UNFPAState of World Population 2002
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State of World Population
Characterizing Poverty
Macro-economics, Poverty, Population and Development
Women and Gender Inequality
Health and Poverty
HIV/AIDS and Poverty
Poverty and Education
Population, Poverty and Global Development Goals: the Way Ahead
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Population, Development and the Millennium Development Goals
Other Key Issues
How to Meet Poverty Eradication Goals

How to Meet Poverty Eradication Goals

What needs to be done to halve the numbers of the poor by 2015? For countries, overall economic growth is not enough: it requires directing development efforts to the poor. The international community should take account of the context of poverty, going beyond market forces to create an international environment that encourages development.

FRAMEWORK The international conferences of the 1990s, the Millennium Summit in 2000 and the International Conference on Financing for Development in 2002 agreed on a series of goals intended to halve poverty by 2015. Many of the Millennium Development Goals, including health goals, depend on agreed population goals, including the universal availability of family planning and other reproductive health services, on empowering women, and on achieving gender equity and equality.

The WHO/World Bank Commission on Macro-economics and Health recognized that population and reproductive health are central to the attainment of the health goals of the Millennium Summit and to the entire development agenda. Improving health goes further than identifying and treating disease. Preventive health efforts, including reproductive health, must have high priority.

The MDGs include reduction in maternal, infant and child mortality. Improved reproductive health services will help meet these goals through direct service provision and the indirect benefits of better birth spacing (22). Reproductive health services also deliver education, counselling and condom distribution that help fight HIV/AIDS. These services can go directly to the poor.

Population trends will affect prospects for sustained improvement in poverty beyond the 15-year horizon of the MDGs. Lower fertility and slower population growth will temporarily increase the relative size of the workforce, opening a historic one-time demographic window, an opportunity for investment in economic growth; but in the poorest countries population momentum and high levels of unwanted fertility delay this opportunity. The HIV/AIDS pandemic may close the demographic window before it opens, because the death of young adults stunts the growth of the working-age population. The disease both devastates the present and steals the future.

RECOMMENDATIONS The essential requirements are to target assistance directly to the poor, to reduce their costs and to give them a voice in policies and programmes that affect them.

Governments, communities, the private sector and the international community must cooperate more closely, to make the best use of limited domestic and international resources and exploit comparative advantage. Closer coordination among the different parts of the United Nations system will be an important part of the process.

Donors should encourage partnerships among governments and NGOs, with particular attention to incorporating the views of the poor in the design, implementation and monitoring of programmes. This participatory approach allows feedback on priorities and process.

Reproductive health-pre- and post-natal care, safe delivery, family planning and prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS-is most effective as part of an integrated package. Health sector reform in many poor countries includes integrated health service packages, but special care is needed during the transition to protect services for the poor and ensure that they have a voice. This is especially important for women, who have most to gain from effective reproductive health services. Programmes must address the special needs of especially vulnerable groups such as the young, migrants and refugees.

The diverse needs of the poor are often best addressed in integrated programmes. Empowering women by granting small loans through microcredit arrangements has shown its effectiveness, especially when other services such as literacy and reproductive health are included in the package.

In all population-related programmes, better data systems mean better information, awareness, effectiveness and feedback. Countries need better data on the benefits and costs of programmes, where the resources for them come from, and how to use them most effectively. They need data on demographic conditions and trends to improve policy-making for development.

Universal education is a goal on which there is universal agreement. But the aim will be thwarted without the enrolment and continuation of poor children, especially girls. These should include special efforts to avoid early marriage, unwanted pregnancy and HIV infection.

Investments in education bring substantial returns. Female education, apart from empowering the woman herself and widening her life choices, is particularly cost-effective because benefits pass on to her children. However, the investment can be dissipated if lack of choice about the number, timing and spacing of children and rigid gender roles reduce women's social and economic participation.

RESOURCES The International Conference on Population and Development agreed on the cost of a package of reproductive health and other needs-$17.0 billion a year in the year 2000, to increase to $18.5 billion in 2005, $20.5 billion in 2010 and $21.7 billion in 2015. The international community would provide one third of these amounts. Additional resources would be required for basic health infrastructure development, tertiary care, emergency obstetrical care, specialized HIV/AIDS prevention interventions, and the treatment and care of those living with HIV/AIDS.

Further resources would be needed for other population-related development goals in the Programme of Action. Among these are:

  • universal basic education;
  • the empowerment of women;
  • environmental concerns;
  • employment generation;
  • poverty eradication.

Donor countries are contributing less than a quarter of current expenditure towards the goal of universal access to reproductive health by 2015. Developing countries have contributed $8.3 billion, 76 per cent of the total and about 73 per cent of their commitment. A few large countries account for much of this expenditure.

COSTS AND BENEFITS The cost of denying health care, education and empowerment to the world's poorest people cannot only be counted in money. Gender violence alone, in the industrial countries alone, is estimated to reduce by 20 per cent the number of healthy life years experienced by women aged 15-44. The imagined economic cost, or the foregone benefits, must be multiplied by the impact on children, families and communities, over generations.

Decades of social and economic research show that reproductive health programmes, including family planning, are among the most cost-effective health and social development programmes. Education offers unquestionable benefits, especially for women. Moves towards the empowerment of women and gender equality have enriched the lives and increased the contribution of countless women.

Universal access to reproductive health care, universal education, and women's empowerment are development goals in their own right, but they are also conditions for ending poverty, closing the gaps between richer and poorer in the world, and creating a global society that is both stable and just.

Recommendations and resources are discussed in Chapter 8.

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