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In the UN Millennium Declaration of September 2000, leaders from 189 nations embraced a vision for the world in which developed and developing countries would work in partnership for the betterment of all. To provide a framework by which progress could be measured, the Declaration was broken down into 8 Millennium Development Goals, 18 targets and 48 indicators. In 2007, this monitoring framework was revised to include four new targets, agreed to by member states at the 2005 World Summit



Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Targets: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day

Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people

Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

In sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, both the number of poor and the poverty rate are expected to increase further in some of the more vulnerable and low-growth economies. Sub-Saharan Africa counted 100 million more extremely poor people in 2005 than in 1990, and the poverty rate remained above 50 per cent (though it had begun to decline after 1999). Globally, the target of reducing the poverty rate by half by 2015 seems likely to be achieved. However, some regions will fall far short, and as many as 1 billion people are likely to remain in extreme poverty by the target date.


Developing regions have seen only minor advances in labour productivity over the last decade, and fall far behind developed regions. Considerable progress has been made in Eastern Asia, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and transition countries of South-Eastern Europe. But productivity remains extremely low in sub-Saharan Africa and has even declined slightly in Oceania. Higher productivity in Eastern Asia was accompanied by a sharp decrease in the share of those classified as the working poor during the same period. A similar situation occurred in the transition countries of South-Eastern Europe, where the share of the working poor declined by almost nine percentage points since 1997, while productivity levels nearly doubled and the proportion of vulnerable employment dropped.


The declining trend in the rate of undernourishment in developing countries since 1990-1992 was reversed in 2008, largely due to escalating food prices. The proportion of people who are undernourished dropped from about 20 per cent in the early 1990s to about 16 per cent in the middle of the following decade. But provisional estimates indicate that it rose by a percentage point in 2008. Rapidly rising food prices caused the proportion of people going hungry in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania to increase in 2008. When China is excluded, the prevalence of hunger also rose in Eastern Asia.


Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

Target: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling

Progress is being made towards universal primary education. Still, more than 10 per cent of children of primary-school age are out of school. In the developing world as a whole, enrolment coverage in primary education reached 88 per cent in 2007, up from 83 per cent in 2000. Major breakthroughs have been achieved in sub-Saharan Africa, where enrolment increased by 15 percentage points from 2000 to 2007, and Southern Asia, which gained 11 percentage points over the same period.


The relatively sharp rise in enrolment in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, despite rapid population growth, is therefore encouraging. However, global numbers of out-of-school children are dropping too slowly and too unevenly for the target to be reached by 2015.


The number of children of primary school age who are out of school has dropped by 33 million since 1999. Still, 72 million children worldwide were denied the right to education in 2007. Almost half of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by Southern Asia, home to 18 million out-of school children. According to partial projections by the Education for All Global Monitoring Report, produced by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and based on 2006 data, at least 29 million children will still be out of school in 2015.


Unequal opportunities resulting from biases based on gender, ethnicity, income, language or disabilities are common and represent a major obstacle to universal education. Children from poor communities and girls are the most likely to lose out. In some less developed countries, children in the poorest 20 per cent of the population are three times less likely to be enrolled in primary school than children from the wealthiest 20 per cent. In 2007, girls accounted for 54 per cent of the world’s out-of-school population.


Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Target: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

The world continues to progress towards gender parity in education as measured by the ratio of girls' to boys' gross enrolment. In the developing regions as a whole, 95 girls were enrolled in primary school for every 100 boys in 2007, compared to 91 in 1999. However, the target of eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005 was missed. Ensuring that the opportunity is not lost again in 2015 will require renewed urgency and commitment

In 2007, only 53 of the 171 countries with available data had achieved gender parity (defined by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics as a girls' to boys' enrolment ratio of between 97 and 103) in both primary and secondary education. That is 14 more countries than in 1999. Still, the fact that over 100 countries have yet to reach the target is a source of concern.

The notable exceptions to a generally improving situation are sub-Saharan Africa, where the ratio of girls' to boys' enrolment in secondary education fell from 82 in 1999 to 79 in 2007; Oceania, where the ratio fell from 89 to 87; and the CIS, where it fell from 101 to 98 over the same period.

