San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Legislators Discuss U.N. Millennium Goals

Like countries around the world, Costa

Rica has a goal to reach by 2015 – eight, in

fact – the U.N. Millennium Development

Goals that list objectives for the country to

reduce poverty and hunger, curb environmental

damage, improve health and education

and promote gender equality, among

other goals.

Reaching them appears to be on Costa

Rican legislators’ minds. In collaboration

with the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA)

and the nonprofits Inter-American

Parliamentary Group for Population and

Development (GPI) and Family Care

International (FCI), legislators and legislators-

elect discussed how Costa Rica fares in

achieving its Millennium Goals at a conference

held at the Legislative Assembly earlier

this month.

Overall, Costa Rica is making good

progress toward reaching the Millennium

Goals, established in 2000, and in some areas,

has already far surpassed them, explained

U.N. Costa Rica Coordinator José Manuel

Hermida. His assessment is based on a

progress report published in 2004 by the Costa

Rican government in collaboration with the

United Nations, which gauged how Costa Rica

advanced toward its Millennium Goals during

the first four years of this century.

Because the country has already exceeded

its objectives in some areas, Costa Rica’s

branch of the United Nations must “be more

demanding in its aspirations” and set its

own, higher goals, Hermida said.

In primary education, for example,

Costa Rica has already met the goals established

for all children to have access to primary

education, leading the country to set

its own goal for making preschool and secondary

education also universally available.

Another “self-imposed” goal Costa Rica

has set is for all geographic areas of the

country, not just a national average, to reach

certain Millennium Goals, Hermida said.

National Unity Party legislator-elect and

former Ombudsman José Manuel Echandi

echoed this concern over geographic variations

in development, remarking that “there

are groups that are not being attended to, that

don’t have adequate access to health care.”

For example, the number of infant and

maternal deaths is higher in remote and

indigenous areas than in the rest of the country,

Echandi said, and though most of Costa

Rica meets the goal for infant and maternal

death rates, some of these areas fall below it.

Improving health care in rural and

indigenous areas must be a priority in Costa

Rica’s development, said Echandi, who proposed

creating a legislative commission to

address human rights and develop a more

specific agenda for focusing on Millennium

Goals. He said he would wait until new legislators

assume office May 1 to work on

forming the commission.

Promoting gender equality is another

Millennium Goal; Social Christian Unity

Party (PUSC) legislator-elect Ana Helena

Chacón pointed out that 60% of those living

in poverty are women. Additionally,

birthrates are much higher in low-income

areas – where women often lack opportunities

– than in areas where women have more

resources and education. This discrepancy is

evidence, she said, that more work is needed

in the areas of women’s rights and reproductive


“There are many women and children in

this country living in conditions of misery,”

Chacón said. “They have the right to an education

and to an honorable job.”

Chacón also expressed concern over

Costa Rica’s poverty rates, which have not

decreased and only shown small variations

since 1994, when 21.7% of homes were considered

to be in poverty, and 5.6% of the

population lived in “extreme poverty,” meaning

they suffered from hunger, according to


The Millennium Goals are to reduce by

half, between 1990 and 2015, the number of

people who suffer from hunger.

“As new legislators, we’ve got a big agenda

before us, and a large part of it is working

to eliminate poverty,” Chacón said.

A study recently released by the National

Statistics and Census Institute (INEC) showed

the gap between the poor and the wealthy has

increased since 1988 (TT, April 7).

Hermida agreed that though the country

“has the chance to reach its Millennium

Development Goals if it makes sufficient

efforts,” reducing poverty is one of the areas

that requires an extra “sustained effort.”

“If Costa Rica wants to reach its goal for

poverty, it should find a way to overcome its

stagnation … achieve economic growth

while reducing inequality and generating

quality jobs,” Hermida said.

The Millennium Goals

GOAL 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Target: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day Target: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

GOAL 2: Achieve universal primary education

Target: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling

GOAL 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Target: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

GOAL 4: Reduce child mortality Target: Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate

GOAL 5: Improve maternal health

Target: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio

GOAL 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Target: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS

Target: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases

GOAL 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Target: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources

Target: Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

Target: By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers

GOAL 8: Develop a global partnership for development

Target: Address the special needs of the least developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing States

Target: Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system

Target: Deal comprehensively with developing countries’ debt

Target: In cooperation with developing countries, develop and implement strategies for decent and productive work for youth

Target: In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries

Target: In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communication Source: United Nations Department of Public Information

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