The U.N. Millennium Development Goals are due to expire at the end of next year. Debate is underway on what should replace them. One U.N. official says they should be based, in part, on the findings of the 2014 Human Development Report.
The eight Millennium Development Goals were established in 2000. Nearly 190 countries at the time committed to achieving them by 2015. They include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; promoting gender equality; reducing child mortality and improving maternal health; and fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
Much success has been made since the goals were set, but progress is not equal among the MDGs. With their expiration near, the question arises: what next?
The Human Development Report – released July 24th in Tokyo -- calls for reducing vulnerabilities in society and building resilience.
Khalid Malik, author of the report and director of the Human Development Office of the U.N. Development Program, said, “For the first time in the 22/23 years we’ve been tracking progress in human development, three countries in the very high human development category have actually gone backwards: Ireland, Greece and Cyprus. So that’s quite worrisome, concerning. Second, the top five and the bottom five are quite stable.”
The top five are Norway, Australia, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United States. While the bottom five are all in Africa -- Sierra Leone, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger.
Malik said when replacing the Millennium Development Goals, ongoing problems slowing advancement need to be addressed.
“You have to take vulnerability into account in setting up the new goals, which are being debated right now. There’s a lot of consensus we should be able to aim for eliminating poverty. So, the argument there is we should aim not only to do that, but also to make certain that people stay at zero poverty.”
However, he said eliminating poverty – and preventing people from falling back into it – is not just about money. It‘s a multidimensional problem.
“Poverty is not just simply income. There are health and education aspects, water supply, sanitation. It needs a broader emphasis than simply increasing income,” he said.
It’s estimated there are 1.5-billion people considered multidimensionally poor. About 800-million, he said, are just above the poverty line.
He said, “Any shock, any change in circumstance will push them back into poverty.”
He added that the goals that replace the MDGs must support livelihoods and families.
“The new set of goals should look at universal approaches to social services, social protection – and also to push for Jobs. That’s why the report puts a lot of emphasis on full employment, which sort of disappeared from strategic thinking of most countries, particularly developed countries since the 60s and 70s. And we are now arguing that it’s time to return to them.”
The UNDP official said jobs are far more important than just the wages a person receives.
“It has to do with self-identity. It also correlates with violence. More employment reduces violence and contributes to family stability. They are all kind of aspects which are positive. So that’s the argument we made. But the new set of goals has to account for these issues.”
He said it really comes down to making good investments.
“The whole thrust of human development is that if you invest in people the people will look after society and the economy. And all the work we have done so far -- and all the evidence we looked at – basically shows that when you have a more equal society things just do better. So any movement towards that has to be supported,” he said.
Those investments, he said, must be made in both men and women and require new thinking and a change in perspective.