PEACE in Action

The Millennium Development Goals: A Status Report

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A Program Created by Members of the United Nations
The Millennium Development Goals
A Status Report

In September 2000, world leaders agreed at the United Nations (UN) upon the Millennium Declaration, which distills the key goals and targets agreed to at international conferences and world summits during the 1990s. Drawing on the Declaration, the UN System, the World Bank, and the Organization for European Community Development (OECD) drew up a set of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with associated targets and indicators. By the year 2015, 191 UN Member States pledged to meet the MDGs.

In September 2010, the UN met to review the progress made and to target additional needs to meet the goals. Crucial elements in meeting the MDGs are:

  1. the amount of aid given by the more developed countries to the developing countries;
  2. providing improved international market access for the developing countries;
  3. international debt relief for some of the poorest countries;
  4. access to essential medicines; and
  5. access to new technologies.

The MDG Gap Task Force looked at these indicators and prepared a report to submit to UN members for their September conference at the UN on the status of MDG progress. The principal findings reported by the Task Force are as follows:

Global Official Development Assistance (ODA)

The commitment for 2010 is $145.7 billion in annual ODA to meet the 2005 Gleneagles pledge of $50 billion (in 2004 dollars) increase by traditional donors, i.e., members of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC). The amount provided in 2009 ($119.6 billion) was $26.1 billion less than the Gleneagle pledge for 2010. The report recommended that: 1) the DAC countries recommit to the still-standing UN target of 0.7 percent of gross national income devoted to ODA, and 2) deliver on 2010 aid effectiveness targets and agree on a renewed set of targets beyond 2010.

Official Development Assistance for Africa

The commitment for 2010 is $61.5 in annual ODA to meet the Gleneagles pledge of $25 billion (in 2004 dollars) increase by DAC donors. The delivery in 2009 was $43.9 million, leaving a gap of $17.6 billion less than the 2010 pledge. The report recommends the fulfillment of the commitment to Africa.

Aid to Least Developed Countries (LDCs)

Based on the endorsement of the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action of ODA that between 0.15 and 0.20 percent of DAC countries' gross national income (GNI) by 2010 should go to the LDCs, the commitment for 2010 would be $58.9 ­ 78.5 billion. The amount provided in 2008 was $35 billion, leaving a gap of $22.9 - $42.5 required to meet the 2010 target.

Aid as a Share of National Income of Donor Countries

The target of 0.7 percent of GNI, as agreed to by countries at the UN in 1971, would mean a commitment of $272.2 billion (in 2009 U.S. dollars). The $119.6 billion delivered in 2009 was only 0.31 percent of developed countries' combined national income. Again, the Report recommends a recommitment to the 0.7 target.

Market Access: Doha Round

The UN Millennium Declaration in 2000 pledged signatories to establish an "open, equitable, rulebased, predictable, and non-discriminatory multilateral trading and financial system." The Doha Round of trade talks was launched in 2001 largely to fulfill this goal, and the G20 aimed for completion in 2010. However, the Doha Round is not completed, and negotiations are at an impasse. The Report recommends that the developed countries: 1) intensify efforts to conclude the Doha Round within a realistic timeframe; 2) dismantle protectionist measures taken during the economic crisis; and 3) accelerate delivery on commitments by developed countries to eliminate all agricultural export subsidies, and support measures with the same effect.

Duty-Free Access for LDC Exports

By recommendation of the World Trade Organization's 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration, 97 percent of LDC products for export should benefit from duty-free and quota-free access to developed country markets. In 2008, 81 percent of developed country imports from LDCs, excluding arms and oil, were admitted free of duty. The report recommends an acceleration of progress towards the goal.

Debt Sustainability

The commitment was that debt problems of all developing countries should be dealt with comprehensively through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long term. As of 2010, 35 of 40 "eligible" countries have reached the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) "decision point" and are receiving debt relief of $58.5 billion, measured in end-2009 net present value. Twenty-five of the 35 countries have reached their "completion point," receiving an additional $27 billion in debt relief through the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI). Dozens of developing countries have fallen into debt distress, or are at high risk of debt distress, because of the global financial crisis. The report recommends: 1) the completion of the HIPC and MDRI initiatives; 2) the extension of eligibility to participate in the HIPC initiative; and 3) ensuring that all debt relief is additional to ODA.

