Efforts to promote development need to focus on hard-to-reach areas, experts told a Friends of Europe Policymakers’ Dinner, “Leaving no one behind – the SDG challenge of reaching the last mile” on 5 June 2018.
About three-quarters of the world’s poor live in remote areas with insufficient access to education, healthcare, clean water and sanitation. The percentage of children not in school in such areas is twice as high as in urban areas, and children are 1.7 times more likely to die before their fifth birthday in comparison to urban areas. That makes it urgent to push aid efforts well beyond cities, which often present the most-visible challenges.
“We found that there is a skills gap for young people,” said Naoko Ueda, Deputy Director of the Development Centre at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Even when they are educated they are not incorporated into the formal market. We need to avoid making youth disenchanted from governments. If youth are disenchanted with their countries, that can lead to instability.”
The United Nations’ Agenda 2030 calls for leaving no one behind and ensuring that all sustainable development goals (SDGs) are "met for all nations and peoples and for all segments of society”. An implication is that development actors think beyond per capita GDP and reach out to the last mile: the poorest of the poor, the most geographically distant and the most marginalised – with a special emphasis on women and girls.
“The key definition is that the SDGs are a matter for all in society,” said Stefano Manservisi, Director-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO) at the European Commission. “That means, first and foremost, that we reflect on all societies. It means a whole-government approach and questions about the governance of the world.”
Tackling these and other challenges requires new approaches through innovative development, business and financial policies. These must take place at national, regional and international level. “We learned that what was more impactful and powerful was skills and training,” said Beatriz Perez, Chief Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability Officer for The Coca-Cola Company. “It is less about putting vaccines on trucks and more about people looking after refrigeration and training people to operate facilities. This was really important.”
There are some examples of successful investment programmes in Africa – notably in Ethiopia, which was once known for devastating famines, but is now developing a base of light industry. “Ethiopia is on an industrialisation path thanks to growth and planning,” said Li Yong, Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The country is now home to a growing number of industrial parks, which focus on labour-intensive sectors such as apparel, textiles and food processing. “The poverty rate has fallen from 44% in 2000 to 23.5% in 2015-16.”
Should you not be able to view the gallery, click here.