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Policy advocacy and partnerships for children's rights

Millennium Development Goals a major focus, at United Nations General Assembly

By Rebecca Obstler

“We are moving ahead at full steam towards the crucial year of 2015, the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We will showcase MDG successes throughout the week and at a special partnership event on Monday.”
–Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, press conference at the beginning of the sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly, 17 September 2013

NEW YORK, United States of America, 19–27 September 2013 – At the opening of the sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly on 17 September, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the Assembly would focus on both accelerating achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ahead of their 2015 deadline – and intensifying efforts to define a post-2015 development agenda.

Through a series of events during the packed week, UNICEF has renewed its vigour to achieve for children what the Millennium Declaration envisaged in 2000 – and to ensure that children are at the centre of the sustainable world to come. Events highlighting successes and challenges along the road to achieving the MDGs have been complemented by sessions on the different themes the MDGs address, such as poverty, education, nutrition and health. A special focus has been placed on the partnerships and innovative approaches that will be critical to reaching targets for children – and for all of us.


© UNICEF/NYHQ2012-1438/Dormino
A woman and her infant at a hospital, Nicaragua. MDG 4 sets out to reduce the world’s 1990 mortality rate of children under 5 years old by two thirds by 2015, while MDG 5 aims to cut the world’s maternal mortality ratio by three quarters within the same timeframe.

27 September – 825 days, and counting

By Kristin Taylor

When global leaders gathered at the Millennium Summit in 2000, they had big plans for the world’s future. Adopting the United Nations Millennium Declaration, they committed their nations to the achievement of eight significant development advancements by a deadline of 2015 – the MDGs.

Improvements for women and children were considered no small priority. MDG 4 sets out to reduce the world’s 1990 mortality rate of children under 5 years old by two thirds by the 2015 deadline, while MDG 5 aims to cut the world’s maternal mortality ratio by three quarters within the same timeframe.

The goals were – and are – ambitious, but they have been pivotal in spurring the world to achieve significant gains for women and children. For children under 5, the mortality rate decreased from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 48 per 1,000 live births in 2012, meaning 17,000 fewer children die every day. And maternal mortality has been nearly halved, declining by 47 per cent between 1990 and 2010.

There are 825 days until the 2015 deadline. But more lives must be saved, urgently, if the world is to meet the goals it set out to achieve. At the current pace, the world will be 13 years late in achieving MDG 4, not reaching the mark until 2028. But exactly how much progress remains to be made, and how do we get there?

These questions drove the panel discussion Lives on the Line: How we can save 3.7 million women and children in less than 1,000 days, held on 25 September. In short, to achieve MDGs 4 and 5, the world must accelerate its current progress, saving an additional 3.5 million children and 200,000 women from preventable death between now and 2015.

Among the panellists, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake discussed how much of the world’s earliest work toward reaching the MDGs targeted children and women in accessible places. But leaders soon realized the goals could only be met by ensuring that the poorest and those who are hardest to access were also reached – because those who live in the remotest locations, with the most restricted access to basic services, are the most vulnerable to preventable deaths.

But, if they are to survive, the most marginalized children and women must be reached with more than just health services. Maternal mortality is 2.7 times more likely to claim the life of a woman who has not been educated. And ensuring that girls go to school improves their ability to care not only for themselves, but also for the children they may one day mother. In fact, the steady increase in the global rate of female educational attainment is considered linked to more than half of the recent reduction in child mortality.

And with undernutrition as a contributing factor in about half of all under-5 deaths, the hardest-to-reach children must receive nutrition support. Access to safe sources of water and improved sanitation and hygiene facilities are also essential, helping to prevent diarrhoea, a leading cause of child mortality that claimed the lives of more than 1,600 children under age 5 every day in 2012. Continuing to build on innovative ways of using technology to improve health will remain critical to advancing successes.

Technology also played a vital role in driving the night’s panel discussion, which was live-streamed and called for virtual attendees to engage in the conversation by submitting questions for the panellists via Twitter. Panel moderator and Al Jazeera journalist Femi Oke relayed one tweeted question: “What can the average person do to help?”

One should actively seek avenues to provide support for pregnant women in local communities, advised Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance Joy Phumaphi. Dr. Julie Gerberding, President of Merck Vaccines, encouraged educating oneself on issues and calling for change through voting processes, when possible.

