At the beginning of this millennium, all the nations of the world had taken a pledge
from the highest forum to share their resources to achieve time bound and quantified
targets for addressing poverty in its many dimensions such as extreme poverty, hunger,
disease and to promote gender equality, education & environmental sustainability.
A deadline of 15 years was prescribed for it. As the MDGs era came to an end in
the year 2015, it is time to take stock of the outcome of the efforts made by the
global partnership between the “developed” and the “developing” countries to meet
the needs of the poorest. The objective of this article is to present an analysis
of the progress made so far in fulfilling the targets, designed to address poverty
in its many dimensions.
Rationale of the study
It is only by such an exercise that one can judge:
It is only by such an exercise that one can judge: i. Whether more people now grow
ii. Whether more people are now learning and knowing?
iii. Whether more people are now equal and just?
iv. Whether more children now survive and live?
v. Whether more mothers are now healthier?
vi. Whether more people are now able to combat illness?
vii. Are there improvements and advancements in achieving the goals listed in the
declaration? If not, what were the militating factors?
viii. Whether the curtain should drop on the whole exercise or should we commit
to build on the momentum generated by the MDGs?
These questions are relevant in concluding whether the progress towards reaching
the goals has been even
i. Across the goal, and
ii. Across the countries. In other words, it will be interesting to know if people
are now better off than what they were 15 years ago.
Preparations for the 2000 Millennium Summit were launched with the report of the
Secretary-General entitled, "We the people: The Role of the UN in the Twenty-First
Century". Additional input was prepared by the Millennium Forum, participated by
some 1,000 non-governmental and civil society organizations from over hundred countries.
The assembly concluded a two-year consultation process covering issues such as erasing
poverty, safeguarding environment, ensuring human rights and protection of vulnerable
people. The MDGs originated from the UN Millennium Declaration, which asserted that
every individual has dignity; and hence, the right to freedom, equality, a basic
living standard that includes freedom from hunger and violence and encourages forbearance
and unity. The MDGs laid down specific targets and indicators for poverty reduction
in order to achieve the rights set forth in the Declaration. Goals in the area of
peace and security were based on the Brahimi Report. The Millennium Summit Declaration
accounted for only part of the origins of the MDGs. More ideas came from Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund. A series of UN-led conferences in the 1990s focused on issues such
as children, nutrition, human rights and women. The then UN Secretary General Kofi
Annan signed a report titled, “We the Peoples: The Role of the UN in the 21st Century”.
The OECD had formed its own International Development Goals. These two efforts were
combined for the World Bank's 2001 meeting to form the MDGs.
Objectives of MDG
The MDGs emphasized three areas with the intent of increasing living standards viz
Human capital, infrastructure and human rights.
(i) Human capital- These objectives include nutrition, health care (which also include
infant mortality, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and reproductive health) and
(ii) Infrastructure - These objectives include access to safe drinking water, energy
and modern information/communication technology; enhanced farm productivity relying
on sustainable usage; transportation; and environment.
(iii) Human rights - These objectives include empowering women, reducing violence,
increasing political voice, ensuring equal access to public services and increasing
security of property rights.
The intention of the goals was to enhance an individual’s human capabilities and
to facilitate the means to a productive life. The MDGs emphasize that each nation's
policies should be tailored to that country's needs; therefore most policy suggestions
MDGs stressed the duty and responsibility of the developed countries in aiding developing
countries, as outlined in Goal Eight, that defines the task before and expectations
from the developed countries to achieve a “global partnership for development" by
supporting fair trade, debt relief, increasing aid, accessibility to essential medicines
and encouraging technology transfer. In this way, developing nations professedly
joined hands with developed nations in the struggle to reduce world poverty.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were the eight international development
Goal 1: Eliminate extreme poverty and hunger
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and women empowerment
Goal 4: Decrease child mortality rates
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS and malaria.
Goal 7: Safeguard environmental sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development The poverty alleviation targets
of the MDGs enjoy the largest backing in the world history.
The Millennium Development Goals Report includes evaluation of the following components
to access the achievements of MDGs:
(a) Goals-There are eight aspirational goals.
(b) Targets-The eight goals are measured through 21 targets.
(c) Indicators-There are 60 measurable ‘health indicators’ and ‘economic indicators.’
