That is good. I thank the Chairman.
This is not a comprehensive list but it shows the key information. The two areas where we have great distance to cover are child and maternal mortality, and we know this. When this information is given to people the normal response is that the figures are averages and that India and China distort the picture because of the very significant improvements there. This is why I have focused in particular on sub-Saharan Africa and how Africa performs in comparison with developing regions as a whole. The trend is in the right direction with large reductions in the proportion of people living below poverty. In education, the largest increases have been in Africa. This is partly because it started from a low base but the growth is very important. I will not go through each of the goals but a good proxy statistic on child health is that on measles vaccination, which has led to significant reductions in child deaths. All of these statistics are there for us to see.
For me, what is most important at this juncture is to understand why some of the poorest countries today are on track to achieve many of the goals. This is where we get to the crux of the issue. I have listed a few countries, which does not mean they are on track to achieve all of the goals but that they have made quite significant progress on several of them. The question we should ask is why Bangladesh and Nepal, which are much poorer than India, have moved much faster than India on many of the goals and indicators. I have provided many more examples at national level of where much progress has been made in many areas but I will not discuss all of them. I am sure there is more information on Malawi available in Ireland. It used to be a basket case with regard to food security but over the past three or four years it has become a show case.
What is most important is to understand the elements and factors in the most successful countries. I have compiled a list of my thoughts on this and the UN Secretary General's report, Keeping the Promise, to which the Chairman referred, also outlines a list of success criteria. It is similar to my list. We believe the number one factor is leadership and ownership at national level; there is no substitute for this. The most successful countries have taken the global goals and did not just parrot them but adapted and customised them. They mainstreamed them into national policies, plans and strategies. They prioritised the goals in their domestic allocation of resources and leveraged external resources. They did a much better job in improving the delivery mechanisms. They are more accountable and transparent and have more citizen engagement and media and public debate. Most importantly, international donors have played their part not only in terms of aid volume but also standing behind national priorities.
One can take the view that we have a real obstacle course ahead of us over the next five years with the economic crisis, the food crisis and all of the other crises on which one can dwell. We believe that ultimately achieving the millennium development goals is a matter of political choice and the decisions we make and not a matter of divine intervention. If we really focus on making them happen these goals can be achieved.
I have a number of slides on citizen action but I will not discuss them. However, I will briefly mention that there is no doubt that a key element behind the significant progress we have seen on the millennium development goals beyond government action has been citizen action. People have come together and reminded their governments of their promises. Much of this has happened over the past five years. This has made a big difference and a very small example is something we have run as a millennium campaign over the past three or four years, which is "stand up and take action", a global campaign for the millennium development goals. Last year, 173 million people throughout the world joined, the majority of whom are from Africa and Asia where the change has to happen.
For the summit, we are calling on all governments, particularly those in developing countries, to conduct a good analysis of what has worked and what has not in their context; to present a clear report, nationally and to the UN in September; and to have an action plan on what they want to do over the next five years and what they will do. A core issue for us with regard to the summit is accountability contracts at two levels, namely, between developing country governments and their citizens, and between the north and the south, or rich country governments and developing country governments.
I will make some comments on Ireland, after which Ms Marina Ponti will speak about Europe. I am not aware of many other countries which have had such long-standing commitment and support as Ireland for international development and the fight against poverty. I lived in Kenya for many years and have seen first hand and been inspired by the work of Irish civil society and the Irish Government. Even today, its per capita giving is among the highest in the world and Ireland remains among the top ten donors globally in the OECD chart. The quality of Irish aid is second to none. Any OECD independent review shows that Irish aid is targeted at the right countries, namely, the poorest countries, and focused on the right issues. There is much to be celebrated and commended and I will begin with that. Often, Ireland may not get enough appreciation for the very good things it does and I want to underline that as my first point.
The reason I am speaking about Ireland's contribution to millennium development goals aid in the run up to the summit is that we are very aware that the global economic situation, particularly in Ireland, has led to a reduction in aid levels over the past year. The commitment which exists, made twice or thrice already, to reach 0.7% is being left open-ended and we do not have a clear timetable on how we will get there by 2015. We are very pleased that Ireland aligned its thinking with European thinking and is moving at the same speed. This means it will match up to the 2015 European target of 0.7% but the timing of what Ireland does is crucial. Matters are just starting to get better in the poorest countries in the world. They are starting to pick up and if there are delays or further cuts, poor people in poor countries will be affected in a direct way.
Ireland in some ways does not need much persuasion and has been the beneficiary of European aid. I do not need to sell the importance of aid and external support to this nation. My argument has always been that developed countries — Ireland is no different — have the option of paying a relatively small bill now or the costs tend to be much higher later. I always give the example of Haiti; if we had invested a little in that country over a period we would probably not have had such a big loss of life, with an equally big reconstruction cost. Chile got away with a much lower cost. It is a matter of trying to invest now.
The 0.7% of GDP aid agenda is consistent with Ireland's support of human rights, gender equity and justice. Much leverage in Europe and general foreign policy can be received from a relatively small investment of €7 from every €1,000. The leverage is far higher than what one might imagine. Since aid from Ireland is of such high quality, reduction in aid from here has a much greater impact than aid being reduced by some other donors which do not go to the millennium development goals anyway.
Some other economies in a comparable position, such as Spain, the US and the UK, have managed to stick to aid commitments despite economic difficulties. It is important for Ireland to measure up to this. Part of the logic of the 0.7% figure was that it would remain constant even if the economy shrinks, which is very important. As we approach the summit, our hope — and I am sure the expectation of the Irish people is the same — is that the budget and investment for aid will turn around so that there will be a clear set of targets between now and 2015 for how official development assistance, ODA, volumes will increase to 0.7%. We hope the Doha trade process will be unlocked, as it has been stuck, and Ireland can play an important role in that. I hope Ireland can push the other European countries into doing more by doing more itself.