News / Africa

Are Millennium Development Goals Just a First Step?

Pregnant women wait to give birth in the prenatal ward at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Improving maternal health is one of the Millennium Development Goals. (2010 file photo)
Pregnant women wait to give birth in the prenatal ward at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Improving maternal health is one of the Millennium Development Goals. (2010 file photo)
Joe DeCapua

In September 2000, the United Nations approved the Millennium Declaration. It set the stage for the Millennium Development Goals, which are due to be achieved in 2015. But have the MDGs brought meaningful results or are they just a first step?

The goals aim to reduce poverty, hunger and disease, while improving health, education, gender equality and the environment.

“There’s a debate that’s brewing about what happens after 2015 when these targets come to their natural end. Should there be more targets? Should you get really ambitious about ending world poverty in, say, 2030 or something like that? And we thought it might be useful to take a look at what’s actually been achieved over the last 10 years or so and ask a series of questions about the impact of the MDGs,” said  Andy Sumner has evaluated their effectiveness in his paper More Money or More Development: What Have the Millennium Development Goals Achieved?

Sumner is a fellow in vulnerability and poverty reduction at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex.

IDS fellow Andy Sumner
IDS fellow Andy Sumner

He said, “We wanted to ask if the MDGs had changed the nature of the debate in terms of, had they shifted priorities, at least in policy discussions. We wanted to ask, had the goals led to greater mobilization of resources, so more money for development. And we wanted to see if they actually led to changes in policy and changes in outcome in terms of has poverty reduction been faster over the last 10 years compared to previous periods. Could you say that the MDGs were part of that success story?”

Toothless

That’s a lot to ask, he said, of what he calls a “legally toothless document

“Actually, the MDGs themselves, these U.N. goals, were never signed up to by heads of state. What was signed by heads of state was a declaration called the Millennium Declaration in 2000, which the targets were then drawn out of. Toothless in the sense that if they’re not met, no one’s really accountable for that. And maybe that’s a question to put forward if there’s another set of international goals on reducing poverty,” he said.

 

Following the declaration, many reports were issued estimating costs and proposing policy changes. Sumner said this suggested, at least, a “widespread hope that the MDGs could make a real difference in speeding development progress.”

“What we found was rather a kind of mixed picture. I think it’s fair to say the MDGs changed the nature of the debate in the sense that they made global poverty reduction something that was mentioned at many G8 summits, for example, but less so at the G20 since the financial crisis. So clearly they moved poverty reduction and social spending and health and education very much onto the center ground, where perhaps in the past, they hadn’t been quite so central, those kind of social issues,” he said.

It’s also likely,” he said, “the Millennium Development Goals led to more money being spent in terms of aid.

Differing viewpoints

But judging their effectiveness can depend on whether you take a broad or narrow view. Sumner said the original intention was that they be global goals.

“So, do you judge these things at a global level? So, for example, of the seven key U.N. poverty goals here, three of them are on track to be met and three of them are not too badly off-track. One is very off-track, maternal mortality. No one’s quite sure if the data’s meaningful. There’s a real area of contention about the data for maternal mortality. But if you judge it at country level, then things have been largely helped by massive progress in China, for example, and other large countries. It comes down to how you judge these things and of course that was never clear at the outset,” he said.

He added the goal to cut poverty in half by 2015 would suggest there’s still some unfinished business.

“What might you achieve by say 2030? We’re trying to assess what might be reasonable for 2030. And we think it’s not out of the question that certain aspects of extreme poverty could be eradicated by 2030. So the MDGs, the Millennium Development Goals, were the kind of first stage of getting halfway. And then you might want to aspire to end extreme poverty by 2030 and that might be reasonable,” he said.

Sumner said there’s a symbolic value in the world saying it cares enough about poverty to set goals to reduce it. In fact, he says, it may be one of the few areas where there’s widespread international agreement. The question now is what happens after 2015? Will updated goals be proposed to follow-up on the Millennium Development Goals.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More