The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a set of eight key objectives related to development that provide a comprehensive framework through which to address the most pressing issues of poverty. The Millennium Declaration was signed in 2000 by 189 of the world’s leaders; it established 2015 as the deadline by which the MDGs should be achieved.
To date, there have been mixed results in progress toward the achievement of these goals. The most obvious success has been the significant reduction of people living in extreme poverty: between 1990 and 2004, the proportion fell from nearly a third to less than one fifth. However, results have not been enjoyed equally throughout the world; while sub-Saharan Africa is not on track to meet any of the targets set, significant economic growth in Asia, and particularly Eastern Asia, has led to marked progress toward achieving many of the goals overall. (Visit the UN Millennium Development Goals website for a summary of progress toward each goal by region.)
Official Development Assistance (ODA) is a key component to successfully achieving the objectives laid out by the MDGs. Despite this and a pledge by developed countries to allocate 0.7% of their gross national income to ODA by 2015, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted in 2007, “the lack of any significant increase in official development assistance since 2004.” Currently, OECD countries donate an average of one-third of one percent of their incomes, roughly 1 cent for every $3 dollars. This stagnation in giving is especially concerning in light of the recent financial crisis. At his opening address to the UN General Assembly in September 2008, Ban warned, “The global financial crisis endangers all our work – financing for development, social spending in rich nations and poor, the Millennium Development Goals.”
Based on the 2007 Millennium Development Goals Report, the following is a summary of the eight different goals agreed upon, progress that has been achieved, and the challenges that will be faced going forward.
1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day; and
- Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
- Worldwide, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from nearly a third in 1990 to 19% in 2004. If this trend continues, the MDG target of halving those living on less than $1 a day should be met.
- Progress toward this goal has been unequal throughout the world, though, and much of the reduction in poverty can be attributed to economic gains in Asia, and particularly East and Southeast Asia.
- Sub-Saharan Africa remains the poorest region, but the number of people living on less than $1 a day is beginning to level off; the proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from 46.8% in 1990 to 41.1% in 2004.
- Economic growth in the developing world has not been distributed equally: between 1990 and 2004, the share of national consumption by the poorest fifth of the population in developing regions decreased from 4.6% to 3.9%. This trend is especially apparent in East Asia, where there have been significant increases in disparities; sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean remain the regions exhibiting the greatest degree of inequality.
- From 1990-2004, the proportion of children under five who are underweight decreased by one-fifth across the world.
- Largely in part to nutritional advances in China, East Asia has surpassed the MDG target, and the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean have also made significant progress toward this goal.
- The goal of halving the number of people suffering from hunger is unlikely to be met globally unless better progress is made in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
2) Achieve universal primary education
- Ensure that by 2015 children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.
- Net enrollment in primary education in the developing world increased from 80% in 1990/1 to 88% in 2004/5; two thirds of this increase occurred after 1999.
- Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest rates of enrollment, at 70%, but has made significant progress since 1999.
- Girls, children from poor families, and children from rural families are the least likely to be enrolled in primary school. Of primary school age children not in school in 2005, 57% were girls; a third of primary school age children in rural areas of the developing world were not in school, while 18% in urban areas were not in school.
- It should be noted that in conflict and post-conflict situations, official data is not usually available; if this data were available for global estimates, it would likely have a significant downward effect on rates.
3) Promote gender equality and empower women
- Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015.
- Worldwide, over 60% of unpaid family workers are women; women in rural areas are especially likely to be unpaid.
- There have been small gains in female participation in paid, non-agricultural employment. South Asia, Western Asia, and Oceania, regions where women have low participation rates in the labor market, have made the greatest gains; rates in North Africa, another region with very low participation, remained mostly static.
- Female political participation is gradually growing. As of January 2007, women represented 17% of single and lower houses of parliament, compared to 13% in 1990; there were only 19 countries with at least 30% female representation.
4) Reduce child mortality
- Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate.
- In 2005, it is estimated that 10.1 million children died before reaching the age of five.
- Child mortality rates have been declining, though progress has been uneven; rates are highest in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) nations in Asia, and in Oceania.
- In most countries with a substantial reduction in under-five mortality rates, the largest changes occurred within the richest 40% of households, in urban areas, or within families in which mothers had at least some education.
