By Dr Arun Kashyap, Contributor
Today is recognised as United Nations (UN) Day. The most recent Millennium Development Goals (MDG) progress report indicates that the global target of halving the proportion of people living on less than US$1.25 daily was met in 2010. However, inequities within and between countries remain striking and greater effort is required to sustain these gains and reach those still untouched by this progress.
According to national estimates, it is expected that Jamaica will achieve most of its Millennium Development Goals and meet targets for poverty reduction, infant and child nutrition, primary education and access to safe drinking water. The Government's 2009 analysis also shows that the poorest decile of the population account for 2.7 per cent of national consumption, compared to 29 per cent by the wealthiest 10 per cent.
While the Jamaican population living in poverty significantly decreased in 2007, it increased to 17.6 per cent in 2010. And the projected poverty rate for 2012 is 12.1 per cent. Rural areas continue to have the largest proportion of poor people at nearly 23.2 per cent. Even with an overall increase in the labour force in Jamaica, the youth unemployment rate, at nearly 24 per cent, is nearly three times higher than adult unemployment.
While universal access to reproductive health is on target, Jamaica is behind in reducing the maternal mortality rate by three-quarters for 2015. Gender disparity is obvious by grade six in primary schools, with boys being the majority of dropouts at the secondary level. Males continue to be under-represented by 2:1 at the tertiary level. There is low representation of women in Parliament and in other areas of decision making, with a significantly higher rate of unemployment for women, despite educational gains.
Violence against women
Equitable development is unachievable if women, who represent nearly 50 per cent of the population, are excluded from the decision-making processes, deprived of the full range of human freedoms, choices and rights, and subjected to unequal access to resources and services; which is further overlaid by physical violence.
Incidence of sexual violence against women is an added burden. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, "There is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable."
Of the 600 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean more than 26 per cent are aged 15-29. While this is a unique opportunity for the region's development and for its present and future governance, many young people are exposed to tremendous risk and violence. The region comprises less than nine per cent of the world's population but accounts for 27 per cent of its homicides. The accelerating trend by youth to urbanise areas with inadequate urban infrastructure and meagre job prospects has increased social and economic disparities, and negatively impacts the state of citizen security. The increased trend of violent crimes is by young males, who are themselves disproportionately impacted.
Youth political participation
The region needs to promote youth political participation. We owe this to the generations of young Jamaicans who have the privilege of living in a democratic society. The success of any law-enforcement system is contingent on the willingness of people to participate, contribute and follow the rule of law. And, for the state to enjoy the trust and commitment of people, it must spare no effort to improve inclusion, improve transparency and create opportunities that encourage a sense of belonging for all.
In carrying out our national mission, the UN System relies on countless friends and supporters in the form of governmental organisations, non-governmental organisations, the private sector, scientists, scholars, philanthropists, religious leaders, and concerned citizens, who are all critical to our success. On this UN Day, let us reaffirm our individual commitment and our collective resolve to live up to the ideals of the United Nations Charter and do our part to build a better Jamaica for all.
We are also committed to strengthening our own teamwork and working with greater effectiveness with local, national and regional partners to achieve (along with all development partners) gender equity, peace and equitable development in Jamaica, within the framework of the MDGs and sustainable development beyond 2015.
Dr Arun Kashyap is the United Nations resident coordinator (Jamaica)/UNDP Jamaica resident representative.