United Nations calls on Asia-Pacific media leaders to help generate regional momentum towards MDGs final push

The United Nations today called on Asia-Pacific media leaders to help push the region towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to prevent over 2.5 million child and maternal deaths and ensure basic amenities to hundreds of millions of people by the year 2015.

Representatives of more than 20 media groups in the region took part in a one-day workshop organized by ten United Nations agencies on the eve of the 9th Asia Media Summit to discuss media’s role in helping accelerate uneven Asia-Pacific progress towards the international development goals.

An assessment by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) shows that Asia and the Pacific has made great progress towards achieving the MDGs, especially in reducing poverty, but major gaps still remain in health-and nutrition-related goals with high levels of child and maternal mortality.

“It is time for a last big Asia-Pacific push to 2015 on the MDGs,” said Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. “The progress we have made is important – but what do we say to the millions more who have not yet benefited? As a region we are behind schedule on ten of the 22 indicators assessed in the report. We must do more – and the role of our media partners is vital in highlighting successes, challenges and innovations in closing development gaps across the region.”

The report estimates that 2.4 million children could be saved from dying before their fifth birthday and the lives of nearly 150,000 women could be saved during childbirth if Asia-Pacific countries were to reach MDGs related to these goals by the 2015 target date. Over 17.5 million children would receive proper nutrition, some 29 million people would have access to safe drinking water and 519 million to basic sanitation if the region reached MDG targets over the next three years, according to “Accelerating Equitable Achievement of the MDGs: Closing Gaps in Health and nutrition Outcomes” published by ESCAP, ADB and UNDP.

The report warns that at current rates of progress, the region as a whole is unlikely to meet MDGs related to eradicating hunger, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. It estimates that speeding up progress by less than 2 percent annually in 14 off-track Asia-Pacific countries would enable them to reach the goal of halving the proportion of underweight children by 2015.

“During this last stretch of the MDG period, we desperately need the media to engage the public in pushing all the governments to deliver what they have promised. It is indeed encouraging to see that many leading journalists in the region are willing to play active roles in such efforts and also get involved in the global debate which is now starting on the development agenda after the MDGs,” said Minar Pimple, Regional Director of the UN Millennium Campaign during the workshop.

First agreed at the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000, the eight MDGs set worldwide objectives for reducing extreme poverty and hunger, improving health and education, empowering women and ensuring environmental sustainability by 2015.

Experts from ESCAP, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), the Millennium Campaign, and UN Women took part in the “United Nations MDG Workshop: The Final Push – Media’s role”.

Participants at the workshop took stock of regional progress towards the MDGs, media coverage of the issue and how the United Nations and media in the region could work to put high on the public policy agenda, the urgency of speeding up progress towards international development goals.