- Where progress has been limited, AIDS is likely to be a significant factor; malaria, war, and conflict are also major contributing factors to high rates.
- Deaths from measles dropped by over 60% between 2000 and 2005 due in large part to improved immunization coverage; immunization campaigns (most notably, the international Measles Initiative) have successfully been used to deliver other needed public health services such as mosquito nets, de-worming medicine, and vitamin A supplements.
5) Improve maternal health
- Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio.
- Each year, over 500,000 women die from treatable or preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
- The odds that over the course of her lifetime, a woman will die from these causes in sub-Saharan Africa are 1 in 16, compared with 1 in 3,800 in the developed world.
- Causes of maternal death vary widely. In Africa and Asia, hemorrhage is the leading cause; in Latin America and the Caribbean, hypertensive disorders during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes. In Asia anemia is a significant factor, while in Africa, HIV/AIDS is often a contributing factor.
- The regions with the lowest proportions of skilled health attendants at birth are South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa; urban women are more likely than their rural counterparts to have their births attended by skilled health care personnel.
- Every region has made progress toward ensuring that every woman receives antenatal care at least once during every pregnancy; however, four antenatal visits during pregnancy are recommended and there has been less success in meeting this rate.
- Contraceptive use has risen from 55% in 1990 to 64% in 2005; rates in sub-Saharan Africa remain low, at 21%.
- High adolescent birth rates have not been significantly reduced.
6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
- By 2015, have halted and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS; and
- By 2015, have halted and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.
- In 2006, it was estimated that 39.5 million people were living with HIV and that 4.3 million people had been newly infected that year; the number of people dying from AIDS has increased from 2.2 million in 2001 to 2.9 million in 2006.
- Causes of transmission vary by region: in CIS countries, non-sterile injecting drug equipment is the main mode of transmission, and in sub-Saharan Africa, this mode of transmission is increasing; in South and Southeast Asia, unprotected sex with sex workers is the primary mode of transmission; in some Asian countries, there have also been recent outbreaks among men who have sex with men.
- Recently, there has been a notable ‘feminization’ of the HIV epidemic as a result of power imbalances between men and women, and as of 2006, women comprised 48% of those living with HIV. This is stark contrast to the beginning years of the epidemic when the majority of those infected were male.
- Access to antiretroviral therapy remains limited in the developing world. In developing regions, only 28% of the estimated 7.1 million people in need have access, and in sub-Saharan Africa, only about a quarter of an estimated 4.8 million are receiving the therapy.
- Prevention measures are not keeping pace with the spread of HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa, less than a third of young men and just over a fifth of young women demonstrated a comprehensive and correct knowledge of the disease. In 2005, only 11% of pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries who were HIV-positive were receiving services to prevent the transmission of the virus to their newborns.
- In 2005, it was estimated that 15.2 million children had lost one or both parents to AIDS; of these, 80% were in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Due to recent increased attention and funding, key interventions to control malaria have been expanded.
- Despite this, only a few countries came close to the 2005 target of 60% coverage by insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) that was set at the African Summit on Roll Back Malaria in 2000; a new goal of 80% coverage by ITNs has been set for 2010.
- Only 5% of children under five in sub-Saharan Africa sleep under ITNs; children in urban areas are 2.5 times as likely as rural children to sleep under a bed net.
- Chloroquine is still widely used to treat malaria, though there is widespread resistance to this drug.
- Of the $3 billion that is estimated to be needed to fight malaria, only $600 million was available as of 2004.
- In most regions, the incidence of tuberculosis has stabilized and begun to fall, meeting the MDG goal.
- However, it is unlikely that the new target set by the Stop TB Partnership to halve prevalence and death rates by 2015 will be met.
7) Ensure environmental sustainability
- Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources;
- Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation; and
- To improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.
- Sustainable development and reversal of the loss of environmental resources:
- Since the 1990s, every region has exceeded its commitments under the Montreal Protocol of 1989, which called for the phasing out of substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion.
- Between 18% and 25% of greenhouse gas emissions each year are associated with deforestation, and from 1990-2005, the world lost 3% of its forests, primarily due to the conversion of forests to agricultural land in developing nations; forested areas totaling about 200 square kilometers – an area twice the size of Paris – are being lost every day.