(d) Baseline and Deadline- Most of the MDG targets had a deadline of 2015, using
1990 as the baseline against which progress is measured.
(e) Aggregating and presentation of data- Country data are aggregated at the sub
regional and regional level to show overall advances over time.
(f) Basis for the analysis
(i) Compilation - Regional and sub regional figures are compiled by members of the
UN Inter Agency and Expert Group on MDG Indicators.
(ii) Surveys - To fill data gaps, surveys were sponsored by international agencies
and include many of the health indicators which are compiled from Multiple Indicator
Cluster surveys and Demographic and Health surveys.
(iii) Estimation - In case countries do not produce the data required to compile
the indicators, responsible international agencies estimated the missing values.
(iv) Transparency – To impart transparency, the country data series in the database
are given colour codes to indicate whether the figures are estimated or provided.
(v) Adjustments - Even when national data are available, adjustments are often needed
to ensure international compatibility.
(vi) Designation of countries - Since there is no established convention while designating
‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries or areas in the United Nations system, this
distinction was made for the purpose of statistical analysis only.
Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
A. Extreme poverty has dropped remarkably in the last twenty five years. In 1990,
nearly half of the population in the developing world lived with earnings of about
$1.25 a day; that percentage has declined to 14 per cent in 2015.
B. Globally, the number of people doomed to live uttermost poverty has fallen from
1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015.
C. The number of people in the working middle class—living on more than $4 a day—has
registered three times increase during the period 1991 and 2015.
D. The proportion of undernourished people in the developing regions has fallen
by almost half. In 1990-92 it was 23.3 percent. In 2014-16 it is 12.9 percent.
Goal: 2 Achieve Universal Primary Education
A. In the developing regions, the primary school net enrolment rate was 83 per cent
in 2000. Happily it has now increased to 91 percent in 2015.
B. The number of out-of-school children of primary school age worldwide has fallen
by almost half. It has dropped from 100 million in 2000 to about 57 million in 2015.
C. During the 25 year period from 1990 the literacy rate among youth aged 15 to
24 has increased globally from 83 per cent to 91 per cent. There also has been narrowing
down of the gap between women and men.
Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
A. The developing regions as a whole have achieved the target to eliminate gender
imbalance in elementary, primary, secondary and tertiary education.
B. In Southern Asia, during 1990 only 74 girls were enrolled in primary school vis-ŕ-vis
100 boys. Presently it is 103 girls for every 100 boys.
C. Women now make up 41 per cent of paid employees other than agricultural sector,
an increase from 35 per cent in 1990.
D. Between 1991 and 2015, the involvement of women in vulnerable employment as a
share of total female employment has declined 13 percentage points compared to 9
percentage points in case of men.
E. Women have gained ground in parliamentary representation in around 156 countries
out of 174 over the past 20 years. The average proportion of women in parliament
has nearly become twofold in this period. Despite this only one in five members
Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality
A. The global under-five mortality rate has declined by more than half, dropping
from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births between 1990 and 2015.
B. Despite population growth in the developing regions, the death count of the children
within 5 years of age has come down from 12.7 million in 1990 to almost 6 million
in 2015 globally.
C. Since the early 1990s, the rate of reduction of under-five mortality has more
than tripled globally.
D. Measles vaccination helped prevent nearly 15.6 million deaths between 2000 and
2013, signifying 67 percent decrease.
E. About 84 per cent of children worldwide benefitted from minimum one dose of measles
vaccination in 2013, up from 73 per cent in 2000.
Goal 5: Improve Mental Health
A. Since 1990, the maternal mortality ratio has declined by 45 per cent worldwide,
and most of the reduction has occurred since 2000.
B. In Southern Asia, the maternal mortality ratio declined by 64 per cent between
1990 and 2013, and in sub-Saharan Africa it fell by 49 per cent.
C. Worldwide more than 71 per cent of births were assisted by skilled health personnel
in 2014. It amounts to a rise from 59 percent since 1990.
D. Contraceptive acceptance among women in the age group of 15 to 49, married or
in a union, increased from 55 per cent in 1990 worldwide to 64 per cent in 2015.
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases
A. Between 2000 and 2013, the incidence of HIV infections fell by about 40 per cent
from 3.5 million cases to 2.1 million.