“What you can do is as near as your computer or your cell phone,” said Mr. Lake, drawing on the power of social media to forge global connections and drive positive change. “This is a new world. There are movements out there that you can join.”

What will you do during the 825 days – and counting?

23–27 September – Support for education for Syrian children, and all children in emergencies

MDG 2 is Achieve universal primary education. Among the key interventions necessary to ensuring that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling is to ensure safe and protective access to quality education in humanitarian emergencies.

27 September – At an event held to mark the one-year anniversary of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, global leaders stressed the need for more leadership and better coordination of funds to deliver on the global education promise.

24 September – UNICEF and the European Union signed a new cooperation agreement today that provides an additional US$45 million to protect children affected by the Syrian crisis and promote access to learning in Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic.

23–24 September – During United Nations week, Vietnamese singing sensation and advocate Crystal joined forces with American icon and United Nations Messenger of Peace Stevie Wonder to push for a “world of inclusion” – including access to education.

23 September – Today, new financial commitments and a new youth crisis committee to help Syrian refugee children in Lebanon were announced at a press conference convened by A World at School and Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown. Education advocate Malala Yousafzai was in attendance.

23 September – During the past school year, almost two million Syrian children aged 6–15 dropped out of school because of conflict and displacement. Despite efforts to provide Syrian children with uninterrupted learning, education remains the most underfunded sector of the response.

23 September – Education cannot wait. At a meeting addressing education in countries affected by conflict and other emergencies, global leaders stressed that children need education not 'even' in emergencies - but 'especially' in emergencies

25 September – Children’s right to safe water and sanitation

MDG 7 is Ensure environmental sustainability. A major target associated with this goal is to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

A new alliance forged in New York on 25 September brings together faith-based organizations in common pursuit of a water-secure world – one in which all children may enjoy their right to safe drinking water and to adequate sanitation.

© frog design inc.
The innovative tri-fold Backpack PLUS opens to cover the lap of a community health worker and is equipped with easily accessible pockets that contain items to perform diagnosis, registration and referral, and treatment.

23 September – Forum on MDG success

By Kristin Taylor

A forum on MDG Success: Accelerating Action, Partnering for Impact showcased concrete examples that have helped speed progress toward achievement of the MDGs. Lessons learned from these examples play a vital part in preparing for the final stretch before the 2015 deadline – and also in shaping the world’s post-2015 goals.

“We have but 829 days, as of today, until the end of 2015, our deadline to achieve the MDGs,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the opening session of the event. “So why, with so much left to do, and under a looming deadline, do I say that success is still within our reach? Simply put, because people working together all over the world have proven that transformational change is possible in an accelerated timeframe.”

Innovation and its contribution to successes played a key role in the event. Using well-known innovations in technology in new ways is helping to promote positive social change and improve health. In Uganda, the mobile phone application mTRAC is helping health workers manage health-related information via SMS. In China, a social media campaign has helped raise public awareness about the importance of breastfeeding.

Unique design innovations are also changing the development landscape. The Backpack PLUS, which is being developed with support from UNICEF and other partners, was presented at the meeting. A tri-fold backpack that opens to cover the lap of a community health worker, Backpack PLUS is equipped with easily accessible pockets that contain items necessary to perform diagnosis, registration and referral, and treatment. Innovations that support and enhance the work of community health workers – who often provide the only medical assistance available in remote areas – result in more saved lives.

Improving health and saving lives are the cornerstones of MDG 4, which seeks to reduce child mortality, and MDG 5, which strives to cut maternal mortality. Innovations that promote best health practices and increase the availability of essential medical services draw the world ever closer to achieving both.

With focuses that span the spectrum of the MDGs, Mr. Ban’s multi-stakeholder initiatives and movements – including Every Woman Every Child, the Global Education First Initiative and Scaling Up Nutrition – have also been key players in the gains made to date. Such partnerships are also the way forward.

“The quantum leaps necessary for MDG success have come, and will come, from partnerships and coalitions among a broad range of stakeholders such as those here today,” said Mr. Ban. “Multi-stakeholder partnerships are being increasingly recognized as development game-changers, fostering a race for results.”

Read MDG Update: Accelerate Progress for Children – Towards a Post-2015 development agenda for all children




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