Access to Essential Medicines

The commitment was to make essential medicines available. The result in 2008 was that the median prices of essential medicines in developing countries were, on average, 2.7 times higher than international reference prices in the public sector and 6.3 times higher in the private sector. The Report's recommendations were: 1) encourage developing governments to increase the availability of medicines in the public sector and strengthen national health systems, supported by ODA; and 2) research and development (R&D) for selected diseases.

Access to New Technologies

The commitment was to make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications technologies. While 100 percent of the population of developed countries have access to mobile cellular subscriptions, only 57 percent of the populations in the developing world have such access. Some 64 percent of the population in developed countries are internet users, compared to only 18 percent in the developing world. The Report's recommendation: in cooperation with the private sector, support continued rapid growth in access to mobile phones, as well as internet services, in developing countries.

The developing countries, in their meeting of the G20 in Seoul, Korea in November 2010, will be focusing on the MDG Gap report and its recommendations.

The foregoing indicates there is much to do, by developed and developing countries, if the MDGs are to be achieved by 2015. However, there are examples of progress in a number of the goals in a number of countries. The following examples were found online in July 2010 ­ presented here by the specific MDG and its targets.

# 1 ­ Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger

The targets are: a) Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar per day; b) achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people; and c) halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. Examples of country progress include the following:

  • Through a national input subsidy program, Malawi achieved a 53 percent food surplus in 2007, compared to a 43 percent national food deficit in 2005;
  • Vietnam's investment in agricultural research and extension helped cut the prevalence of hunger by more than half, from 28 percent in 1991 to 13 percent in 2004-06. The prevalence of underweight children also more than halved, from 45 percent in 1994 to 20 percent in 2006.
  • Nicaragua reduced its hunger rate by more than half, from 52 percent in 1991 to 21 percent in 2004-06.
  • In Northeast Brazil, stunting ­ an indicator of child malnutrition ­ decreased from 22.2 percent to 5.9 percent between 1996 and 2006-07.
  • Between 1991 and 2004, the number of people who suffer from undernourishment in Ghana fell by 34 percent, to 9 percent of the population.
  • In Argentina, the Jefes y Jefas program employed 2 million workers within a few months after its initiation in 2002, contributing to the country's rapid poverty reduction ­ from 9.9 percent in 2002 to 4.5 percent in 2005.
  • In Laos, supporting local farmers is helping to fight national poverty.

# 2 -- Achieve Universal Primary Education

The target is to ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

  • By eliminating school fees, Kenya was able to quickly get 2 million more pupils into its primary schools. Mozambique had similar results after eliminating school fees.
  • In Ethiopia, the net enrollment rate for primary school was 72.3 percent in 2007, an increase of 88 percent over the 2000 enrollment rates.
  • In Tanzania, the abolition of school fees in 2001 led to a net enrollment rate of 98 percent for primary schooling in 2006, almost doubling the 1998 enrollment rate.
  • In Bolivia, bilingual education has been introduced for three of the most widely used indigenous languages, covering 11 percent of all primary schools in 2002, helping to expand access to education among indigenous children in remote areas.
  • Mongolia has been providing innovative mobile schools ("tent schools") to cater to children in the countryside who may otherwise not have access to educational services. One hundred mobile schools have been spread out over 21 provinces.

# 3 ­ Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

The target is to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education by 2015.

