In 2000 the UN Millennium Declaration was adopted at the largest ever meeting of heads of state and committed those countries- rich and poor- to doing all they could to eradicate poverty, promote human dignity and equality and achieve peace, democracy and environmental sustainability.
World leaders agreed to work together to deliver an agreed programme of goals- 8 in all- and to do so by the year 2015.
The 8 goals are:
Goal 1 – Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty
Goal 2 – Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3 – Promote gender equality and empower women
Goal 4 – Reduce child mortality
Goal 5 – Improve maternal health
Goal 6 – Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Goal 7 – Ensure environmental sustainabilityGoal 8 – Develop a global partnership for development
The Millennium Development Goals represent the most important promise ever made to the world’s most vulnerable people. While significant progress is being made and the goals are still attainable, there are several factors hindering the progress of the goals such as:
- The impact of the global financial crisis- e.g. As a result of this crisis the numbers of people suffering from hunger may have increased in 2009
- The impact of climate change- on food production and natural disasters.
- Population growth- putting an increased strain on countries’ resources.
- Regional disparity- e.g. While parts of Asia and Latin America may halve the numbers of their population living in extreme poverty, it is highly unlikely that this target will be met in Sub-Saharan Africa (Goal 1).
- The Urban-Rural divide- e.g. Children in rural areas are more likely to be underweight than urban children. Between 1990 and 2008, this disparity increased in Latin America, the Caribbean and parts of Asia.
Some people have criticised the goals as being an insufficient model of development. For example, the goals are time bound and provide no guidance for how the world will pursue global development after the deadline of 2015. Some of the targets are very difficult to measure progress on e.g. promote gender equality and empower women. Some have also criticised the goals for being too modest e.g. defining poverty in Goal 1 as living on less than $1.25 a day. Another significant example of the limitation of the goals is goal 2, to achieve universal primary education, which neglects to mention anything about the importance of secondary education in development.
Naila Kabeer, from the Department of Development Studies at SOAS, criticizes the emphasis of the MDG targets on average achievements since they ignore the social injustice of the glaringly unequal pace of progress across various social groups within many developing countries. The stark reality is that certain groups of people (identified, for example, by race, ethnicity, caste or religion) face systematic social exclusion due to multiple and mutually reinforcing inequalities that constrict their life chances. Read the full article, ‘MDGs, Social Justice and the Challenge of Intersecting Inequalities’ to see her policy recommendations on how such social exclusion could be effectively tackled.
In a 2005 report, More than a Numbers Game, Trocaire made the following recommendations to make the Millennium Development Goals more achievable:
- Stronger emphasis on human rights, national priorities, and local participation in MDGs;
- Reform of Global Governance – the UN, IMF and WB, as well as the WTO – making them more democratic and more responsive to local political realities, in particular the needs of the poor;
- Global Trade to take account of people’s rights to food, shelter, work and health;
- Aid from OECD countries to be increased to 0.7% of gross national product (GNP) and the aid system reformed, including 100% debt cancellation for poorer countries, making it less dependent on rich countries’ priorities.
(Source: Trócaire, (2005) More than a Numbers Game )