B. Worldwide 13.6 million people living with HIV were beneficiary of antiretroviral
therapy (ART) globally by 2014, a great improvement considering the figure of an
immense increase from just 800,000 in 2003. This therapy averted 7.6 million deaths
from AIDS between 1995 and 2013.
C. During the period 2000-2015 Malaria has been tackled as under:
• Global malaria incidence rate-declined by 37 percent.
• Mortality Rate-declined by 58 percent.
D. During the period 1990-2013, tuberculosis prevention, detection and therapy interventions
saved an estimated 37 million lives. Between 1990 and 2013 tuberculosis has been
addressed as under
• Mortality Rate-declined by 45 percent
• Prevalence Rate-declined by 41 percent
Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
A. Since 1990, ozone-depleting substances have been eliminated, and the ozone layer
is expected to recover by the middle of this century.
B. Terrestrial and marine protected areas in many regions have increased substantially.
C. In 2015, 91 per cent of the global population is using an improved drinking water
source, compared to 76 per cent in 1990.
D. Since 1990, of the 2.6 billion people who have gained access to improved drinking
water, 1.9 billion enjoyed improved drinking water through pipes on premises. Over
half of the global population now enjoys this higher level of service.
E. Globally the position is as below.
• Number of countries meeting the target of drinking water-147
• Number of meeting the target of sanitation -95
• Number of countries meeting both the targets-77
F. Worldwide, 2.1 billion people have gained access to better sanitation. The number
of people indulging in open defecation has fallen almost by half since 1990.
G. The segment of people fated to live in slums in the developing regions fell from
approximately 39.4 per cent in 2000 to 29.7 per cent in 2014.
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development
A. In 2014, 79 percent of imports from developing to developed countries were admitted
B. Between 2000 and 2014 the official development assistance from developed countries
increased by 66 percent in real terms.
C. The proportion of external debt service to export revenue in developing countries
fell from 12 percent in 2000 to 3 percent in 2013.
D. Generic medicines were available in 58 percent of public health facilities whereas
an average of 67 percent are available in private sector.
E. Internet recognition has grown from 6 percent of the population of the world
to 43 percent in 2015.
Uneven Progress across Regions and Countries
There have been significant achievements made on many of the targets of MDGs, still
a very large number of people are left behind. These include poor, disadvantaged
people who got left behind because of their sex, disability, age etc. Some of them
are mentioned in the following paragraphs.
• Gender Equality is still existing
• Discrimination is still existing for women in access to work, economic assets.
There appears a perceived lack of analytical power and justification behind the
chosen objectives. The MDGs miss forceful objectives and indicators for within-country
equality, despite significant disparities in many developing nations. Further critique
of the MDGs assert that they seek to introduce local change relying on borrowed
method/ ideas/product. MDGs uniquely focus on donor achievements, rather than on
attainment of evolution and growth. The Centre for Global Development gauges the
century level achievements annually and its report is considered trustworthy. The
entire MDG process has been accused of wanting in legitimateness because of inability
to incorporate the voices of the very participants that the MDGs seek to benefit.
The International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty states that "The major
limitation of the MDGs by 2015 was the lack of political motivation to implement
due to the lack of ownership of the MDGs by the most affected constituencies”. According
to Deneulin & Shahani, the MDGs under-emphasize local participation and empowerment.
International, a human rights made contribution to the Post 2015 process by pointing
out a lack of: " due regard for human rights; suitable policy ; and of human rights
based approach to monitoring and accountability”. Without such accountability, no
substantial change in national and international policies can be expected. The MDGs
were questioned for inadequate stress on environmental sustainability. Thus, they
do not capture all elements needed to achieve the ideals narrated in the Millennium
Declaration. There was no place for agriculture even though most of the world's
poor are farmers. It focuses on primary education and emphasizes enrollment and
completion. In some countries, primary enrollment improved at the cost of achievement
levels. In a few cases, the emphasis on primary education has negatively affected
secondary and post-secondary education. Goals related to maternal mortality, malaria
and tuberculosis are impossible to evaluate. Also the present UN assessment is devoid
of scientific validity or is missing. Household surveys are the primary measure
for the health MDGs, but they involve poor and duplicative measurements that consume
Still, MDGs prioritize interventions, establish attainable objectives with useful
measurements of progress despite measurement issues. It has increased the developed
world’s involvement in worldwide poverty reduction. It has also helped developing
countries with meager resources in making decision on allocation of their resources.
