Population and the Millennium Development Goals Case Assignment
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Population and the Millennium Development Goals Case Assignment
One notable example of how population growth is being overlooked in international development discussions comes through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations (UN). Eight MDGs (with 18 individual tar- gets), based on the Millennium Declaration adopted in September 2000 by all 189 member states of the UN General Assembly, outline crit-
ical areas to be addressed by 2015, but did not originally cite population growth. One population researcher efficiently sums up the oversight: “Although reproduc- tive health was not specifically included as an independent goal or a measurable target in the MDGs, for years experts have provided evidence that investing in reproductive health services is integral to meeting them all.”21
A 2007 report from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Population, Development and Reproductive Health in the United Kingdom explores the impact of population on the first seven goals, and concludes “The evidence is overwhelming: the MDGs are difficult or impossible to achieve with the current levels of population growth in the least developed countries and regions.”22
The last half of the twentieth century provides the foundation for this conclusion:
Millennium Development Goals
Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger 2. Achieve universal primary education 3. Promote gender equality and empower women 4. Reduce child mortality 5. Improve maternal health 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases 7. Ensure environmental sustainability 8. Develop a global partnership for development
Note: A complete list of goals and targets is at the end of this report.
On the whole, those countries and regions where information and contraceptives were made available saw a moderate to rapid decline in the birth rate. In addition, there was an improvement in the economy, the health of women and their families, and the autonomy, education and status of women. The countries where many pregnancies remained unwanted and the birth rate did not fall are now seeing an explosive growth of urban slums, a failure of the state to keep pace with educational demands and, in some cases, the continuing oppression of women.23
On a positive note, the APPG report states that the UN has approved a new target of universal access to reproductive health care by 2015, to be placed under Goal 5, Improve Maternal Health.
Still, “It is clear that the MDGs are difficult or impossible to achieve with- out a renewed focus on, and investment in, family planning.”24 The recommenda- tions in the report include targeting 10 percent of international development aid to population and reproductive health, putting the availability of contraceptive sup- plies as a top priority, and eliminating barriers to family planning.
Rising from Poverty
One country claim to have already met the first MDG target. The People’s Republic of China reported to the APPG that through a combination of lowered birth rates and economic reform, 150 million people have been lifted out of abject poverty, thus meeting the MDG for poverty reduction a decade earlier than the target date.25 Nonetheless, controversy surrounding China’s “One Child” policy will make others uncertain of the means to achieve the end. In fact, China is one case cited by population experts as having created an unwarranted stigma among critics and commentators on the topic of reproductive health.
Economists acknowledge that the link between slower population growth and economic development is complex and does not always result in an escape from poverty. Still, a “demographic dividend” occurs when family sizes drop rap- idly, leaving relatively more people of working age with fewer dependents, and the ability to invest more resources in those dependents in terms of health and educa- tion. In developing countries where the birth rate has fallen, between 25 and 40 percent of economic growth is attributable to the demographic change.26
Population Growth Outpacing Education
The second MDG, achieving universal primary education, seems especially daunting in the face of rising population pressures. In Tanzania, literacy rates fell from 90 percent in 1986 to 68 percent in 1995, attributed to increased school fees as the government was unable to keep pace with public service costs for its grow- ing population. 27 The country’s population during the period grew from just under 22 million to nearly 30 million.28
Almost 30 percent of the world population is under age 15, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates there are 115 million children of pri- mary school age who are not in school.29 In high growth countries, the number of school-aged children doubles every 20 years. Assuming a class size of 40, an extra 2 million school teachers per year are required just to meet existing needs.30
According to one World Bank report, the annual cost of meeting the MDG education goal ranges from $10 to $30 billion.31 In another report, World Bank researchers estimate the annual costs in low-income countries would be $9.7 bil- lion annually, of which $3.7 billion would be needed from international assistance, many times higher than actual aid flows. Africa, for example, would need 75 per- cent of their total from external support.32
While hope comes from countries that have registered an improvement of 20 percent or more within a decade in the primary school completion rate (e.g., Brazil, Nicaragua, Cambodia, South Africa, The Gambia), progress is fragile, and other countries, even some with strong financial resources, have lost ground (e.g., Albania, Zambia, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, and Venezuela).33
Success in achieving universal primary education nonetheless raises an interesting series of questions. Should countries meet the goal, will they have fol- low-on capacity to meet the needs of the large numbers of students who would like to continue their education to various levels? Do they have the capacity to satisfy the employment options for newly educated students? Would a brain drain result as students go abroad seeking higher education? No doubt many students would not be satisfied to return to a simple or subsistence lifestyle, but it is doubtful that most countries would have the capacity to build yet more schools and train enough staff to accommodate the greater ambitions of their students.
A slowing of the exponential rate of increase in the population of young people would allow countries to more realistically over time create the infrastruc- tures to accommodate their numbers and ambitions. Thus the attainment of access to education for all children presents a powerful argument for the immediate and urgent need to extend access to family planning.
Although there may be potential local obstacles, the curricula for these children should include health education, and reproductive health education should be considered as students enter reproductive age.
Population and the Millennium Development Goals Case Assignment
QUALITY OF RESPONSE NO RESPONSE POOR / UNSATISFACTORY SATISFACTORY GOOD EXCELLENT Content (worth a maximum of 50% of the total points) Zero points: Student failed to submit the final paper. 20 points out of 50: The essay illustrates poor understanding of the relevant material by failing to address or incorrectly addressing the relevant content; failing to identify or inaccurately explaining/defining key concepts/ideas; ignoring or incorrectly explaining key points/claims and the reasoning behind them; and/or incorrectly or inappropriately using terminology; and elements of the response are lacking. 30 points out of 50: The essay illustrates a rudimentary understanding of the relevant material by mentioning but not full explaining the relevant content; identifying some of the key concepts/ideas though failing to fully or accurately explain many of them; using terminology, though sometimes inaccurately or inappropriately; and/or incorporating some key claims/points but failing to explain the reasoning behind them or doing so inaccurately. 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