The Big Divide

The Big Divide

A Ten Year Report on Small Island Developing States and the Millennium Development Goals You do not have access to this content

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John L. Roberts, Ibukunoluwa Ibitoye
17 Dec 2012
9781848591448 (PDF)

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This report provides a comprehensive assessment of progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from a small states perspective. The authors compare the performance of 46 small island developing states (SIDS) with 10 benchmark states, illuminating achievements and highlighting areas in which countries are falling behind.

The data, 2000–2010, shows that despite their many commonalities, a ‘big divide’ separates these countries across the range of MDG economic, social and environmental indicators. The report also highlights aspects of the MDG system that are not well attuned to the interests of small states, and recommends how these issues can be resolved. The analysis and recommendations presented in this study will be very useful in the context of on-going international discussions on the MDGs in the light of their conclusion in 2015, and in consideration of successor goals.
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  • Foreword and Acknowledgements

    The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were agreed by the UN General Assembly in 2000 as a worldwide strategic commitment for monitoring progress towards sustainable development. The UN has published many reviews on the MDGs, covering both global and regional perspectives. This report from the Commonwealth Secretariat focuses on progress made by small states. It is based on data collected in 2010 – ten years after the UN Millennium Declaration – and provides a comparative analysis of progress made by 46 small states against 10 benchmark states.

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    • Introduction and Key Findings

      This report is a review of progress toward the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in selected small and island states, including the 32 Commonwealth small states (CSS) and 14 non- Commonwealth countries classified by the UN as small island developing states (SIDS). For ease of reference these will be referred to collectively simply as ‘the 46 small states’.

    • Assessing Progress

      The MDG system, agreed at the UN Millennium Conference in New York, 6–8 September 2000, consists of eight MDGs and 21 targets, which apply to key aspects of development to be pursued by every country worldwide.

    • Findings

      Compared with other countries, small states have not moved quickly enough in the pursuit of the MDGs. The 10 benchmark states outperformed the 46 small states in terms of both targets ‘achieved’ and those ‘on-track’. Off-track indicators are similar for both groups, but the 46 small states have substantially higher levels of indicators with missing data (see Figures 3.1 and 3.2).

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Review of Performance

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    • MDG 1: Poverty Relief

      At the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000, world leaders recognised that the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots is a threat not only to economic and social wellbeing, but also to wider security. The relief of poverty is now one of the cornerstone objectives of international aid policy and of the work of UN agencies.

    • MDG 2: Universal Education

      Education is a key element in development and an integral component of the UNDP Human Development Index. The goal of widening access to education among children – the second pillar of the MDGs – is necessary for social and economic development.

    • MDG 3: Gender Equality

      Women commonly are found to have less attainment than men across the fields of employment, education and politics. Yet the promotion of equality and economic and social empowerment for girls and women is widely recognised as an important catalyst for development, not least because over half the world's population is female.

    • MDG 4: Child Health

      The survival of new-born babies and children under five years old is one of the principal measures of the state of public health and has been generally well reported and documented in most countries over the years. Notably, performance has been closely related to other health, social and economic indicators, especially poverty, maternal and child health services,1 education, nutrition, shelter, safe water and sanitation.

    • MDG 5: Maternal Health

      Maternal deaths are largely avoidable, but prevention depends upon a range of factors, including security, nutrition, safe water and sanitation, education, primary health care, skilled attendance at childbirth, reduction in multiple pregnancies, birth control and continued technical monitoring of those most at risk.

    • MDG 6: Disease Control

      The spread of disease has an extremely adverse impact on the attainment of all other MDGs, as it can cripple the capacity of national and local government and private enterprise, robbing organisations and communities of talented and capable individuals.

    • MDG 7: Sustainable Environment

      The continued degradation of the natural environment in small and island states is unsustainable and damages efforts to maintain the economic value of their productive natural assets. The wider provision of safe water, sanitation and decent housing for urban dwellers is essential for economic and social progress.

    • MDG 8: Partnerships

      In small states the absence of economies of scale and limited capacity for specialisation inhibit economic, social and environmental progress and make international, regional and global partnerships essential components in development policy and programmes. MDG 8 recognises this and seeks to promote support from developed countries through aid, trade and debt relief.

    • Challenges of the MDG system

      Much progress has been made by the 46 selected small states in the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals. Despite this, however, the 10 benchmark states have by and large surpassed the small states covered in this study. Meanwhile, the microstates with populations of less than 100,000 have been left well behind in the overall league tables. However, this is an incomplete picture, clouded by the fact that a substantial amount of data are missing.

    • Conclusions and Recommendations

      Substantial progress towards the achievement of the MDGs has been made by the 46 small states, although missing data preclude effective assessment of vital aspects, including poverty reduction, improvements in environmental quality and the control of disease.

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