ESCAP Holds Meeting to Strengthen the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Process by Developing Supplementary Social Targets and Indicators
An Expert Group Meeting on Developing Supplementary Targets and Indicators on Social Inclusion, Population, Gender Equality and Health Promotion to Strengthen the MDG Process was organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and took place in Bangkok, Thailand from 13-15 November 2007. The meeting assembled more than 40 experts and representatives from Governments, United Nations agencies, research institutions and civic society organizations to discuss how to strengthen the MDGs' ability to create policy change that would improve the lives of people in the region.
During the meeting, discussions focused on population and health, reproductive and sexual health, health promotion, social inclusion, ageing, disability and gender in the pursuit of the MDGs. There was a panel on country-level experiences, as well as a panel on synergies between ESCAP Statistics Division and other statistical bodies on supporting the MDGs process Small working group discussions were held on the third day of the meeting. The meeting concluded with the adoption of a set of recommendations to support the MDG process and its ability to create policy change in key areas relating to social development.
The meeting was organized as part of a United Nations project aimed at strengthening the MDG process by providing supplementary targets and indicators to better track the progress made on the Goals, particularly those related to social development.
A key objective of the project is to identify emerging social issues affecting in particular the poor and other vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, and attract greater attention to those issues. Another objective is also to increase awareness on and understanding oif how population ageing, migration, gender and the socio-economic determinants of health affect each country.
Through the project, it is hoped that region-specific additional targets and indicators can be developed to strengthen policies and programmes to better include socially vulnerable groups and promote gender equality. Also, the possibility to supplement existing targets and indicators related to health with additional indicators and targets covering areas vital to the achievement of the MDGs --such as reproductive and sexual health, health systems and health financing and risk factors for non-communicable diseases-is being explored.
An e-mail based community of practice focused on social inclusion, gender equality and health in the MDGs was formed as part of the project [ESCAP-MDGs]. The community of practice is in the process of being expanded by becoming part of a larger regional MDG community of practice [AP-MDG] formed under a UNDP-ESCAP-ADB tripartite partnership. This is to contribute to the creation of an integrated regional knowledge hub in support of the achievement of the MDGs in Asia and the Pacific.
Social development in the MDGs
The thrust of the MDGs on social issues is evident as five out of the eight goals are directly related to those issues (MDGs 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6). Besides, each of the goals has an impact on or is impacted by cross-cutting dimensions such as gender equality, social integration and health.
The social development agenda in the MDGs can link closely with other key developmental agenda and mandates in key areas such as the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the Biwako Millennium Framework for Action, the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, the Beijing Platform for Action, and the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
The need for social development progress in the region
Regional mid-term reviews of the progress made towards achieving the MDGs have highlighted the need to measure the progress accomplished MDGs in a way that truly represents the empowerment of women and the inclusion of vulnerable groups in society as well as the comprehensive functioning of health systems. These reviews also indicate that MDG targets and indicators, as they exist, may not clearly measure progress with regard to the inclusion of socially vulnerable groups such as elderly and disabled persons. Also, they do not track progress of countries towards improving health systems or health expenditures and in tackling emerging epidemics of non-communicable diseases or reproductive and sexual health issues (which also have implications for women's empowerment).
Furthermore, the progress reported by many countries does not capture inequities and disparities among social groups and sub-regions in reaping the benefits of actions taken by national Governments towards achieving the MDGs. This uneven progress not only denies the rights of people it leaves behind, it also exacerbates structural problems and has a strong bearing on the pace and sustainability of national development.
The need for advancement in social inclusion and helping vulnerable social groups
Inputs received during intergovernmental and expert group meetings held in ESCAP and reports from projects implemented by the UN secretariat and specialized agencies have indicated that, while significant progress had been made by some countries towards achieving the MDGs, the progress made was uneven among sub- regions and vulnerable social groups such as the disabled, the elderly. Also, women had not benefited fully from the progress. In some countries, the disparities had even increased, highlighting the need for orientating policies and programmes towards vulnerable groups and for advocating their cause by setting new priorities.
Social inclusion is also a key element of a strategy to minimize social conflict and tap into the productive potential of minority groups that may otherwise feel alienated. This is especially important in regions characterized by diverse ethnic and demographic groups, economic inequality and social and political conflict. It is essential that these key vulnerable groups who need to be targeted for inclusion.
Barriers in lack of disaggregated data for policy analysis
A number of gaps exist with respect to health, gender and social integration, and that information is often limited to undertake any kind of meaningful analysis. Most national data are not disaggregated by gender or coverage of vulnerable groups and some issues such as violence against women may be considered by some Governments as being too sensitive to collect.
Meeting website can be accessed at: