2 What are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)? The MDGs are a set of global targets which were adopted by the United Nations in 2000:Their aim was to improve life and opportunity in developing countries.Eight ambitious goals and 23 specific targets were set in 2000, to be achieved by 2015.Numerous global organisations — the UN, World Bank, IMF, NGOs and major charities, donor governments and even TNCs — have worked in partnership on the MDGs.Implementation was the responsibility of national governments.Much of the finance has come from OECD countries.
3 Long-term goalsThe 15-year MDG implementation period was quite long.It exceeds the life span of most governments.However, it did allow time to set ‘pathways’ towards each target and work towards these.The long time span also allowed strategies to change direction if they proved unsuccessful.Remember that the world in 2015 is very different to the world in 2000 (see the table).2000 vs201520002015Global population6.1 billion7.3 billionChina’s global GDP rank6th2nd% of world population with internet access6%42%% of world’s population in urban areas47%54%
4 Foreign aid (ODA: official development assistance) Aid increased dramatically just after the MDGs were introduced.Funding was required in order to meet the targets.Since 2005 it has grown more slowly, and since 2008 it has plateaued.The impact of the global recession is obvious.ODA from countries like Italy and Greece has fallen sharply.The UK’s ODA has increased sharply (to meet the 0.7% of GDP OECD target)
5 MDG progress? Much progress has been made: By 2010, 21% of people in the developing world lived at or below $1.25 a day.This figure was 52% in 1981, and 43% in 1990 (the MDG ‘base year’).Dig a little deeper and the picture is less convincing:54% of developing countries have met or are on track to meet the goal of halving extreme poverty700 million fewer people lived in extreme poverty in 2010 than in 199029% of countries have halved child malnutrition or are on track to do so1.2 billion people around the world still live in extreme povertyThe poverty milestone has not yet been met in much of Africa and South Asia.In particular, China’s rapid development accounts for much of the progress — roughly 300 million of the drop in poverty numbers.
6 Absolute vs relative targets Some MDG targets, such as ‘Reduce by half the proportion of hungry people’, were relative ones.This MDG target has nearly been met. The proportion of hungry people has fallen from 23.4% in 1990 to about 13% today.The absolute number of hungry people has fallen from 994 million to 791 million, which seems less impressive.The MDG target was much less ambitious than the 1996 World Food Summit target of reducing the number of hungry people by half.The 5.2 billion people of 1990 are now 7.3 billion. Even if the number of hungry people today was still 994 million as it was in 1990, the proportion of hungry people would have fallen.
7 This graphic shows the complex picture between regions and between targets. East Asia & Pacific (top) has done much better than Africa in terms of poverty and improved water supply.Maternal mortality is seriously off target in both regions.East Asia has made progress towards improved sanitation.Brazil has achieved virtually all of the targets, while Benin has achieved almost none.
8 Summary Criticisms have been levelled at the MDGs. These include: The focus on primary education enrolment reduced the perceived value of educational attainment and skills in older children and adults.Farming was not a specific focus, despite most of the world’s poor being farmers.Equality was not given a big enough role.Gender issues should have been broader than education and health.The whole idea was very ‘top-down’.Overall, much progress has been made but it is patchy by target and country.So what next?
9 Post-2015 Development Agenda Post-2015, probably Sustainable Development Goals.Key decisions will be taken at a UN summit in September 2015.Watch this space!
10 This resource is part of Geography Review, a magazine written for A-level students by subject experts. To subscribe to the full magazine go to: