Press Releases

    DEV/2540
    7 September 2005

    Major Asian Development Report to Be Launched on 7 September ahead of World Summit

    (Reissued as received.)

          BANGKOK, 5 September (UN Information Services) -- World leaders will gather in New York in September to assess progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) they set five years ago.  When they look to Asia and the Pacific, the picture will be mixed.

          On 7 September the Asian Development Bank (ADB), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) will launch a report on Asia's progress in each MDG area.  The report, titled "A Future within Reach:  Reshaping institutions in a region of disparities to meet the Millennium Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific", uses the latest data to track the movement of each country or territory in the region for each of the MDGs and assesses whether the goal will be met by 2015.

          In addition to assessing Asia's progress so far, "A Future within Reach" will outline the critical actions and changes that need to happen now to improve the region's chances of achieving the MDGs.

          The region is on track to reduce poverty by half -- the first of the MDGs.  It is tempting to assume this significant success means Asia will soon achieve the vision of a region free of poverty.

          But every day, the people of Asia and the Pacific are confronted by a different reality.

          "Asia has made impressive strides in reducing poverty during the last

    15 years, but the challenges facing the region remain great", says Kim Hak-Su, ESCAP Executive Secretary.

          "The absolute scale of deprivation of the poor in Asia-Pacific clearly indicates that the world cannot achieve the MDGs if the region's poor are neglected", Haruhiko Kuroda, President of ADB, said recently.

          Every day in Asia, hundreds of women succumb to complications in pregnancy and childbirth.  Thousands of children die from hunger, disease, and lack of medical care.  Hundreds of millions of desperately poor people struggle to exist in slums and villages lacking even the most basic services.

          United Nations data reveal that Asia and the Pacific is home to 71 per cent of the total number of people in the world without access to improved sanitation; 58 per cent of those without access to safe water; 56 per cent of the world's undernourished; 54 per cent of those living in slums; and the region accounts for 43 per cent of the world's child mortality.

          "Countries have generally done well in reducing income poverty, making progress towards universal primary education, and reducing gender disparity in primary education enrolment.  But there is a long way to go to achieve the health and environment-related goals.  These are critical to improving living standards for hundreds of millions of Asians", he says.

          In September 2000, leaders of the world's governments committed themselves to achieving a series of development targets that came to be known as the Millennium Development Goals.  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.

          "Money is important, but money alone is not enough", says Hafiz A. Pasha, UN Assistant Secretary-General and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Director of the Bureau for 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 of services such as education, health, and water supply and sanitation, which are crucial to the attainment of the goals."

          In the past five years, the Goals have helped developing countries and the international community focus their development efforts and encourage discussion among a broad range of people in each society on national and regional development priorities.

          A key purpose of the MDGs is to raise awareness of the gaps in progress and to focus attention, and action, on the changes needed to provide equal access to opportunities for all people, especially the poor and vulnerable.

          The report, the first compiled jointly by a UN regional commission, UNDP and a regional multilateral development bank, will be submitted to the UN General Assembly High-level Millennium Summit +5 in mid-September in New York.

          "The report argues for change, not only for making substantial investments in key areas, but also for carrying out major institutional changes at the local, national, and regional levels to make the development process fairer and more inclusive", according to the report's foreword.

          The report's findings and recommendations will be the focus of a one-day conference at ADB headquarters in Manila on 7 September.  The conference will bring together from around Asia and the Pacific senior government officials, representatives of civil society organizations, non-government organizations, academic, and representatives of bilateral and multilateral development agencies.

          "The MDGs have focused the minds of the development community and sparked a huge amount of research, investment, and work designed to reduce poverty and improve living standards around the world", says Geert van der Linden, ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development.

          "But as this new report will show, our region must do more to turn our efforts into real results on the ground.  What must emerge now is a stronger, more comprehensive partnership among all stakeholders to achieve our shared aspirations for a poverty-free Asia and Pacific.  Without such a partnership, the grand promises set out in the MDGs and broadly committed to around the world will remain just that -- promises -- with hundreds of millions of people still imprisoned by poverty", he says.

          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: unisbkk.unescap@un.org.  In Manila:  David Lazarus, Chief, UNIS, c/o EDSA Shangri-La Hotel, 1 Garden Way, Ortigas Centre, Mandaluyong City, 1650 Manila, Philippines, Tel. (63-2) 635 2222; Fax: (63-2) 683-1111.

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