CAIRO: North Africa is likely to achieve 18 of the 21 targets laid down in the eight UN millennium development goals (MDG), says the latest UN report, released Wednesday.
Yet three targets that fall under gender equality, employment and education are unlikely to be met on time.
In Egypt’s case for example, even if it is close to achieving the parity between boys and girls in school enrolment, there is still a gap between primary and secondary education on one hand and higher studies on the other.
The results from the other two factors used to evaluate gender equality are alarming. The share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector has decreased in Egypt between 1990 and 2010, from 20.5 percent to 19 percent. In addition, women are holding particularly vulnerable jobs. Around 43 percent of women — compared to 20 percent of men — are account workers, characterized by inadequate earnings, substandard working conditions and a lack of formal work arrangements.
Similarly, the proportion of seats held by women in the Egyptian Parliament went down from four percent in 1990 to 1.8 percent in 2010 — respectively 18 and 8 seats — whereas in the North African region, the percentage went up from two percent to nine percent, which is still one of the lowest rates in the world.
In the region, the percentage of people living below the poverty line of $1.25 per day decreased from five percent to three percent between 1990 and 2005 — the first MDG is to halve the percentage of people living in extreme poverty. Egypt has already achieved this aim, with only two percent of its population living under the poverty line in 2005, compared to 4.5 percent in 1990. Still, it is expected that the global economic crisis has reversed the amelioration of the situation of the poorest.
Whereas North Africa is likely to achieve the first MDG, Western Asia, comprising the Middle Eastern countries, as well as Israel, Cyprus and Turkey, is struggling to reduce extreme poverty, says the report. The proportion of people living on less than $1.25 per day has steadily increased between 1990 and 2005 — from two percent to six percent — inducing a rise in the proportion of undernourished people and hindering the improvement of health conditions throughout the region.
The situation of women’s empowerment is the worst in the Arab region, with only 20 percent of women working and nine percent of top-level jobs held by women — and little effort made to introduce a change.
But the MDGs do not only focus on poverty, health and education; access to new technologies and integration in the globalised economy through trade and information are also assessed, with North Africa and Western Asia catching up quickly. In Egypt, 17 percent of the population uses the internet and over 50 percent have a mobile phone.
Five years remain to achieve all 21 targets, in Egypt, the Arab region and the world. “A lot of political will is needed to achieve these goals and to counteract possible negative developments,” said Khawla Mattar, director of the United Nations Information Center in Cairo, at the end of the press conference presenting the UN report.