  • Mexico's 'Oportunidades' conditional cash transfer program led to an increase of secondary school enrollment rates of over 20 percent for girls and 10 percent for boys in rural areas where the program operated.
  • In 2008, Rwanda elected a majority of women (56 percent) to its lower chamber of parliament, the highest level of female representation in the world.
  • Starting from a very low gender parity index in primary education (0.35) in the 1980s, Bangladesh closed the gender gap in primary and secondary education within a decade.
  • Tanzania's Land Act and Village Land Act of 1999 secured women's right to acquire title and registration of land, addressed issues of customary land rights, and upheld the principles of nondiscrimination based on sex for land rights.
  • In Ethiopia's Amhara Province, promotion of functional literacy, life skills, reproductive health education, and opportunities for savings for girls has significantly reduced the number of marriages of girls aged 10 to 14.
  • In Guyana, help for teenage mothers to improve their competencies through education and life skills training has significantly empowered them to make decisions for better lives for themselves and their children.

# 4 ­ Reduce Child Mortality

Target: Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate.

  • Rwanda is very likely to meet ­ and possibly surpass ­ the MDG targets for child and maternal mortality by 2015, in part thanks to the government's successful health insurance program.
  • The under-five child mortality rate has fallen by 40 percent or more since 1990 in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Niger. In Malawi, for example, the under-five mortality rate fell 56 percent between 1990 and 2008.
  • The under-five mortality rate was reduced by 50 percent or more since 1990 in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Bolivia, Eritrea, Laos, and Nepal.
  • Since 1990, China's under-five child mortality rate has declined from 46 deaths for every 1,000 live births to 18 per 1,000 in 2008, a reduction of 81 percent.
  • From 1990 to 2008, child mortality declined by 25 percent in Equatorial Guinea and by 14 percent in Zambia.
  • Cambodia increased exclusive breastfeeding from 13 percent to 60 percent from 2000 to 2005, strengthening children and reducing their vulnerability to illnesses.

# 5 ­ Improve Maternal Health

Targets: 1) Reduce by three-fourths, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality rate; and 2) achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health.

  • In Malawi and Rwanda, removal of user fees for family planning services has contributed to significant increases in use of family planning services.
  • In Rwanda, contraceptive prevalence among married women aged 15 to 49 jumped from 9 percent in 2005 to 26 percent in 2008.
  • The contraceptive prevalence rate among married women aged 15 to 49 in Malawi has more than doubled since 1992 to 33 percent in 2004.
  • In Rwanda, the skilled birth attendance rate increased from 39 percent to 52 percent from 2005 to 2008.
  • Between 1980 and 2006, the maternal mortality rate in Tamil Nadu, India fell from 450 to 90 per 100,000 live births.

# 6 ­ Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Other Diseases

Targets: 1) Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS; 2) achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it; and 3) have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

  • New HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have declined substantially in sub-Saharan Africa, thanks to education programs, prevention policies, and wider availability of anti-retroviral medicines.
  • In Uganda, the adult HIV prevalence rate dropped from 8 percent in 2001 to 5.4 percent in 2007.
  • Cambodia has managed to halt and reverse the spread of HIV, with the prevalence falling from 1.8 percent in 2001 to 0.8 percent in 2007.
  • The number of new HIV infections among children has declined five-fold in Botswana from 4,600 in 1999 to 890 in 2007.
  • Reductions of more than 50 percent in the numbers of reported malaria cases and deaths were observed in four high-burden African countries: Eritrea, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, and Zambia -- as well as the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania.
  • In Peru, improved tuberculosis (TB) case detection and cure rates through DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment Short Course) saved an estimated 91,000 lives between1991 and 2000. TB incidence declined at a rate of 5 percent per year over 2006 ­ 2008.
  • Between 1991 and 2000, improved TB control in China reduced prevalency by over a third.
  • A decade ago, Estonia and Latvia were considered the multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) hotbeds of the world, with the highest prevalence of MDR among TB cases ever reported. Thanks to rapidly expanded MDR-TB treatment programs, the total number of MDR-TB cases per 100,000 population decreased by an average of 6 percent per year in Estonia and 14 percent in Latvia between 2002 and 2007.
  • Between 2006 and 2008, the proportion of TB patients tested for HIV increased from 3 percent to 77 percent in Tanzania, from 11 percent to 68 percent in Lesotho, and from 24 percent to 81 percent in Mozambique.
  • In Malawi, 53 percent of tuberculosis patients detected with HIV infection were put on antiretroviral treatment in 2008.