- Despite conservation efforts, biodiversity continues to decline, both on land and in seas; at present, only 22% of the world’s fisheries are sustainable.
- Emissions in Southeast Asia and North Africa more than doubled between 1990 and 2004.
- In 2004, developed regions accounted for about 12 tons of CO2 emissions per person; the emissions of an individual in sub-Saharan Africa account for less than one tenth of the CO2 emissions of an average person in the developed world.
- The use of renewable energies has increased greatly, but still only accounts for 0.5% of total energy consumption.
- Access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation:
- To meet the MDG goal of halving those without access to improved sanitation, an estimated 1.6 billion people will need access to improved sanitation by 2015; trends indicate that the target is likely to missed by 600 million people.
- East and Southeast Asia, Western Asia, North Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean are the only regions on track to meet sanitation targets.
- Poor sanitation and lack of safe drinking water contribute to about 88% of deaths of children under five that are due to diarrheal diseases.
- Quality of life of slum dwellers:
- Nearly half of the world’s population live in cities now. In 2005, one out of three urban dwellers was living in slum conditions (as defined by lacking at least one of the basic conditions of decent housing: adequate sanitation, improved water supply, durable housing or adequate living space).
- In Chad, the Central African Republic and Ethiopia, four out of five urban dwellers live in slums.
8) Develop a global partnership for development
- Address the special needs of the least developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing states;
- Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system;
- Deal comprehensively with developing countries’ debt;
- In cooperation with developing countries, develop and implement strategies for decent and productive work for youth; and
- In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.
- In 2005, aid rose to a record $106.8 billion, though this was due largely to debt relief operations, especially in Iraq and Nigeria; once debt relief to these two nations fell in 2006, the overall figure dropped to $103.9 billion. This latter number is equivalent to 0.3% of developed countries’ combined national income.
- In real terms, the drop from 2005 to 2006 represented 5.1% and was the first decline in official development aid since 1997.
- The least developed countries (LDCs):
- Aid to LDCs has essentially stagnated since 2003.
- Donor nations pledged to double aid to Africa by 2010 at the summit of the Group of 8 industrialized nations in 2005. Despite this, when debt relief to Nigeria is excluded, aid to sub-Saharan Africa only increased by 2% between 2005 and 2006.
- Trading and financial systems:
- Developed countries, as a part of a 2001 meeting in Doha, agreed in 2005 to eliminate duties and quotas on most imports from LDCs.
- Despite this, in 2005, the share of goods entering developed country markets duty-free was unchanged from the year before.
- It is argued that improving the market for LDCs needs to be complemented by a significant program of Aid for Trade; despite this, between 2001 and 2005, the proportion of official aid going to trade-related technical assistance and capacity-building has declined 4.4% to 3.5%.
- Developing countries’ debt:
- The Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) are the two main programs through which countries are being relieved of debt; between these two initiatives, the debt stock of HIPC countries is expected to be reduced by 90%.
- As of April 2007, 22 of the 40 HIPC countries had fulfilled all conditions of the MDRI and been granted debt relief, while eight had completed the first stage of the process and received debt relief on a provisional basis; the remaining 10 countries have received commitments of debt relief.
- There are still 11 countries that are potentially eligible for debt relief under the HIPC Initiative, but as a result of conflict, poor governance, or arrears in payment, they have not taken the steps to capitalize on the Initiative.
- Decent and productive work for youth:
- In 2006, the youth unemployment rate was 13.6%, as compared with the adult unemployment rate of 4.4%.
- From 1996 to 2006, the number of jobless youth has risen from 74 million to 86 million.
- Youth bulges in demographics, especially in the developing world, make finding solutions to this problem even more urgent.
- New technologies, with an emphasis on information and communications technologies:
- The number of mobile phone subscribers rose dramatically, from 11 million in 1990 to 2.2 billion in 2005. Mobile phone connections are especially important in nations with few fixed telephone lines; in almost every African nation, there are more mobile than fixed telephone subscribers.
- In 2005, just over 15% of the world’s population was using the Internet, though access is distributed unequally, with over half the population in developed regions using the Internet, compared with only 9% in developing regions and 1% in the 50 least developed countries.
For more information, visit the United Nations Millennium Development Goals web site at http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/.
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