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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
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 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.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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