# 7 ­ Ensure Environmental Sustainability

Targets: 1) Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs, and reverse the loss of environmental resources; 2) reduce biodiversity loss, achieving a significant reduction in the rate of loss by 2010; 3) halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation; and 4) Achieve by 2020 a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.

  • Between 1999 and 2005, Costa Rica prevented the loss of 720 square kilometers of forests in biodiversity priority areas and avoided the emission of 11 million tons of carbon.
  • In 2006, 80 percent of the rural population in Ghana had access to an improved drinking water source, an increase of 43 percent over 1990 levels.
  • In Mali, the percentage of the population with at least one point of access to improved sanitation rose from 35 percent in 1990 to 45 percent in 2006.
  • Guatemala has increased its investment in water and sanitation resources, contributing to an increase in access to improved drinking water from 79 percent in 1990 to 96 percent in 2006, and to improved sanitation from 70 percent in 1990 to 84 percent in 2006.
  • In Senegal, the proportion of people living in cities with access to improved water reached 93 percent in 2006.
  • South Africa successfully achieved the MDG target of halving the proportion of people lacking access to safe water ­ from 19 percent in 1990 to 7 percent in 2006.

# 8 ­ Develop a Global Partnership for Development

Targets: 1) Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system ­ this includes a commitment to good governance, development, and poverty reduction (both nationally and internationally); 2) address the special needs of the least developed countries (specific commitments discussed in the MDG Gap Report at the beginning of this article); 3) address the special needs of the landlocked developing countries and small island developing states; 4) deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long term; 5) in cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries; and 6) in cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.

  • In 2008 the only countries to have exceeded the target of official development assistance of 0.7 percent of Gross National Income were Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.
  • China, India, Iran, and Uzbekistan succeeded in lowering private sector prices for generic medicines to less than twice the international reference price.

The High-Level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly, which met September 20-22, 2010 to review progress in achieving the MDGs, approved a 32-page Outcome Document. Some of the conclusions and major points in the Document are listed below:

"We recognize that progress, including in poverty eradication, is being made despite setbacks (e.g. the financial and economic crisis). ... We are deeply concerned, however, that the number of people living in extreme poverty and hunger surpasses 1 billion, and that inequalities between and within countries remains a significant challenge. We are also deeply concerned about the alarming global levels of maternal and child mortality."

In the Document, the UN members commit to making every effort to achieve the MDGs by 2015. They also express confidence that the MDGs can be achieved, including in the poorest countries. They state that national ownership and leadership are indispensable to the development process, and that good governance and the rule of law are also essential. They recognized that gender equality, the empowerment of women, women's enjoyment of all human rights, and the eradication of poverty are essential to the achievement of the MDGs.

The Members recognized that all of the MDGs are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. They also acknowledged the diversity of the world and recognized that all cultures and civilizations contribute to the enrichment of humankind. They called on civil society, including non-governmental organizations, voluntary associations and foundations, the private sector, and other relevant stakeholders at the local, national, regional, and global levels, to enhance their role in national development efforts, as well as their contribution to the achievement of the MDGs.

Based on lessons learned and successful policies and approaches, the Document sets forth 19 actions for consideration by national governments and organizations and their international helpers. In addition, the Document sets a number of commitments to be made for achieving each MDG. They requested an annual review by the GA of MDG progress, and a special event in 2013 for follow-up.

Editor's Comment: Success in achieving the goals requires a major effort by each of the developing countries, but significant achievements will only be accomplished if the developed countries increase their support to the program.

Creating a better world for the developing countries is also in the interest of international peace and, therefore, is in the interest of the more developed countries. Although not specifically mentioned in this article, many nongovernmental organizations and talented individuals from countries around the world are also contributing significantly to the achievement of the MDGs.

May the effort be successful in all countries!

(The information provided in this article came mostly from various parts of the United Nations website: (; however, the latter part about the High-Level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly was drawn from the meeting's Outcome Document (UNGA A/65/L.1).)
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