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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs