A decade has passed since all 192 member states of the United Nations made the commitment to work together on the Millennium Development Goals– eight time-bound and measurable, albeit ambitious benchmarks to be achieved by 2015. The MDG’s, as they’re called, center on drastically reducing global poverty, hunger, disease and child mortality, and promoting sustainability, education and gender equality.
Here’s what they are:
- Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
- Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
- Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
- Goal 5: Improve maternal health
- Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
- Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
- Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development
Nearly 140 world leaders are expected to convene at the U.N. for a three-day summit starting today to take stock of the progress to date — and to recommit to ensuring they meet the goals over the next five years.
As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, “the summit will be a crucially important opportunity to redouble our efforts to meet the Goals.”
Just last week the Overseas Development Institute, a U.K.-based think tank, came out with the MDG Report Card, which analyzes progress to date — and where the most crucial needs remain.
The good news is that real, measurable progress has been made. Take a look at these examples:
- In Malawi, child mortality rates have been cut in half over the last ten years.
- Ghana cut hunger by 75% by 2004, and in 2008, the government made healthcare free for pregnant women. Close to half a million more Ghanaian women receive healthcare today that they would not have otherwise been given. Ghana also now ranks among the top five performers in the world in agricultural growth and is on track to achieve MDG 1 before 2015.
- Costa Rica ranks third on the 2010 Environmental Performance Index, and is the highest ranking developed country.
- Vietnam was one of the poorest countries in the world 20 years ago. By 2011 it’s set to join the ranks of middle income countries.
Of course the picture is not so bright everywhere, nor can one expect it to be.
- One of the MDG’s greatest shortfalls has been in the area of maternal and child health, and rectifying that eill be a major focus this week.
- According to a new UNICEF report, roughly one in four children under the age of five die for every one thousand born.
- An article in Sunday’s New York Times notes, as Ghana slashed its hunger statistics, the problem more than doubled in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the same time period.
- And as Bono points out in his Opinion piece, also in Sunday’s Times, “64 million people have been thrown back into poverty as a result of Congo’s financial crises and 150 million are hungry because of the food crisis.”
- The U.N.’s own findings show a girl in one of the poorest households is 3.5 times more likely to be out of school than a girl from the richest household.
- The United Nations Development Programme claims no country in sub-Saharan Africa is currently on course to achieve all of the MDG’s by 2015.
The gap between rich and poor, male and female, urban and rural remain just that — gaping. World unemployment is at its highest level ever. As the Secretary General stated when he released the U.N.’s 2010 Millenium Development Goals Report in June “Two hundred and eleven million people are unemployed — and the world needs to create 470 million new jobs in the next 10 years simply to keep pace.”
That makes the MDG’s all the more pressing. Not to oversimplify, but you have to start somewhere, and the MDG’s offer a framework for development, or, as the United Nations Foundation likes to say, they’re “the world’s to-do list.”
The success stories show solutions are feasible. The harder question is just how to take on the greater challenges in tangible ways. UNICEF just came out last week with an innovative report positing that working with the poorest of the poor — those most difficult to access — would be not only cost effective, but could affect some of the real change the MDG’s are all about.
The real trick now is to raise the profile of the Millennium Development Goals. As world leaders convene on New York City this week for the Summit that will take them through Wednesday, and then the General Assembly session that continues through the end of September, there’s a real hope for change.
Is it possible that not all the goals will be hit by 2015? Sure. Is it probable that many, if not all, will? Yes. Good governance will play a major role in whether the goals can be met, or not. It’s easy to jump on the naysayers’ bandwagon — U.N. bashing is, after all, high art, but it’s much more important to focus on the progress made, and look to the future. We owe it not just to ourselves, but to the 22,000 children who die each day around the world.