What the Millennium Development Goals achieved
The MDGs have been a remarkable success in many respects.
By focusing political energies and development resources, the MDGs have contributed to unprecedented development progress including:
- a 50% cut in global poverty in 10 years
- a dramatic fall in the number of children dying a year – from 12.5 million children’s deaths in 1990 to 6.3 million in 2013
Much of the success of the MDGs is down to their simplicity – their ‘measurability’ and the accountability that this brought at a global and national level. The MDG targets have provided a clear focal point for political action.
But despite the great progress the MDGs have helped achieve globally, the job is not done.
The new framework must remain firmly focused on ending poverty and on human development – including getting to zero on several MDGs. And it must be underpinned by environmentally sustainable approaches.
Our vision for international development post-Millennium Development Goals
The post-2015 framework must:
Build on the success of the MDGs, particularly specific, measurable goals and targets
Be universal, with common but differentiated responsibilities Be bold and ambitious – aim to eradicate poverty, maintain a human development focus, set targets to get to zero on other current MDGs and acknowledge that this will require finding specific ways to tackle inequalities
Integrate human development, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability goals under a single, unified post-2015 framework
Combine ambition with a pragmatic political approach
Be built on a robust consultative process whereby the UN and Open Working Group seek out and take account of the voices of people living in poverty
Read our report Ending Poverty in Our Generation – our vision for a post-2015 framework
Key issues for the post-2015 framework
1. Tackle inequality
To eradicate poverty and succeed in ‘getting to zero’, we will need to pay special attention to tackling massive inequality. Richer children in developing countries have 35 times more opportunity to access essential services than the poorest children, our Born Equal report found.
Ending poverty and hunger, and achieving universal access to primary education and healthcare will require a dedicated commitment to meet the needs of those children and adults who are hardest to reach.
We propose the post-2015 framework should specifically address inequalities by:
- setting targets that aspire to reach all people, thereby eradicating some of the greatest development challenges, such as absolute poverty and preventable child mortality
- disaggregating each target so that equitable progress can be monitored – and we can ensure the poorest and most vulnerable children and adults are not being left behind
- setting an income inequality target, to tackle the challenge of rising income gaps. Options include a target for reducing the gap between the incomes of the richest and poorest parts of the population
- establishing a cross-country knowledge transfer mechanism to exchange policy experiences.
Read our report Getting to Zero: How we can be the generation that ends poverty
No target should be considered met unless met for all social and economic groups. We joined forced with more than 250 civil society organisations to urge then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to make that commitment.
A matter of life and death
In an analysis of 32 middle- and low-income countries we found that a child in the richest 10% of households has 35 times the available income of a child in the poorest 10% of households. This figure has worsened over time. Richer children, then, have 35 times more opportunity to access and afford essential services. The effects of this are evident in countries with high income inequality, such as Nigeria, where child mortality rates are more than twice as high among the poorest.
2. Improve the accountability of governments and others
The incentives for achieving the MDGs have been weak. To motivate further progress next time round there will need to be stronger accountability mechanisms at every level, from local, to national, to global.
Data collection systems are weak or absent in many countries, making it difficult to assess progress. Better data is essential for improving monitoring of and accountability for progress – including progress in tackling inequality. Outcomes that are defined in a specific, measurable way provide a clear focal point for political action.
But improving data collection will require investment. A global fund for investing in more and better quality data should be set up. This fund would provide both grants and advisory services to national statistical agencies.
As well as improving data on progress and outcomes, the post-2015 framework should be more prescriptive in some areas about the means to achieve these ends. There’s much greater evidence now of what works. It might be appropriate, for example, to set targets for social protection coverage and universal health coverage, reflecting the strong evidence on the poverty-reducing impact of these approaches.
3. Address other limitations of the Millennium Development Goals
Three other limitations in the MDGs need to be addressed by the post-2015 framework:
1. The MDGs are blind to the massive impact of violence in all its manifestations – from child abuse and sexual violence to war – on people’s lives and on poverty reduction.
2. The MDGs have tended to encourage a silo or sector-specific approach to development. They have often failed to take stock of systemic inter-linkages or to encourage holistic and efficient system development.
3. While improving the quantity of service provision, the MDGs have often failed to encourage better quality services.
In particular, in education, progress in school enrolment has not been accompanied by an equivalent improvement in literacy and learning outcomes. We will propose a learning goal alongside continued improvements in access and retention of students in school, particularly for girls.
Achieving a new framework for global development
There are very high ambitions for how these ideas and challenges should translate into a new post-2015 development framework.
Strong political will is required if the world is to seize the historic opportunity we have to be the first generation to eradicate poverty.
The framework must be universal. Commitments from all parts of the globe are required to match the demands of rising powers and stronger developing country governments. The framework must also recognise the global nature of some of the challenges to be addressed post-2015, including inequality and environmental sustainability.
The framework should be differentiated according to country context and needs in terms of its more detailed layers of the framework, such as targets and indicators. It should work in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibility.
The framework’s goal areas must reflect emerging priorities of low- and middle-income countries – such as inclusive growth, employment and environmental sustainability.
The framework should be accompanied by supporting mechanisms.Their purpose will be to ensure:
- the necessary data is available
- accountability is strengthened for global and national commitments to be met
- sufficient, sustainable resources are made available from all development actors and national governments to deliver the promise of poverty eradication.
The process of developing the framework must be open and consultative. This is vital if it is to be perceived as a legitimate process and gain the support of all development actors and global decision-makers.
Our proposed framework
We propose the following six goals for the new framework, to put in place the foundations for human development:
- Goal 1: By 2030 we will eradicate extreme poverty and reduce relative poverty through inclusive growth and decent work
- Goal 2: By 2030 we will eradicate hunger, halve stunting, and ensure universal access to sustainable food, water and sanitation
- Goal 3: By 2030 we will end preventable child and maternal mortality and provide basic healthcare for all
- Goal 4: By 2030 we will ensure children everywhere receive quality education and have good learning outcomes
- Goal 5: By 2030 we will ensure all children live a life free from all forms of violence, are protected in conflict and thrive in a safe family environment
- Goal 6: By 2030 governance will be more open, accountable and inclusive.
To provide a supportive environment for these goals we propose four more:
- Goal 7: By 2030 we will establish effective global partnerships for development
- Goal 8: By 2030 we will build disaster-resilient societies
- Goal 9: By 2030 we will ensure a sustainable, healthy and resilient environment for all
- Goal 10: By 2030 we will deliver sustainable energy to all.
The ten development goals need to be embedded in global systems that will expedite their achievement. We propose three accompanying mechanisms to provide this kind of support:
1. National financing strategies
2. A robust international accountability mechanism
3. A data investment fund.
These proposals are offered as a contribution to a participative global conversation, not as a final word. We look forward to engaging with others in refining our thinking and developing an agreed position.