MDGs also strengthen the commitment of developed countries promoting aid as well
as sharing of information. This increases the likelihood of their success.
Achieving the MDGs does not depend on economic growth alone. It is possible to reduce
child mortality relying on cheap but fruitful interventions like measles immunization.
Still, government expenditure in a number of countries is insufficient to answer
the prescribed spending targets. Research on health systems suggests that a "one
size fits all" concept may not be equal to the task of responding to the individual
healthcare profiles of developing countries. Further, there are common set of constraints
in scaling up international health, including the lack of absorptive potential,
frail health system, limited human resources and high cost.
Further developments in rethinking strategies in attaining the MDGs take into account
research by the Overseas Development Institute into the role of equity. The research
scholars of the above institute mentioned that it would be possible to expedite
the progress due to recent breakthroughs in the role equity plays in safeguarding
participation of the poor in their country's development and creates reductions
in poverty and financial instability. Yet equity should not be understood purely
as economic, but also as political.
Increased focus on gender issues could accelerate MDG progress, e.g. empowering
by enabling participation to paid work will bring down child mortality. In South
Asian countries, babies often suffered from poor birth weight and increased mortality,
because of restricted access to health-care and maternal malnutrition. Paid work
will enhance women's approach to health management and improved nutrition reducing
child mortality. Increasing female education and workforce participation increases
these effects. Improved economic opportunities for women also decreases participation
in the sex market, which decreases the spread of HIV/AIDS.
• 2005-To accelerate progress, the G8 Finance Ministers agreed in June 2005 to provide
enough funds to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the African
Development Bank (ADB) to cancel $40 to $55 billion unsatisfied debt of the heavily
indebted poor countries, so as to allow them to redirect resources to programs for
betterment of health, improving education and mitigating deprivation.
• 2010-A major conference was held at UN headquarters in New York to review progress
in MDG goals. The conference concluded with the adoption of a global roadmap to
speed up the progress in respect of the eight poverty eradication goals. Major new
commitments on women's and children's health, poverty, hunger and disease ensued.
• 2012- The Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed 26 public and private leaders
to advise him on the post-MDG agenda and established the "UN System Task Team on
the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda", involving over sixty UN agencies and international
organizations to focus and work on sustainable development.
• 2013-progress towards the goals was uneven. Some countries achieved many goals,
while others were not on the right path to fulfill any.
• 2014-In this year, the UN's Commission on the Status of Women consented to a paper
that called for the acceleration of progress towards achieving the Millennium Development
Goals, and reaffirmed the compulsion for a sanitary goal on gender equality agenda.
Although there has been major advancements and improvements in fulfilling some of
the goals ahead of the target date of 2015, the progress has been uneven between
Despite positive outcome of the MDGs, the focus should remain on eliminating the
manifold facets of extreme poverty. At the same time, there is need to address emerging
global realities such as the worsening environmental pressures influencing the sustenance
of crores of people, the growing number of middle-income countries with high internal
poverty challenges, and rapidly spreading non-communicable diseases. Looking with
positivity, the next generation of goals must keep the attainable candor which allowed
the MDGs to succeed and also facilitate the creation of better answerability channel
within and across governments. Additionally, the new goals need to provide developing
countries better expression in fashioning the agenda. Most important, momentum matters.
Just as progress in individual MDG areas has inspired other campaigns, so work done
now, in the final stretch, will affect what happens in the future. The achievements
at the end of the deadline of 15 years marks an endpoint, but even more, they will
provide a springboard for the next generation of goals. There is no time to lose.
• Kabeer, Naila (2005). "Gender equality and women's empowerment: a critical analysis
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• The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015 | UNDP, http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/mdg/the-millennium-development-goals-report-2015.html
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• www.foodsovereignty.org/.../Draft_CSO-SoW-BFA_ThematicStudy_20Nov2015.pdf About
the author: The author is Visiting Faculty ( Social Work), Amity Institute of Social
Sciences, Amity University, Noida. E-mail: email@example.com ,