Millennium Development Goals: evaluation and beyond

In the year 2000, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, world leaders gathered at the United Nations in order to establish an ambitious project aimed at fighting global poverty in all its forms. They adopted the so-called eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG). These goals are quantified anti-poverty targets that the world committed to achieve by 2015. The spectrum of these international development goals was not restricted to resource poverty, but also covered other key aspects of human well-being. The eight millenium goals were defined as follows:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

The United Nations’ 2015 report on the MDG [1] offers an evaluation of the progress achieved since the MDG’s adoption. In a nutshell, there are reasons to celebrate the success of the MDG as millions of lives have been saved and the living conditions of many people have been improved. Substantial improvements have been registered in the eight different goals. Nevertheless, the targets have not all been reached. Furthermore, some countries and regions did much better than others and many among the most vulnerable individuals have been left behind. This means that extra efforts are necessary.

Some salient trends highlighted in the report are worth emphasizing. First, the percentage of individuals living with less than $1.25 a day, the threshold adopted for extreme poverty, has been more than halved between 1990 and 2015. Indeed, 47% of the individuals living in developing countries were extremely poor  in 1990 but only 14% in 2015. Nevertheless, this very good news was mostly due to impressive progress in East Asia and in particular China, whereas at the same time Sub-Saharan countries registered much slower progress and some among them even saw their extreme poverty increase. Another noteworthy success has been obtained in primary education. The number of children not sent to school has decreased from 100 millions in 2000 to 57 millions in 2015. Interestingly, the bulk of this change came from Sub-Saharan countries. The increased schooling had a substantive impact on the literacy rate of individuals aged between 15 and 24 that increased from 83% to 91% between 1990 and 2015. Other appreciable improvements took place in the fight against HIV and infant mortality, as well as in the access to clean water and to sanitation facilities.

Unfortunately, several objectives are far from being reached. Importantly, gender equality has seen slow progress since the year 2000. Women are still confronted to labor market discriminations, are more likely to live in extreme poverty and have less say in both public and private decision making. Strikingly, worldwide only one parlementarian out of five is a woman today. Another clear difference exists between the living conditions in urban and rural areas. In the world in 2015, only 56% of births were assisted by a trained medical worker in rural areas whereas this percentage is 87% in urban areas. The vast majority of individuals who do not have access to clean water and sanitation facilities live in rural areas. Importantly enough, the report stresses that climate change and environmental degradations are becoming increasingly serious issues. They hurt the poor more than others, as their livelihood is often more directly related to natural resources.

The year 2015 does not mark the end of the MDG agenda. Rather, new objectives have been discussed during the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit that took place in September 2015. During this summit, world leaders adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice and tackle climate change by 2030. This new agenda goes beyond that of the MDG. Increased attention is paid to environmental risks. Moreover, reducing economic inequalities enters the set of objectives, whereas the focus had so far exclusively been put on reducing extreme poverty. The 17 substainable goals are coined as follows:

  1. No poverty
  2. Zero hunger
  3. Good health and well-being
  4. Quality education
  5. Gender equality
  6. Clean water and sanitation
  7. Affordable and clean energy
  8. Decent work and economic growth
  9. Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
  10. Reduced inequalities
  11. Sustainable cities and communities
  12. Responsible consumption and production
  13. Climate action
  14. Life below water
  15. Life on land
  16. Peace and justice strong institutions
  17. Partnerships for the goals

Hopefully, the 2030’s evaluation of the SDG will be even more positive than the 2015’s report on MDG. This of course depends on the decisions and actions that will be taken in the mean time at all levels of power. How can these decisions and actions be improved? One particular tool that is increasingly recognized as playing a key role for development is the production of precise and reliable data. Such data are necessary to efficiently guide policy. The report insists that not enough data are collected, the available data are often outdated and are seldom publicly available. The success of the SDG agenda will therefore also rely on the close monitoring of its targets. As the saying goes: what is measurable is achievable.

[1] The Millennuim Development Goals Report (2015). United Nations

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One Response to Millennium Development Goals: evaluation and beyond

  1. Pingback: Millennium Development Goals: evaluation and beyond | DHS News

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