With three years remaining until 2015, the 2012 progress report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) released earlier this month highlights progress in many important areas including poverty reduction, access to safe drinking water and reduced levels of child mortality.
The 2012 report is the eighth of a series launched in 2005 and provides both comprehensive statistics and clear analysis in order to assess achievements and remaining challenges.
The 2012 progress report outlines gains in poverty reduction and access to safe drinking water, and an improvement in the lives of slums dwellers in urban areas. The report also highlights important gains towards gender parity in primary education, a decline in levels of child mortality, a downward trend of tuberculosis and global malaria deaths and an expansion of treatment for HIV sufferers.
A lot has been achieved however impediments to reaching all the MDGs by 2015 remain. A particular area of concern includes the slow decrease in levels of vulnerable employment, defined as the share of unpaid family workers and own-account workers in total employment. Whilst improvements in maternal health and a reduction in maternal deaths and adolescent childbearing can be seen, decreases are far from the 2015 target.
Lastly, and perhaps most concerning is the fact that hunger remains a global challenge. The most recent UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimate of undernourishment set the mark at 850 million living in hunger in the world in the 2006/08 period; 15.5 per cent of the world population. Additionally, progress has also been slow in reducing child under-nutrition, with close to a third of children in Southern Asia deemed underweight in 2010.
The Millennium Development Goals have guided governments, private industry and civil society for over a decade, they have given purpose and a benchmark with which to assess progress. It is clear the way forward is to again summon the collective will witnessed in the 2000 Millennium Declaration and continue to boldly pave the way beyond 2015.
A main outcome of the recently concluded Rio +20 conference was a plan to set Sustainable Development goals (SDGs), however negotiators at Rio were unable to agree on themes, which will now be left to an "open working group" of 30 nations to decide upon by September 2013. Two years later, they will be blended with Millennium Development Goals.
The final outcome document from the conference included a statement which at least acknowledged the reality and serious threat posed by climate change:-
“We acknowledge that climate change is a cross-cutting and persistent crisis and express our concern that the scale and gravity of the negative impacts of climate change affect all countries and undermine the ability of all countries, in particular, developing countries, to achieve sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals and threaten the viability and survival of nations. Therefore we underscore that combating climate change requires urgent and ambitious action, in accordance with the principles and provisions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”
It remains to be seen if those words will be backed up by action.
Every year well over US$1 TRILLION goes missing through mismanagement, illicit business practices and poor governance. This money doesn’t just evaporate - it is actually deducted from the livelihood of some of the poorest people in the world.
About 3.5 billion people live in countries rich in oil, gas and minerals. Revenue from these sectors is often one of the greatest sources of wealth generated within developing countries, but such wealth often provides little benefit to the people living in these countries, especially those living in poverty. This is due to losses from tax dodging by the companies involved or corruption by the governments of the countries in question.
Currently many mining, oil and gas companies only report their finances on a global or regional basis, making it impossible for local communities to know how much tax and royalties have been paid to their governments, and therefore impossible for them to hold either the companies or their government to account.
The G20, of which Australia is a member, has encouraged disclosures by the mining, oil and gas industries of payments made to governments. Further, the US government has introduced laws which require companies in the oil, gas and mining sector listed on the US Securities and Exchange Commission to have to report on taxes and royalties paid to governments on a country-by-country and project-by-project basis. The Australian government is yet to support such action.
Country by country reporting requirements are a vital step towards reducing tax evasion and other forms of corruption by shining a light into areas where there is currently a veil of secrecy. This makes it harder for companies to shift their revenues to tax havens unseen. It also increases the ability of citizens of developing countries to hold their own governments to account for the tax revenue they receive from natural resources.
Visit the Micah Challenge website to sign a petition urging the Australian government to support the call for greater transparency in reporting by mining, oil and gas companies.