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“Extreme poverty can be eradicated within one more generation”, says Ban Ki-moon

Significant gains have been made for many of the MDG targets worldwide, but progress has been uneven across regions and countries, leaving significant gaps

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history and will serve as the jumping-off point for the new sustainable development agenda to be adopted this year, according to the final MDG report launched on 6th July 2015 by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Making tall success claims, the Millennium Development Goals Report 2015 found that the 15-year effort to achieve the eight aspirational goals set out in the Millennium Declaration in 2000 was largely successful globally while acknowledging shortfalls remain. According to the UN, data and analysis presented in the report show that with targeted interventions, sound strategies, adequate resources and political will, even the poorest can make progress.

“The MDGs have greatly contributed to this progress and have taught us how governments, business and civil society can work together to achieve transformational breakthroughs”
Ban Ki-moon

Goals and targets work

The MDG report states that goal-setting can lift millions of people out of poverty, empower women and girls, improve health and well-being, and provide vast new opportunities for better lives. Only two short decades ago, nearly half of the developing world lived in extreme poverty. The number of people now living in extreme poverty has declined by more than half, falling from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015.

The world has also witnessed dramatic improvement in gender equality in schooling since the MDGs, and gender parity in primary school has been achieved in the majority of countries. More girls are now in school, and women have gained ground in parliamentary representation over the past 20 years in nearly 90 per cent of the 174 countries with data. The average proportion of women in parliament has nearly doubled during the same period. The rate of children dying before their fifth birthday has declined by more than half, dropping from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births since 1990. The maternal mortality ratio shows a decline of 45 per cent worldwide, with most of the reduction occurring since 2000.

Targeted investments in fighting diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, have brought unprecedented results. Over 6.2 million malaria deaths were averted between 2000 and 2015, while tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis and treatment interventions saved an estimated 37 million lives between 2000 and 2013. Worldwide, 2.1 billion have gained access to improved sanitation and the proportion of people practicing open defecation has fallen almost by half since 1990.

Official development assistance from developed countries saw an increase of 66 per cent in real terms from 2000 and 2014, reaching $135.2 billion.

Inequalities persist

The report highlighted that conflicts remain the biggest threat to human development, with fragile and conflict-affected countries typically experiencing the highest poverty rates. Gender inequality persists in spite of more representation of women in parliament and more girls going to school. Women continue to face discrimination in access to work, economic assets and participation in private and public decision-making.

Despite enormous progress driven by the MDGs, about 800 million people still live in extreme poverty and suffer from hunger. Children from the poorest 20 per cent of households are more than twice as likely to be stunted as those from the wealthiest 20 per cent and are also four times as likely to be out of school. In countries affected by conflict, the proportion of out-of-school children increased from 30 per cent in 1999 to 36 per cent in 2012.

In the context of the environment, global emissions of carbon dioxide have increased over 50 per cent since 1990 and water scarcity now affects 40 per cent of people in the world and is projected to increase.

New sustainable development agenda

World leaders have called for an ambitious long-term sustainability agenda to succeed the MDGs. Building on the success and momentum of the MDGs, new global goals will break fresh ground with ambition on inequalities, economic growth, decent jobs, cities and human settlements, industrialization, energy, climate change, sustainable consumption and production, peace and justice.

The emerging post-2015 development agenda, including the set of Sustainable Development Goals, strives to build on our successes and put all countries, together, firmly on track towards a more prosperous, sustainable and equitable world
Ban Ki-moon. 

This is based on UN press release. The report can be downloaded here.