UNFPA - United Nations Population Fund

State of World Population 2005



© Maria Soderberg/Panos Pictures
A woman pulls off her Burqa in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Road Map to the Millennium
Development Goals and Beyond

-Women's Empowerment: Lifting Families and
Nations Out of Poverty

-Empowering Young People: The MDGs and Beyond

-Universal Reproductive Health: Fulfilling Cairo to
Reach the MDGs

-Rights and Equality: Guiding Poverty Reduction

-Resources: A Modest Price Tag for Human Dignity and

Rights and Equality: Guiding Poverty Reduction Policies

The UN Millennium Project recommends an immediate review of national poverty reduction strategies and policies. Identifying groups with the least power and ability to exercise their rights is a key step. Their effective participation in identifying solutions to their own problems is both a human right and a principle of sound and sustainable programming. Infusing policy development with the principles of human rights and gender equality can help produce effective strategies for the progressive realization of the rights of the poorest of the poor.(30)

However, even though applying a human rights framework to policy development is "an essential prerequisite to achieving all the goals", according to the UN Millennium Project, in practice "there has been no systematic effort" to do so.(31) This is confirmed through reviews of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), which have been required of heavily indebted countries seeking debt relief since 1999. Civil society, including women's and youth groups, have had only limited or ineffective involvement in the development of these frameworks,(32) even though participatory processes form the very essence of a rights-based approach and have been found to be the most important element in arriving at "pro-poor" PRSPs that address gender issues.(33) National and regional policy frameworks, such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development, afford additional opportunities to integrate gender equality, youth development and reproductive health in poverty reduction strategies. But these frameworks have often ignored gender factors in macroeconomic and labour policies.(34)

"A [health system] should also be understood and addressed as a core social institution. When characterized by neglect, abuse, or exclusion of certain individuals or groups, the health system is a major contributor to social injustice. Conversely, the strengthening of health systems increases social capital within the community and fulfils the rights of individuals."

- UN Millennium Project

The World Bank's 2002 assessment found the quality of gender analysis in most PRSPs to be generally weak,(35) although improving. UNFPA's own review of PRSPs confirms the inconsistent and often limited attention to gender, youth, reproductive health and human rights issues.(36) Half did not address the relationship between poverty and human rights, and few countries gave it more than superficial attention.(37) Although the scope and depth varies,(38) countries are now giving these issues greater priority in their poverty reduction strategies, with positive implications for the 2005 World Summit follow-up.

The UN Millennium Project recommends that national human rights institutions prepare "human rights assessments" on MDG follow up.(39) It also recommends training community development agents to promote local participation, gender equality and minority rights.(40) Using their local knowledge, these agents could also help refine and implement culturally sensitive approaches. Rwanda's PRSP, considered a leading example in integrating gender equality, engaged women's groups as active participants from the outset.(41) The success of this strategy is now acknowledged: One of the UN Millennium Project's "quick wins" calls for "empowering women to play a central role in formulating and monitoring MDGbased poverty reduction strategies and other critical policy reform processes, particularly at the level of local governments".(42)

Lacking political or economic power, young people often get short shrift from policymakers. Although they comprise a sizeable proportion of the population in all developing countries-and more so in the poorest- resources earmarked for them are often limited and ad hoc. Policies rarely address young people as a specific group living in poverty. Even in cases where Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers have included youth as a specific group, few countries link those strategies to budgets.(43)

Just as gender-responsive budgeting can inform national policymaking for the MDGs, efforts to analyze budgets from the added perspective of youth needs and gender equality can shed light on neglected priorities and strategic investments. Costa Rica provides a model: It monitors the percentage of GNP spent on children and adolescents in education, health, water, shelter, nutrition, protection and recreation.(44) The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports in Cambodia provides another good example of institutional scommitment to gender issues. The Ministry uses sex-disaggregated data to address gender inequities in its budget, particularly for girls' education. It has developed a gender mainstreaming strategy and works to implement it with a committee representing provincial, district and commune levels.(45)


Sceptics have long underrated the value of gender mainstreaming. The "So What?" report looked at 400 reproductive health and HIV/AIDS projects from around the world. Its findings debunk the common perception that gender mainstreaming is peripheral. The report shows that integrating gender improves outcomes for both reproductive health and gender equity, and offers evidence of what gender mainstreaming can bring to MDG follow up. The projects that incorporated a gender perspective obtained these results, all of which are relevant to the MDGs:

  • Positive changes in gender relations and more respectful societal attitudes towards women;

  • More decision-making and political participation by women in the community;

  • Women's increased knowledge of their legal rights;

  • Greater likelihood that girls would stay in school;

  • Reduced violence against women;

  • Improved communication and mutual support between men and women on family planning, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections;

  • Increased knowledge by men of women's health care issues;

  • Shifts in attitudes about shared roles and responsibilities between men and women in childrearing, labour, and reproductive health issues.

See Sources

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