Kazakhstan likely to achieve all but one of its U.N. development goals, country director says26 march 2014, 16:18
Kazakhstan has a good chance of achieving seven of its eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline, the U.N.'s country-programs director said in a recent speech at Nazarbayev University.
The goal it's unlikely to meet is its two-pronged objective of reducing its incidence of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Although tuberculosis cases have steadily declined since 1998, the number of HIV/AIDS continues to rise.
Kazakhstan is on pace to achieve its other two health-care goals: reducing its infant-mortality rate by two-thirds and its maternal-mortality rate – the number of women who die in childbirth – by three-quarters.
If it misses those goals, it won't be by much, said Tull, whose actual title is U.N. resident coordinator for Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan met three of its five non-health-care goals – reducing poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, and reducing gender inequality – in 2004, Tull said.
Rather than lose momentum, it immediately set new, more ambitious goals so it could achieve even more in the three categories.
Stephen Tull. Photo courtesy of inform.kz
Kazakhstan is also making progress on its other two millennium goals, environmental sustainability and creating a global development partnership. Both are harder to quantify than the other goals, but the country has taken many concrete steps that it could argue are evidence it has met the goals.
Just one example of progress on environmental sustainability is Kazakhstan's replacement of many wasteful Soviet-era water and municipal-heating systems with modern ones that reduce water and heating loss.
An example of progress on the development-partnership goals is Kazakhstan's effort to introduce Islamic banking to increase the amout of money that can be used for infrastructure or other projects.
Tull, who has been in Astana 3 1/2 years, told a standing-room-only crowd of students, faculty members and others at Nazarbayev University that Kazakhstan has been an enthusiastic partner in U.N. development here.
In fact, it has embraced those efforts to the point that 19 U.N. agencies are in Kazakhstan, he said. That's a large number, he noted, “for a country that does not have a crisis,” such as a war or natural disaster.
Kazakhstan's U.N. team consists of 300 employees, 250 of whom are Kazakhs.
Tull said the United Nations consulted with 2,000 Kazakhs at four locations across the country to get an overview of the concerns of average citizens. The information has helped shape the U.N. and government agendas here, he said.
Tull also said the Millennium Development Goals program “has been the most successful global anti-poverty program in history,” lifting 700 million people out of extreme poverty.
It's had such a huge impact, he added, that the United Nations plans another round. The second set of goals will be more nuanced than the focus of the first set – eliminating extreme poverty, said Tull, who holds a Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University.
The United Nations established eight Millennium Development Goals in 2000. It set 2015 as the date for achieving them.
Countries that embraced the international well-being program were free to tweak the global goals to match local conditions.
One of the U.N. goals was reducing malaria, a scourge in much of the developing world. Malaria isn't a problem in Kazakhstan, however, so the country decided to focus on a disease that is: tuberculosis.
The goal was to take a big bite out of the disease – and Kazakhstan has done that. The number of TB cases peaked at 403 per 100,000 residents in 1998. It is now a third of that – 129 per 100,000 in 2011
The infant-mortality goal was to reduce the deaths of children under 5 by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015.
The 1990 figure was 54 deaths per 1,000 children. A two-thirds reduction would make it18 deaths per 1,000.
Kazakhstan reduced the figure to fewer than 19 deaths per 1,000 in 2012, so it's close to achieving its goal.
The maternal-mortality goal was to reduce the number of women dying in childbirth by three-fourths between 1990 and 2015.
The 1990 figure was 55 deaths per 1,000 mothers. A three-quarters reduction would bring it to fewer than 14 deaths per 1,000.
Kazakhstan bettered the goal in 2013, cutting the rate to fewer than 13 deaths per 1,000 mothers. Unless there's a surprise reversal in the reduction trend in the next two years, it will achieve its goal.
Photo courtesy of humanium.org
Each of the eight goals that Kazakhstan has pursed has included one or more targets.
The one dampener in Kazakhstan’s quest to achieve its health-care goals has been HIV/AIDS. The government listed only 1,347 cases in 2000. The 2012 figure was 15 times higher -- 19,748 cases.
The original targets in the goal to reduce poverty and hunger were to halve – between 1990 and 2015 -- the percentage of residents with incomes below the subsistence level and the percentage experiencing hunger.
After meeting the goal in 2004, Kazakhstan set a new anti-poverty target of halving the percentage of rural Kazakhs with incomes below the subsistence level. It reflects the fact that those living in villages are much likelier to experience poverty than city dwellers.
After meeting its hunger-reduction target, Kazakhstan set a new sustenance target of halving the number of residents who lacked access to balanced nutrition.
After the country achieved its goal of primary education for everyone, it set a new goal of universal secondary education.
The original target for achieving the goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women was eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education. After achieving this goal, Kazakhstan set three new targets:
- Passing laws and taking other other steps to eliminate violence against women.
- Increasing the number of women holding seats in Parliament and management positions in government.
- Using the government planning and budgeting process to address gender inequality, particularly the wage gap between women and men.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev has taken these goals to heart, appointing many women members of Parliament, for example, and putting more women in key government positions.
Kazakhstan is making efforts on many fronts to achieve its goal of environmental sustainability. For example, it has made increasing and saving clean water a national priority. It is also investing more in solar and wind energy. And it is creating more nature preserves.
Kazakhstan has taken many steps to create a global partnership for development. This has included working with the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank and other lenders to obtain financing for projects aimed at expanding the economy or improving people's lives.
Kazakhstan's global-partnership development effort has become a two-way street in the past decade, with the country becoming a foreign-aid donor as well as aid and investment recipient, Tull pointed out. Kazakhstan has sent foreign aid to Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and other countries in the region – and even to developed nations such as Japan and Italy to help with disaster relief.
The United Nations talked with 2,000 people in Almaty, Astana, Aktau and Kyzylorda about what the Millennium Development Goals and what concerns they had that could be translated into goals.
Photo courtesy of un.kz
Kazakhstan was one of 50 countries that requested such grassroots consultations.
“The consultations helped shape the development agenda here,” Tull said. “I can attest to this because I've talked” with many government policy setters.
The consultations probably played a role in Kazakhstan broadening its development focus in recent years from primarily economic to a more balanced combination of economic, quality of life and quality of public service.
For example, Kazakhstan 2050 has “more focus on human development” and on “political development and a professional civil service,” Tull said.
Inequality – such as the income gap between rich and poor – was a major concern of those participating in Kazakhstan's Millennium Development Goal consultations. Several of those who mentioned it said they fear it's growing.
Corruption was another topic of concern. Many of those who mentioned it saw it as “a root cause of imbalances (inequalities) here and a big challenge,” Tull said.
Kazakhstan has acknowledged the problem, and improved rankings on such corruption indexes as Transparency International's indicates that it's making progress.
Quality-of-life issues were on the minds of many of the Millennium Development Goals consultation participants.
For example, in the 1990s Kazakhstan's life expectancy was lower than that of many countries in the region, Tull said. The country has made substantial progress on that front, with life expectancy steadily increasing to 70.3 years in 2013.
Another quality-of-life concern that consultation participants mentioned was Kazakhstan's suicide rate – the highest in the former Soviet Union. The government, working with the United Nations, started a suicide-prevention program in 2012 to address the problem.
About 1,650 adults and 350 youths took part in the consultations.
Many of the adults said they worried about the changing values of young people, particularly materialism and loss of cultural identity.
Young people were concerned about job opportunities, affordable housing, “the freedom to speak out,” and whether they'll be able to influence decision-making, Tull said.
How Kazakhstan is doing on its U.N. development goals
Photo courtesy of coco.org.uk
Kazakhstan's Millennium Development Goals