation, regularizing labour migration, improving food security, tackling HIV/AIDS and other diseases, supporting green growth, improving governance, and strengthening interaction among regional institutions.

"Our region's accomplishments in reducing income poverty are now well recognized, but an immense task lies ahead of us", ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda told a conference today to discuss the report's findings and recommendations.

"Not all parts of the region, and certainly far from all the region's poor, are feeling the benefits of this progress. And, on the non-income MDGs, the region's performance has not been good," he said.

"Given Asia's growing prosperity, there is considerable scope for regional cooperation in many critical areas.  The Peoples' Republic of China, India and others are already spending significant amounts on assistance to less developed Asian economies, and there are major opportunities to jointly tackle common threats", said Geert van der Linden, ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development.

"A number of Asian nations have had great success reducing income poverty and improving the lives of hundreds of millions of people.  This experience must be shared throughout the region to help the hundreds of millions more who still face dire situations daily", he said.

For further information, please contact:  In Bangkok:  Margaret Hanley, UN Information Services (UNIS), Tel: +(66-2) 288-1861-66, Fax: +(66-2) 288-1052, e-mail: . In Manila, Philippines:  David Lazarus, Chief, UNIS, c/o EDSA Shangri-La Hotel, 1 Garden Way, Ortigas Centre, Mandaluyong City, 1650 Manila, Philippines, Tel. (63 2) 6338888, Fax: (63 2) 6311067.

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