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UNMC report on grassroots voices

Oct 15, 2007

The report, People’s Voices on MDGs 2007 highlights key policy areas, common obstacles, as well as MDG progress among countries in the South and Southeast Asia regions from the civil society perspective.

The United Nations Millennium Campaign Asia has released a report titled: People’s Voices on MDGs 2007. The report has a special focus on marginalised and disadvantaged groups like ethnic and religious minorities, lower castes, denotified and nomadic tribes and women of these groups that are at risk of poverty and social exclusion.

A compilation of various civil society reports, it highlights common development issues and key policy obstacles in many countries. Local perspectives and community experiences have been taken into account in comparing the progress and challenges.

Noting that the MDG progress has been relatively slow in South Asia, compared to the rest of Asia, the report concludes that six out of nine countries in this sub-region are off track for more than one-third of their indicators.

Social exclusion, gender disparity and growing inequality are the key barriers to the development process in the entire Asian region. Violent civil conflicts and political instability in some of these countries are also obstacles in the development process.

Persistence of social discrimination adds to the problem and therefore efforts to expand the achievements of MDGs require greater attention to the scheduled castes, denotified and nomadic tribes and religious minorities, the report observes. These are the groups, which have not been included in the national development process for poverty reduction despite the overall MDG progress at the national level.

The report also notes that in many developing countries, MDGs are not well incorporated into the national policy framework and budget plan. In cases where MDGs are included, budget structures often integrate allocation for MDG-related spending with other social expenditure.

Certain social groups have been excluded or left behind. Rural poor is one such segment of society. The report notes that approximately 98% of rural villages and 96 per cent of urban villages in India live on less than one dollar a day. Muslims, a religious minority, in India are also among the poorest, followed closely by scheduled castes and tribes.

In Nepal, the overall the primary school net attendance rate is approximately 73.5%. Less than 30% of the children of higher caste Hindus have not attended school, compared to 76% of Tarai Dalit 62 per cent of Muslims.

In India, Dalit children are more likely than non-Dalit children to drop out of primary school. More than 80% of Muslim children in rural India never go to schools.

Women from lower castes and ethnic minority groups are highly vulnerable and face severe gender-based discrimination in education in the whole of South Asia. Similar discrimination can be seen in employment also, where about 90% of South Asia’s economically inactive prime-age persons are women. Child mortality is very high among children of scheduled castes and tribes in the states of India.

The structural shift from predominantly agrarian economy towards more intensive industry and services in many Asian countries has led to serious social consequences for various subpopulations due to urbanisation, shifting employment across sectors and changing demands for new skills.

Much to the chagrin of neo-liberals, the report brushes aside the assumption that growth is synonymous with overall development and well being of the nation. “Growth alone does not ensure the achievement of poverty reduction for all,” says the report.

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