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Millennium Development Goals in Emerging Europe and Central Asia: A new report takes stock of progress and shows the way ahead

Geneva
The substantial progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in the pan-European region, and especially in countries with transition economies, risks to be interrupted or even reversed with the surge of the economic and financial crisis finds a new report, prepared jointly by the regional offices for Europe and Central Asia of 14 United Nations agencies and UNECE which coordinated and publishes the report.
Prepared for the MDG summit of 20-22 September, the report covers the whole pan-European region, focusing more particularly on three country groupings: Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia; south-Eastern Europe; and the new EU member States. It takes stock of the progress made in reaching the MDGs in these countries and offers decision-makers policy-oriented and operationally feasible suggestions for bolstering progress towards their full achievement by 2015.
The report emphasizes that coherent economic and social policies as well as targeted programmes are needed to achieve MDG objectives and refers to good practices in a number of UNECE countries, including Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Serbia, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey and Ukraine.
The report also highlights a number of human development challenges which are specific to countries with transition economies. They include rising inequalities, setbacks in social protection, comparatively low male life expectancy and unprecedented migration flows. Moreover, the newly independent States emerging from the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have encountered additional problems of nation-building and for many of them this has been accompanied by regional tensions or large-scale conflicts, affecting deeply the human capital and cohesiveness of their societies. A characteristic of the Eastern part of the pan-European region is the discrepancy between the seriousness of these problems and the governance capacity to address them. Pursuing actively institutional reforms according to the principles of a participatory political and social system, and a market economy therefore constitutes an overall challenge for most of these countries.
Main challenges to achieving MDGs by 2015
On the poverty front (MDG 1), in spite of rapid economic growth over the period 2000-2008, absolute poverty still persists among vulnerable groups and in disadvantaged areas and is widespread in parts of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, especially in resource-poor countries. The crisis has set back the progress that had been made in all countries in transition and in some of the new Member States of the EU.
With respect to MDG 2 (universal primary education), enrolment in primary education is good except for disadvantaged minorities and remote areas in some countries of the region. However, poor quality of education in many countries of Emerging Europe and Central Asia is jeopardizing the employment chances of millions of young people.
With respect to MDG 3 (gender equality and empowerment of women), women’s employment has largely improved throughout the region. However, the majority of women still occupy lower-paid jobs and many are working in the informal sector, with little or no job security and social protection. In spite of some progress, women continue to be strongly underrepresented in both political and economic decision-making positions.
Progress in reducing child mortality (MDG 4) has been impressive but uneven, with some countries on track or close to the target while others require a major scaling up of investment in public healthcare. There are also significant in-country inequities.
With respect to MDG 5 (improved maternal health), the maternal mortality ratio has fallen since 1990 throughout Emerging Europe and Central Asia. The progress in the region has been, however, neither universal nor consistent. Even in those countries that are on track to reach the MDG targets, there are still populations with inadequate access to basic health services.
The combat with HIV/AIDS and other diseases (MDG 6) has not been successful in large parts of Emerging Europe and Central Asia. The sharp increase in HIV infections over the past decades has strongly correlated with social exclusion processes.  The major challenge for controlling tuberculosis in the region is increasing treatment success, which is the lowest in the world. Of the 27 countries that account for 85% of all multi-drug resistant tuberculosis cases globally, 15 are in Emerging Europe and Central Asia.
Environmental sustainability (MDG 7) improved in the wake of painful industrial restructuring in transition economies but artificially low energy prices for end-users in some countries fail to send the right signals for energy conservation. Water management and land degradation continue to be major development challenges in Central Asia. Access to drinking water and sanitation is severely limited in rural areas of Central Asia, but it is also far from adequate in the Western Balkans.  And over 50 million people in over 15 countries of the region live in informal settlements.
Some targets pertaining to the global partnership for development (MDG 8) remain elusive. In 2010, the ODA as a percentage of GDP is likely to be approximately equal to the level in 1990 (0.33 per cent). Integration into the world economy of countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and South-Eastern Europe is hindered by lack of export diversification and by the fact that many countries are not yet WTO members. Some landlocked transition economies continue to be disadvantaged as a result of poor infrastructure and cumbersome border-crossing procedures.
For each of these eight goals, the report provides policy directions for accelerating progress. Since the MDGs are strongly inter-related, it also advocates for an integrated policy framework which should strike the right balance between macroeconomic, sectoral and social policies. Such an approach appears to be crucial for creating effective synergies between growth, employment, improved education and healthcare, and environmental sustainability.
The report is available at: http://www.unece.org/commission/MDGs/2010_MDG_Optimized.pdf
Note to editors
The report was jointly prepared by the following agencies:
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
United Nations Development Programme
International Labour Organization
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
World Food Programme
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Development Fund for Women
World Health Organization
United Nations Children’s Fund
United Nations Population Fund
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Industrial Development Organization
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
International Trade Centre
and coordinated by UNECE.
Ref: ECE/OES/10/P06

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