Arab countries can achieve MDGs by 2015

Dec 14, 2010

Young boy playing the violin at a music
institute in Iraq. (Photo: UNDP/Julie Adnan)
The Arab region has achieved progress in many MDGs, including significant strides in health and education, says a recently launched UN Report. However, there have been setbacks and constraints attributable to several factors, including the relatively poor economic performance in the 1990s and early 2000s, inadequate financing of social policies, and increasing political tensions and conflicts.
According to the Third Arab Human Development Report (AMDGR) for 2010, the Arab region continues to be characterized by sharp disparities between the different sub-regions While the high income countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council  are on-track to achieving most of the MDG targets, the poorer countries, most of which suffer from conflict, together with Iraq and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, lag significantly behind, making it unlikely that they will be able to meet the majority of the targets by 2015.

Within this context, the Millennium Development Goals can only be achieved by 2015 through following suitable economic and social policies.

“The challenge today in the Arab region is to agree on an action agenda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. With five years to go to the target date of 2015, the prospect of falling short of achieving the Goals is very real. This would be an unacceptable failure from both the moral and developmental standpoints,” maintains the report.

Arab countries are on track with respect to halving the proportion of people living below $1.25-a-day. However, the picture changes when considering national poverty lines whereby the Arab region did not experience significant progress in reducing income poverty, which is concentrated in rural areas. Moreover, labor markets in most Arab countries are characterized by a wide spread of unemployment. Unemployment is particularly evident among the youth.

With regard to achieving universal primary education, the Arab region has seen improvement in net enrolment rates, literacy rate of young adults aged 15-24 and gender parity in primary schooling.

Women’s economic and political participation remains very limited in the Arab region. Additionally, women’ representation in national parliaments still remains low, despite the fact that some governments have adopted some temporary measures, such as the quota system, to allow more space for women’s political participation.

Under-five mortality rates have declined by half in the Arab region over the period 1990-2008. But the Least Developed Countries in the region  are still off track. The universal immunization coverage will not be achieved by 2015 without addressing problems of accessibility to vaccines, low health facility coverage, suboptimal delivery strategies and unavailability of services in conflict areas and for mobile and displaced populations. 

There are great variations in reducing maternal mortality rates among countries of the region – ranging from levels below 10 per 100,000 live births in some Gulf countries to around 1,600 per 100,000 in Somalia.

With respect to environment, all Arab Countries share, in varying degrees, the major challenge of improving environmental governance and integrating environmental resources management into poverty reduction strategies and national development plans. The Arab region as a whole only contributes less than 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions, but the impacts of climate change on the region are of major concern to policy makers who recognize that the Arab region will be negatively impacted by climate change.

In the last three decades, rapid population growth and the acceleration of social – economic development in the Arab countries were linked to significant increases in the demand for water. The proportion of population receiving access to improved drinking water sources is still low.

There are six priorities that have a strong effect to reduce the constraints identified in the Arab region. These priorities include: food security, poverty reduction; adaptation to climate change; and youth employment and decent work; and to promote gender equality.

UNDP Around the world