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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid