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Cambodia hailed over UN targets

A REPORT prepared in advance of an international summit on United Nations Millennium Development Goals has placed Cambodia among the top five countries in terms of progress, offering a far rosier assessment than other recent updates.

The report, prepared by the Centre for Global Development, a United States-based independent policy research organisation, indicates that developing countries in Southeast Asia are outpacing those in other regions, placing Cambodia in a tie with Laos and Vietnam for second in terms of progress towards MDGs.

The eight goals were adopted by 189 countries in 2000 and are supposed to be achieved by 2015. Honduras topped the report, and the Kyrgyz Republic was also tied for second.

Its authors drew primarily from World Bank data, focusing on eight “progress indicators” selected from a pool of 60 indicators used by the United Nations.

Cambodia was found to be on track to achieve targets related to poverty reduction, education, gender equality, nutrition and water access. It was also expected to reach 50 percent of targets related to maternal health and child mortality.

Those who have prepared papers focusing exclusively on Cambodia’s progress towards the MDGs called into question some of the findings of the new report, which was timed to coincide with the 2010 MDG Summit scheduled to begin on September 20 at UN headquarters in New York.

Last year, Sherif Rushdy, Cambodian Millennium Development Goal adviser for the UN Development Programme, prepared an update indicating that Cambodia was unlikely to meet goals pertaining to education, the environment and maternal health.

Yesterday, he took issue with the methodology used by the Centre for Global Development, which could not be reached for comment.

“You cannot just take one indicator in one MDG area and say it has improved a total MDG,” said Rushdy, who had not seen the CGD report.

He cited as an example the use of “access to safe water” as the sole indicator in measuring progress towards the MDG covering environmental sustainability. “It gives a very different story if you use only access to sanitation,” he said, referring to a separate indicator falling under the same goal.

He said, though, that Cambodia had made considerable progress in at least two areas: “Child mortality rates and HIV rates are the big success stories in Cambodia.”

In assessing progress towards the maternal health goal, the new report refers to statistics from a global study published earlier this year in The Lancet that indicated there had been a “dramatic” drop in maternal deaths to 266 per 100,000 live births. However, that statistic is far lower than the 461 deaths per 100,000 births recorded in the most recent government census.

Rushdy said yesterday that maternal deaths were difficult to measure, but that the maternal health goal was the one on which “the least progress was made”.

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