Millennium Development Goals: where are we now? And will high food prices cause a revolution?

In 2000, members of the UN signed eight ambitious Millennium Goals that aimed to reduce poverty and grant access to more people certain basic human rights. These goals are supposed to be met by 2015. This week, a UN summit met to review progress on these goals five years ahead of the deadline.

Why do they matter?

Larry Elliot said it best in his blog on the Guardian:

“As was noted recently by Dylan Grice, an economist at Societe Generale, the poor harvest of 1788 helped create the conditions for the French revolution a year later, while the Russian revolution began with starving workers protesting about bread.”

Below is a summary of each goal and the progress made so far.

To halve between 1990 and 2015 the proportion of people earning less than $1 a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

Where is it on track?
China, Ethiopia, Angola, south-east Asia and Latin America

Where is it not on track?
Nigeria, India is patchy.

Is it likely to be met:


Ensure that all children, both boys and girls, are able to attend and complete a full course of primary schooling.

Where is it on track?
90% of countries have made progress, with Ethiopa achieving the best results and sub-Saharan Africa in general making huge leaps.

Where is it not on track?
While enrolment has increased almost everywhere, high drop out rates among the poorest rural households remain too high.

Is it likely to be met:
No, enrolment is great, but more work needs to be done to stop the poorest kids dropping out before the completion of primary school.


To eliminate gender disparity in all levels of education by 2015, based on the ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education; increase the number of women in paid employment outside the agricultural sector and increase the number of female MPs.

Where is it on track?
Gender parity in primary education has improved significantly, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, China and India. Women in paid employment outside agriculture is increasing, albeit slowly.

Where is it not on track?
These figures drop off when it comes to secondary and tertiary education.

The number of female MPs has increased from 11% in 1995 to 19% in 2010. (That 2010 figure is 22% in the UK and 14% in the USA.)

Is it likely to be met:


To reduce by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate and increase the number of one-year-olds immunised against measles.

Where is it on track?
Globally, child mortality rate has fallen from 100 deaths in 1,000 in 1990 to 72 deaths in 1,000 in 2008. Immunisation rates have doubled in Cambodia.

Where is it not on track?
Immunisation rates have declined in China and Vietnam.

Is it likely to be met:

To reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality rate and achieve universal access to reproductive healthcare.

Where is it on track?
North Africa and parts of Asia.

However, according to the Guardian, in about one-third of developing countries, skilled health workers now attend 95% of all births, and nearly 20% have almost universal access

Where is it not on track?
Sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.

Is it likely to be met:
No, not by 2015.

To halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/Aids, malaria and other major diseases, and to ensure universal access to treatment for HIV/Aids.

Where is it on track?
Only 26% of countries have reduced HIV infection rates. 21 of the 27 countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. Honduras is the only Latin American country to reduce infection rates. The number of new infections in India has dropped.

Access to treatment has improved in 85% of countries.

Malaria targets are being reached.

Where is it not on track?
HIV infection rates have increased significantly in Russia. Eastern Europe and Central Asia are also experiencing increasing infection rates.

Is it likely to be met:
On malaria, yes. Access to treatment for HIV/Aids could be reached by 2020 but reducing infection rates will not be reached if current trends continue.

To ensure government policies include sustainable development, reverse the loss of environmental resources and biodiversity, halve the number of people with no access to clean water and sanitation and improve the lives of slum dwellers.

Where is it on track?
China and India have already met the clean water target.

Where is it not on track?
Conditions in slums has improved but the number of slum dwellers has increased. Deforestation has also declined but is still high.

Is it likely to be met:
The clean water target will be met, but the others won’t be.

To address the needs of the least developed countries, improve trading and financial systems, tackle debt, work with pharmaceutical countries to improve access to cheap drugs in developing countries and spread the use of new technology.

Where is it on track?
Debt levels have dropped, aid has increased and developing countries now have greater access to global markets since tariffs were reduced. 23% of the world’s population had access to the internet in 2008.

Where is it not on track?
Aid commitments made in 2005 by the world’s wealthiest countries have not been met. The global financial crisis and the drop in world prices hit the poorest countries worst.

Is it likely to be met:
Improvements are expected to continue but whether they help the poorest is unclear.

Read more:

The Guardian, Eight steps to a better world, 14 September 2010

The Washington Post, Obama says global development is in wealthy nations’ interest, 23 September 2010

The Sydney Morning Herald, Critics react to UN summit promises, 23 September 2010

The Guardian’s Poverty Matters Blog, Millennium development goals: UN summit must prompt action, not complacency, 23 September 2010

Submitted by
Gary Muddyman

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