Under the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG1), the international community aims to halve the global rate of extreme income poverty—as measured by the share of the population living on less than $1 per day—between 1990 and 2015. Current trends and growth forecasts indicate that this goal will be achieved, although not in Sub-Saharan Africa. High growth in China and India explains much of the reduction in the global poverty rate, although progress toward MDG1 has also quickened in many other developing countries. High growth has continued in most of the developing world in the past year as a result of better policies in developing countries and a favorable global environment. The outlook for growth and poverty reduction remains favorable, although some risks remain. In particular, low-income country per capita growth is expected to remain above 5 percent in 2007.1
Since 2000, over 34 million additional children in the developing world have gained the chance to attend, and complete, primary school—one of the most massive expansions of schooling access in history. Over 550 million children have been vaccinated against measles—doubling the coverage rates in some countries, and driving down measles deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa by 75 percent. The number of developing-country AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) patients with access to antiretroviral treatment increased from 240,000 in 2001 to over 1.6 million at mid-2006. Despite migration and resource constraints, health workers and clinic visits across the developing world are increasing significantly, as are the share of pregnant women with access to health care when they deliver, and the share of young children with regular health and nutrition screening. There is now little question that the “stretch” goals adopted by the global community in 2000 to promote human development have helped stimulate and support more rapid expansion of basic health and education services across the developing world.
The 2006 World Development Report acknowledges the importance of ensuring equal opportunities across population groups as an intrinsic aspect of development and as an instrument for achieving poverty reduction and growth (World Bank 2005). Noting that men and women have starkly different access to assets and opportunities in many countries around the world, the report refers to gender inequality as the archetypal “inequality trap,” reproducing further inequalities with negative consequences for women’s well-being, their families, and their communities. MDG3 reflects the strong belief by the development community that redressing gender disparities and empowering women is an important development objective on grounds of both fairness and efficiency.1