With the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal Review Summit assembling this week in New York City, the MDGs have been on my mind.
Frequent and beloved discourse material in many international relations courses and for development connoisseurs, these goals have put hefty expectations on the state of the world in attempts to better it immensely by 2015.
All 123 member countries of the United Nations, in addition to many international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Health Organization, have agreed to ensure their achievement by 2015.
Signed in 2000, the eight goals aim to eradicate extreme poverty, reduce child mortality rates, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS and malaria, promote environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.
As unrealistic and overly optimistic as these may goals seem, they are profound. They have had implications on the world and have caused substantial gains. They are keeping the world’s attention on what is important to work towards — setting wars, prejudices and self-interests aside.
It is important for all to realize that achieving the goals betters every single nation, as they all have stakes and investments to gain.
Research shows the world’s food supply is so abundant we have enough food to nourish every person in the world to meet their needs, however the distribution of food is so skewed that more than 1 billion people are undernourished. The MDGs require us to overcome these injustices together, as we all share responsibility for the state of the globe and the health of its people.
It is undoubtedly true that progress toward reaching the goals has been slow and largely uneven. According to the United Nations Report of 2008 on the MDGs, substantial progress has been made, but not in all areas.
The overall poverty rate is on track to fall 15 percent by 2015, which translates to about 920 million people living under the poverty line — half the number of those in 1990. Child deaths have been cut from 12.5 million in 1990 to 8 million in 2008 as a result of malaria, HIV and measles prevention efforts.
On the other hand, according to World Bank data, 50 poor countries have achieved universal primary education, but 38 countries, mostly in Africa, are off track and unlikely to realize the full-enrollment target.
Furthermore, the world is definitely not on track to cut hunger in half by 2015, largely because of the setbacks of record food price increases in 2008, which undid much progress achieved during the previous decade.