Millennium Development Goals


1. Do 'Global Goals' ever make a difference?

Global Goals are regularly dismissed as being too ambitious and for being rarely achieved - and yet, the reality is quite different as these examples clearly show:

  • Eradicating smallpox, declared by the World Health Organisation in 1965 and achieved in 1977, 12 years later
  • Reducing child deaths from diarrhoea by half, declared by the World Summit for Children in 1990 and achieved in the 1990s
  • Reducing infant mortality to less than 120 per 1,000 live births by 2000, declared by the World Summit for Children and achieved in all but 12 developing countries
  • Eliminating polio by 2000, declared by the World Summit for Children in 1990 and now 175 countries

Significant progress has been made on other declared goals, for example:

  • Raising life expectancy to 60 years by 2000, declared by the General Assembly in 1980 and now achieved in 124 from 173 countries (almost all countries achieving the target were amongst the poorest countries)
  • Reducing child mortality by at least one-third more during the 1990s, declared by the World Summit for Children in 1990 and now achieved in 63 countries and in more than 100 countries it was reduced by 20%
  • Eliminating or reducing hunger and malnutrition by 2000, declared by the World Summit on Children and included in the Third Development Decade and in developing countries malnutrition dropped by 17% between 1980 and 2000 but the number in sub-Saharan Africa rose by 27 million in the 1990s
  • Achieving universal access to clean water by 1990, then by 2000 as declared in the Third Development Decade and the 1990 Summit for Children and access increased by 4.1 billion people reaching a total of 5 billion
  • Halving adult literacy rates by 2000 as declared in the 1990 Children's Summit - illiteracy fell from 25% in 1990 to just 21% in 2000.

The UNDP Human Development Report for 2003 comments:

'Whether the numerical target of a global goal was achieved is an important but inadequate measure of success because it does not indicate whether setting the goal made a difference. In many cases enormous progress has been made even though numerical targets have not been reached - as with the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade of the 1980s... during which hardly any developing country achieved universal coverage. But the setting of global goals drew attention to these needs, and in the 1980s access to safe water increased 130% and access to sanitation increased 266%, both much more than in the 1970s or 1990s. Yet the decade has often been viewed as a failure simply because the numerical targets were not met...'