Monday, April 18, 2005

[MDGs] UNICEF Says 115 Million Children, Mostly Girls, Miss School

18 April 2005

A new report by the U.N. children's fund says more children than ever are going to school. But UNICEF says about 115 million children, mostly girls, are still denied a basic education.

UNICEF says there has been significant progress in getting children in school and in narrowing the gender gap between boys and girls. But it says progress is still too slow. At the rate it is going, it says the target of universal primary education by 2015 set by the U.N. Millennium Development Goal will be missed.

The UNICEF report says most countries in sub-Saharan Africa and many in South Asia are furthest away from meeting this goal. It notes that 82 percent of all children who do not attend school live in rural areas. It says the biggest barriers to education are poverty, conflict and HIV-AIDS.

In another telling statistic, the report says about 75 percent of children who do not attend primary school in developing countries have mothers who did not go to school.

UNICEF's executive director, Carol Bellamy, says girls who go to school benefit in many ways from the experience. "They are more likely to grow up healthy. They are more likely to have stable household incomes. Their own children are more likely to survive and stay healthy and their children are more likely to go to school. The evidence is overwhelming that the exclusion of women and girls, that discrimination against women and girls in all its forms, is the biggest anchor holding back national development around the world," he said.

The report gives a country-by-country snapshot of progress toward gender parity in schooling and universal primary education. It finds Peru, Sao Tome, Vietnam and Ghana are closest to reaching gender parity by 2015. The countries furthest away from reaching this goal are Yemen, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mali.

Ms. Bellamy says there are several concrete steps communities can take to get more girls to attend school. "It can range from how close the school is to where the village is because parents are worried about girls walking [a] long distance, to having separate sanitary facilities in schools, separate latrines in schools for both boys and girls. Quite a simple thing. Not a hugely expensive matter, but it makes a difference to [getting] girls in school. Having access to clean water in school because girls are usually the ones that have to fetch the water, to the issue of school fees. School fees [are] the single largest stumbling block to children generally going to school, but particularly girls going to school," he said.

UNICEF says it will take a radical shift in thinking and policies to make universal primary education and gender parity in schools a reality. The report says one example of this kind of thinking is Kenya's decision to abolish school fees for primary schools, as Tanzania and Uganda have also done.

[Africa] IMF's Poverty Plans 'Making It Unpopular'

Kevin J Kelley
Washington, DC

Africans hold an increasingly negative view of the International Monetary Fund, its ministers have declared.

The ministers, among them Finance minister David Mwiraria, charged at the fund's spring meeting in Washington at the weekend, that this was due to IMF's failure to reduce poverty.

The ineffectiveness of the IMF's poverty-reduction and debt-relief programmes made it difficult to implement economic reforms because "they are perceived as policies imposed by the IMF", the African governors declared.

The IMF also continued to impose "politically sensitive" conditions on its loans to Africa, "which makes it difficult to keep the programmes on track", the governors added.

They urged the fund to "promote outreach and dialogue with the broader African population", and called for increased African representation at the upper levels of the IMF staff and in its decision-making organs.

Africa currently accounts for 43 of the IMF's 184 governors - one for each of the fund's member countries.

But Africa holds only 4.4 per cent of the voting rights within the IMF, which are allotted in accordance with the amount of money countries contribute to the fund. The US has the greatest single say, with 17 per cent of voting rights, followed by Japan with 6.1 per cent and Germany with 6 per cent.

Efforts to meet the 2015 deadline for achieving the UN's Millennium Development Goals have been "unsatisfactory", the African governors said.

They further criticised rich countries for refusing to reform their "trade-distorting policies" and for giving insufficient attention to Africa's needs concerning agriculture, energy and infrastructure.

The governors' critique coincided with the rich countries' failure, once again, to devise a debt-cancellation initiative for Africa.

Finance ministers of the Group of Seven (G-7) rich countries attending the IMF meetings were unable to agree on how to pay for such a move.

But Britain's Gordon Brown, who has been campaigning for major increases in aid to Africa, predicted on Saturday that a debt-lifting deal would be reached by the time of the G-7 July summit in Scotland.

A more positive picture of Africa's prospects is presented in an IMF report released in the run-up to the meetings. It notes that 20 sub-Saharan nations have achieved annual economic growth rates of more than five per cent.

Kenya's growth this year is projected at 3.5 per cent.

But African clothing exporters could soon lose thousands of jobs due to the lifting of trade quotas that had restricted sales by China, the report warns, adding that "the pressure on employment could be severe".

Sunday, April 17, 2005

[MDGs] Annan urges anti-poverty efforts by rich, poor countries

WASHINGTON: UN chief Kofi Annan called on Saturday on wealthy nations and the developing world to join forces to defeat poverty, a mission that he said requires not just aid but security and market access.Addressing a joint meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, Annan said developed countries must stump up much more cash to make their aid budgets reach a UN target of 0.7 percent of gross domestic product. Rich countries must also show more commitment to a successful conclusion of talks at the World Trade Organisation, including duty-free access for exports from the least developed nations “as a crucial first step”, he said.A comprehensive response to the special needs of Africa, including the fight against AIDS, and new ways to fight climate change must also feed into a special UN summit in September devoted to development issues.But the developing world for its part must improve governance, and use increased aid flows properly, to ensure grinding poverty is eased, Annan said according to the published text of his remarks.“By the same token, developing countries are more likely to support those vital security and human rights objectives if they see that donor countries are willing to make a greater effort for development, and to give them a stronger voice in global economic governance,” he said. Annan said that this year represented a “unique opportunity” to get back on track towards the UN’s so-called Millennium Development Goals.The goals, which were set in 2000 and will be reviewed at the September UN summit, aim to slash global poverty in half by 2015, step up the fight against diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis and increase access to education. “Certainly on the development side we need a step change this year — otherwise it will be too late for many countries to have any real hope of reaching the (goals) by 2015,” the UN secretary-general said.
[Source afp]