Millennium Development Goals: where are we now?

The General Assembly at the United Nations. Photo by Rob Young.


The Millennium Development Goals have generated a great source of criticism since its inception at the turn of the new millennium and with only three years to go before these targets are met, how are they faring? Mohamed Ali, who works with the charity EveryChild, investigates…

The Millennium Declaration was signed by all 189 members of the United Nations in 2000 and included eight targets to be met by the year 2015 to “free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected.” These targets, known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), are as follows:

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality rates

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

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

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

With the deadline now on the horizon – and a palpable sense of failure looming – the truth is that although there has been some progress made, it is uneven across the globe with most targets still a considerably long way away from being reached. This comes at a time when the US has spent an estimated $4 trillion on the post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to Brown University’s Costs of War project.

The introduction of the MDGs was encouraging, showing some introspective and noble aspirations from the UN. But  it looks as if it has now dribbled to a slow snail’s pace. The 0.7% target pledged in 1970 –  the donation by developed countries of 0.7% of their Gross National Product (GNP) to international development – has failed, perhaps due to the global financial crisis.

By the time 2015 comes it will be a total of 45 years since the 0.7% promise from collective governments was made; although countries outside the world’s 8 largest economies – such as Norway and Sweden – regularly reach and contribute more than the required target there is still a long way to go for the rest of the world.

The growing world population hasn’t helped and the number of victims of starvation has been on the rise since 2000 – with almost 1 billion in 2008. These people are not in need of charity, they are in need of their fundamental human rights  to be fulfilled: the right to adequate food.

Although many targets are struggling to be met one is on course to be smashed through due to the booming economy in East Asia, particularly in China and India. “The world’s poorest region three decades ago has seen the poverty rate from almost 80% to 18%” said Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Division for Asia Pacific.

These indicators lend confidence to a brighter future but there is still a long way to go in terms of reaching the Millennium Development Goals and ending world hunger.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.


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