Women speak out on the UN Millennium Development Goals

Johannesburg, South Africa, 12-13 November 2004


In September 2000 at the United Nations Millennium Summit, 189 governments reaffirmed their commitments to fulfil a collective responsibility for sustainable development and poverty eradication by the year 2015. They adopted the Millennium Declaration, which listed eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs):

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development.

The first seven goals include measures of human development in poor countries. Each goal has one or more targets, and several quantifiable indicators measure each target. The key elements of goal 8 pledge financial support and policy changes in debt relief, trade and economic governance to assist poor countries' domestic efforts to meet the first seven goals.

Socialist International Women welcomes the endorsement of the Millennium Declaration by 189 head of states in 2000, but regrets that four years later rich countries have failed to follow through convincingly on their initial commitment. This failure was underscored by the UNDP Human Development Report 2003, which showed that under current conditions the Millennium Development Goals would be missed in nearly 60 countries, especially the poorest ones in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Andes and Central Asia.

The target for goal 1; Halving the proportion of people living on less than one dollar a day and those who suffer from hunger by the year 2015', will on current rate of progress in Sub-Saharan Africa not be met in 2015, but in 2150, 135 years too late.

The target for goal 2; Ensuring that by 2015, children everywhere, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling', will not be met in Sub-Saharan Africa on the current rate of progress. The promise of 'universal primary education' will be delivered not in 2015 but in 2130, 115 years too late. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the burden of outstanding debt is more than the countries spend on health care and education combined.

While all the MDGs are critically important, 'gender' cross cuts all the MDGs and gender equality is crucial for the implementation of the Millennium Declaration. Education for women and girls – while a goal in itself – also contributes to achieving the goals of reducing child mortality, relieving hunger and poverty, and combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Expanding women's access to and command over income and productive resources contributes to poverty reduction and reduction in child mortality. Women are instrumental in protecting the environment and ensuring effective use of natural resources including water, soil and trees.

Socialist International Women therefore:

  • states that promoting and protecting human rights as well as building democracy are fundamental prerequisites in eradicating poverty;
  • states that the Millennium Development Goals will remain hollow words if development policies do not shift from 'gender blind' to 'gender responsive';
  • underlines that gender should become the 'default' mechanism for donors, governments and communities in reaching the MDGs;
  • calls on governments to re-establish the Millennium Development Goals as the core objective of international development policy;
  • urges the richest countries to make concrete efforts towards the target of 0.7 per cent of GDP for official development assistance (ODA) if the poorest countries draw up their anti-poverty programmes to open up trade and investment and tackle corruption;
  • urges the IMF and the World Bank to help raise the needed increase in financial resources in order to reach the MDGs;
  • reiterates that highly indebted countries need special consideration for debt cancellation from international institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank;
  • underlines that the international community and the international agencies need a clear framework upon which to base policies, programmes and development assistance for achieving the MDGs;
  • demands that the gender dimension is mainstreamed in the Governments' National Reports on the Millennium Development Goals.

In conclusion, Socialist International Women calls on all member parties of the Socialist International in the North to put pressure on national parliaments to help finance the MDGs, to monitor the commitments made by donor governments and to hold them accountable. In the same way all member parties of the Socialist International in the South have to fulfil their part through good policies and transparent governance.



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