Briefing Papers Number 2, May 2008 - Page 3

and disease and sharply increasing rates of premature death. Countries emerging from conflict have an opportunity to make rapid improvements in human development, but these are fragile opportunities that are easily passed up. • Environmental Degradation: Many developing countries face heightened environmental risks. Deforestation, overfishing, droughts, and floods are longstanding problems in some regions. Global climate change has potentially devastating long-term consequences since higher temperatures harm many crops. Poor Starting Conditions Almost one billion people live on less than $1 a day; nearly as many suffer from chronic hunger.3 This year, 10 million children will die before they reach their fifth birthday, and complications during birth and pregnancy will take the lives of a half-million women.4 Around the world, more than one billion people do not have access to clean water, and hundreds of millions of people are not receiving treatment for deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.5 The global burden of underdevelopment is vast, but this burden is not shared equally by everyone. Thirty-three countries, many of them in East and Central Europe, have poverty rates of 2 percent or less; in 18 countries, half of them in sub-Saharan Africa, poverty rates exceed 30 percent. The same is true of hunger: the percentage of children suffering from moderate and severe stunting (resulting from chronic hunger) ranges from 1 percent or less in several countries to 40 percent or more in 22 countries.6 A quick glance at other MDG indicators reveals more such disparities: vast differences between developed and developing countries are the norm, and even among developing countries there are wide differences. Countries that are starting out with the lowest levels of many human development indicators, for example, infant and maternal mortality rates, are the least equipped—both technically and financially—to reach the MDGs. A recent study conducted by the Millennium Task Force, a group of technical experts charged with creating a roadmap for meeting the MDGs, puts the financial needs of the least developed countries in perspective. Using Ghana as the model for an “MDG needs assessment,” the Millennium Task Force reports that an investment of approximately $100 per person per year is needed between now and 2015 for the country to meet the MDGs.7 In Ghana, as elsewhere in the developing world, investments of such magnitude require assistance from the international community. Recent progress in the West African nation of Mali is reason for hope, though the country remains extremely underdeveloped. Over the past decade, Mali has been able to dramatically reduce poverty, from 72 percent of the population in 1991 to just 36 percent in 2004. But despite such impressive accomplishments in poverty reduction, hunger rates remain ly unchanged from 1991 and almost one third of the population is undernourished. Maternal mortality stands at an alarming rate of 12,000 deaths per 100,000 live births. Though primary school enrollment has increa sed from 21 to 50 percent, the current pace is too slow to meet MDG #2.8 At the current rate, it will take the country another 50 years to meet the MDG target of reducing by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate.9 For Mali to achieve the MDGs, it must invest heavily in providing basic services, but the country is poorly equipped to do this. Mali is dependent on just three commodities—cotton, gold and livestock—for 90 percent of its export revenues.10 Fluctuations in prices for these commodities drive rapid swings in state revenues and the broader economic fortunes of the country. The country is landlocked, which makes international trade more difficult. A limited transportation infrastructure exacerbates the difficulties of rural households in reaching schools, hospitals and markets. Finally, Mali is highly vulnerable to environmental shocks such as droughts and locust infestations. In its strategic plan to fight poverty, Mali has identified three areas for priority action: governance and institutions, social services, and infrastructure and economic development.11 Delivery of social services is essential. For example, achieving MDG #2, ensuring universal primary school enrollment, requires classrooms and teachers, schoolbooks and chalkboards. To fight infectious diseases and improve maternal and child health, resources must be put into areas like health care, clean water, and sanitation. On its own, Mali lacks the resources to invest in its people on a large enough scale to meet the MDGs, so it is not surprising that Mali is off track on many MDGs. In such a context, the country’s success in reducing poverty is even more impressive. Weak Governance and Institutions To achieve the MDGs and establish a sustainable development path, governments must be efficient, transparent, and accountable. Good governments manage bureaucracies efficiently, adhere to the rule of law, control corruption, protect civil and political rights, and remain accountable to their citizens. Through laws and institutions, governments set the direction of a country’s economy as well as its business climate. A stable macroeconomic environment (exchange rates, inflation levels) and a healthy, open business climate promote sustainable economic growth and ensure that economic opportunities are available to poor people. By simplifying the rules for opening and running a business, governments can spur creation of more jobs and collect more tax revenue. When corruption is under control, government can target tax revenues to basic services such as roads, water, hospitals, and schools. These, in turn, are essential for a healthy, educated population and a stronger economy. Effective governments should also empower people to participate in the selection of their government and freely Bread for the World Institute  3