On 6 July 2015, the Secretary-General of the United Nations launched a UN report entitled “The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015” in Oslo, Norway. While wrapping up the progress under the MDGs, the report painted a mixed picture of the global efforts to fight poverty, especially in developing countries. The Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the efforts made in an attempt to accomplish the goals set by world leaders in 2000 as “the most successful anti-poverty movement in history”. However, the report also admits that the results have been uneven across nations and regions, and within countries that as a whole achieved the goals, with many of the problems remaining concentrated in the weakest actors.
The report states that the global mobilization behind the Millennium Development Goals has produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history. The landmark commitment entered into by world leaders in the year 2000 — to “spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty” — was translated into an inspiring framework of eight goals and, then, into wide-ranging practical steps that have enabled people across the world to improve their lives and their future prospects.
The report highlights that global efforts made under MDGs “saved the lives of millions and improved conditions for many more,” by 2015. Extreme poverty declined significantly, with the proportion of people in the developing world living on less than $1.25 a day falling from 47 percent in 1990 to an estimated 14 percent in 2015. The number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide fell from 1.9 billion to 836 million.
The rate of net enrolment in primary schools in developing countries rose from 83 percent in 2000 to 91 percent in 2015, with the number of out-of-school children of primary school age worldwide falling by almost half from 100 million at the turn of the century to 57 million today. The mortality rate of children under the age of 5 declined by more than half, falling from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births between 1990 and 2015 — although the target of reducing the rate to a third of the 1990 levels was not achieved.
The proportion of undernourished people in developing regions fell from 23.3 percent in the 1990-92 to 12.9 percent in 2014-16, falling slightly short of the target to cut the ratio by half and still leaving nearly 800 million people suffering from hunger.
Serious poverty provides a breeding ground for social unrest that fuels such problems as terrorism, and leads to environmentally destructive practices such as deforestation.
At the same time, the report acknowledges uneven achievements and shortfalls in many areas, saying that work to eradicate poverty is not complete. Although targets were met in some of the development goals, yet progress has been uneven across regions and countries, leaving significant gaps. Millions of people are being left behind, especially the poorest and those disadvantaged because of their sex, age, disability, ethnicity or geographic location. The world’s poor remain overwhelmingly concentrated in some parts of the world, with nearly 60 percent of the world’s 1 billion extremely poor people living in just five countries, according to the UN chief.
Despite some progress in the efforts to promote gender equality, women continue to face discrimination in access to work, economic assets and participation in private and public decision-making. It points to sharp disparities between the poorest and richest households — as well as between rural and urban areas — in many of the developing countries. Children belonging to the poorest families are four times as likely to be out of school as those in the richest households, while the under-5 mortality rates of the poorest households are nearly twice as high as those of the wealthiest families.
In essence, the numbers show significant progress but there is still a long way to go in the international efforts to eradicate poverty. Serious poverty provides a breeding ground for social unrest that fuels such problems as terrorism, and leads to environmentally destructive practices such as deforestation. The sharp divide between the rich and the poor will continue to pose a serious threat to global stability and prosperity.
UN member countries are now in talks for setting the post-Millennium Development Goals targets, aiming to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2030. The new goals, which will set an international guideline for aid to developing countries, are to be formally adopted at the UN summit in New York. Differences have surfaced between industrialized and developing nations, however, over who should pay the bill for the enormous funding needed to achieve those goals.
Official development assistance (ODA) from richer countries plays a key role in the fight against poverty in the developing world. The UN report hailed a 66 percent increase in the amount of such aid in real terms from 2000 to 2014. However, only a handful of advanced economies — such as Britain, Norway, Sweden and Denmark — meet the UN target of spending 0.7 percent their gross national income on ODA.
While the MDGs essentially need efforts by developing countries and support from advanced economies, the post-2015 goals are expected to include efforts toward sustainable energy use, preservation of marine resources in the open seas, as well as changing wasteful production and consumption patterns — an agenda that will also concern the behaviours of the industrialized countries themselves. The UN Secretary-General has rightly said: “Experiences and evidence from the efforts to achieve the MDGs demonstrate that we know what to do. But further progress will require an unswerving political will, and collective, long-term effort. We need to tackle root causes and do more to integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. The emerging post-2015 development agenda, including the set of Sustainable Development Goals, strives to reflect these lessons, build on our successes and put all countries, together, firmly on track towards a more prosperous, sustainable and equitable world.
Reflecting on the MDGs and looking ahead to the next fifteen years, we will be able to deliver on our shared responsibility to put an end to poverty, leave no one behind and create a world of dignity for all.