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Relevance of the Objectives of the Millenium Development Goals on Caribbean Countries

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The Millennium Declaration was adopted by all United Nations Member States, including CARICOM, in the year 2000 with a timeline for accomplishment in the year 2015.  There are eight (8) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which are derived from this declaration and are committed to addressing the following complex issues and guide the formulation of national development policies: Eradication of poverty and hunger; provide primary education to all the world’s children; provide equal opportunities for both men and women and improve maternal health; combat HIV/Aids and other diseases; protect the environment and establish a global partnership for sustainable development. While Caribbean leaders are committed to carrying out the mandate contained in the Millennium Development Goals, there are more far-reaching challenges that could make our attempts to make the declaration a success irrelevant.  The region has been making some progress in attaining the MDGs as illustrated below:

  • Great strides in ensuring that all primary- age boys and girls complete their primary education.  The region’s total net enrolment ratio in primary education grew from 87 per cent in 1991 to 97 per cent in 2005.
  • Women have made relative gains[a] in securing paid jobs in the Latin America and the Caribbean where forty-two per cent of non-agricultural jobs were held by women in 2005 compared to thirty seven percent in 1990.
  • All countries in the region have made significant progress in reducing child mortality and improving maternal care.

Caribbean nations have met with more or less success in some aspects of the MDGs, there are several mitigating factors to consider that would complicate efforts to successfully tackle the goals and meet the required standards in 2015. Firstly, the impact of natural disasters on the region such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and volcanoes has to be considered as over the years they have caused loss of lives and significant damage to economic infrastructure.  For example, we witnessed the catastrophic earthquake which destroyed most buildings and other structures on the island of Haiti in January 2010.  Thousands of people died leaving orphans, sick and disabled citizens in its wake and more illnesses were caused by lack of clean water.   This state of affairs usually exacerbate the problems of poverty, hunger, malnutrition and other airborne and waterborne diseases.  Health is yet another critical factor in Caribbean development because of its influence on the social stability and economic viability of the region.  A healthy population means reduced expenditure for the treatment of preventable diseases, sustained productivity levels, continued employability of people, etc.

Secondly, CARICOM governments consistently had devoted their policies to poverty alleviation and, in many cases, poverty eradication as a major strategic goal even before the MDGs were adopted.  For example, the Barbadian government established a Ministry of Social Transformation with a poverty alleviation bureau in 1998 while Jamaica implemented a National Poverty Eradication Programme in 1995.  Nevertheless, some  trade-offs in resource allocation are often made at the expense of poverty programmes in favour of other economic priorities such as the macro-economic policies of the Jamaican government’s five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) forged with the public sector workers wherein salaries have not been increased in those years.  In addition, because the economies in the region are tied to those of developed countries, our islands are more susceptible to external financial shocks.  For example, the Caribbean economies has had to confront radical shifts in international economic relations and has adjusted its economies to confront the challenges brought on by globalization and liberalization.  The challenge is to establish new industries as quickly as possible so as to generate income for their employees at rates that keep them above the poverty line.

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