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SA to meet development goals

Written by Chris Bathembu
The South African government will continue to work towards meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) whose 2015 deadline is fast approaching.

The MDGs are eight goals that were signed by United Nations member countries in 2000 and in them countries committed to work towards halving extreme poverty rates and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS. They also pledged to provide universal primary education by the target date of September 2015. The MDGs have been seen as the most successful global antipoverty push in history.

In September the United Nations General Assembly in New York discussed the future of these goals and the possibility of replacing them with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which countries will now sign-off. The SDGs will have 17 goals and 169 targets.

The MDGs have just eight goals and 21 targets. Despite the progress that the continent has made, reports continued to show that Africa is lagging behind in terms of the attainment of some of the goals.

The UN says through MDGs, the world has managed to lift nearly one billion people out of extreme poverty. The MDGs have also been hailed for increasing universal primary education, reducing maternal and infant mortality by nearly 50 percent, and increased access to clean drinking water.

Africa lagging behind

But with less than 300 days before deadline, it’s not looking good for the majority of African countries that have signed up for these goals. While political instability, which meant that development had to take the backseat, has been blamed for failure to meet the MDGs by some countries, analysts say the global economic crisis had also slowed down growth in some countries. This meant that budgets had to be reduced and some of these goals could not be met.

There were countries, like Somalia, Malawi and many in the western Sahara that were affected by years of drought, floods, lack of foreign investment and outbreak of diseases. These countries will not deliver the commitments of the MDGs.

For its part, however, South Africa has done well and already met some of the goals. Among the areas the country has achieved includes progress in the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger through its social security system in the form of grants and work opportunities linked to the Expanded Public Works Programme.

In education, South Africa introduced no-fee schools and universal primary education and compulsory schooling for the age group seven –15 years. South Africa seems to be on the way to meet MDG 6 by recording major successes in the fight against HIV/Aids.

“South Africa has recorded impressive progress through the expansion of health infrastructure and improved access to health services for all South Africans,” President Jacob Zuma said during the General Assembly.

“On the reduction of child mortality, MDG 4, and the improvement of maternal health, MDG 5, significant progress has been recorded, but more work remains. In fact, more work remains worldwide to fully achieve these goals, especially in the developing world,” he said.

What happens after MDGs

President Zuma emphasised that Africa had to confront those underlying root causes that continued to make it impossible for its people to have a better life.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said the new agenda which follow the MDGs should promote sustained and inclusive economic growth, safeguard the future of the planet, and lead to the achievement of sustainable development.

President Zuma said that agenda “will provide a frame of reference for our collective agreement on what has to be done”.

“We reiterate that developed countries should be reliable partners and meet their commitment to development goals, such as contributing 0,7% of their gross national income towards Official Development Assistance.”

Climate change

For the first time in the history of the UN, the General Assembly in New York this year also set aside a day to discuss climate change and its devastating impacts on the environment. Climate change which is the result of global warming is a serious problem for planet earth. Its threats include severe changes to weather which in turn pose serious challenges to human health and food security.

At the climate summit the UN asked world leaders to make bold announcements and actions to that will reduce carbon emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015.

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, who represented South Africa in the meeting said South Africa was doing its bit to address climate change with responses ranging from mitigation, adaptation as well as legislation that promotes green economy.

“We have really done well as a country. We have done an easement report of does South Africa stand with its greenhouse gases… we have also moved to quite a few things including what we call the desired emissions reduction outcomes.

“That strategy helps us to begin to allocate per sector the carbon reduction capacity and what every sector should do to reduce carbon emissions,” Minister Molewa said citing transport and the energy departments as examples of sectors that have started to reduce emissions.

South Africa is also a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, an environmental treaty negotiated by the UN in 1992.