The employment situation of women is particularly dismal in Oceania and Southern Asia, where the largest share of women's employment is as contributing family workers - 64 per cent and 46 per cent, respectively. These labourers, also known as unpaid family workers, are family members who freely give their time to family-owned businesses. The large share of unpaid jobs adds to the already heavy burden of unpaid work carried out by women in households in all regions, which is not reflected in official labour force statistics.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that, in December 2008, there were 12.8 per cent more unemployed men and 6.7 per cent more unemployed women in the world than in December 2007. The number of unemployed men increased at a faster rate than the number of unemployed women, especially during the second half of 2008. The 2008 financial crisis and high prices for primary commodities have eroded labour markets around the world. The ILO projects that the global unemployment rate in 2009 could reach between 6.3 per cent and 7.1 per cent, with a corresponding unemployment rate for women ranging from 6.5 to 7.4 per cent (compared to 6.1 to 7.0 per cent for men). This means that an additional 24 million to 52 million people worldwide may be unemployed, of which 10 million to 22 million will be women.


Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

Target: Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate

Deaths in children under five have declined steadily worldwide. In 2007, the global under-five mortality rate was 67 deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 93 in 1990. That year, more than 12.6 million young children died from largely preventable or treatable causes; the figure has declined to around 9 million today, despite population growth.

For the developing regions as a whole, the under-five mortality rate dropped from 103 in 1990 to 74 in 2007. Still, many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, have made little or no progress at all. The levels are highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where, in 2007, close to one in seven children died before his or her fifth birthday. Together with high levels of fertility, this has resulted in an increase in the absolute number of under-five deaths-from 4.2 million in 1990 to 4.6 million in 2007. Sub-Saharan Africa now accounts for half of all deaths among children under five.

Routine immunization for measles continues to expand worldwide. Coverage has increased steadily since 2000, reaching 82 per cent of the world's children in 2007, largely due to immunization campaigns and more concentrated efforts in countries with hard-to-reach areas. During this period, measles deaths dropped by an astonishing 74 per cent, with the largest reduction in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, there were an estimated 197,000 measles-related deaths in 2007, down from 750,000 in 2000.


Goal 5: Improve maternal health


Targets: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio

Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health

Every year, 536,000 women and girls die as a result of complications during pregnancy, childbirth or the six weeks following delivery. Almost all of these deaths (99 per cent) occur in developing countries. Maternal mortality is among the health indicators that show the greatest gap between the rich and the poor - both between countries and within them. Developed regions report nine maternal deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 450 maternal deaths in developing regions, where 14 countries have maternal mortality ratios of at least 1,000 per 100,000 live births. Half of all maternal deaths (265,000) occur in sub-Saharan Africa and another third (187,000) in Southern Asia. Together, these two regions account for 85 per cent of all maternal deaths.

The available trend data indicate that there has been little progress in the developing world as a whole-480 maternal deaths per 100,000 births in 1990 compared to 450 deaths in 2005-and that the small decline reflects progress only in some regions. Eastern Asia, Northern Africa, and South-Eastern Asia showed declines of 30 per cent or more between 1990 and 2005. Southern Asia reports a decline of more than 20 per cent over the same period, yet the number of deaths in that region remains unacceptably high. Very little progress has been made in sub-Saharan Africa, where women face the greatest lifetime risk of dying as a result of pregnancy and childbirth.

Since 1995, every region of the developing world has made some progress in improving the availability of skilled health personnel (doctors, nurses or midwives) to assist in deliveries. Overall, the proportion of births attended by skilled health workers in developing regions has increased from 53 per cent in 1990 to 61 per cent in 2007. However, in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, more than half of all births still take place without the assistance of trained personnel.

Since the 1990s, the proportion of pregnant women in the developing world who had at least one antenatal care visit increased from around 64 per cent to 79 per cent. However, a substantially lower proportion of pregnant women receive the standard set of four visits recommended by WHO and UNICEF.

Pregnancy early in life contributes to the estimated 70,000 maternal deaths among girls aged 15 to 19 every year. An infant's risk of dying in his or her first year of life is 60 per cent higher when the mother is under age 18 than when the mother is 18 or older.


Goal 6: Combat HIV/ AIDS, Malaria and other disease

Target: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/ AIDS

Worldwide, the number of people newly infected with HIV peaked in 1996 and has since declined, to 2.7 million in 2007. These positive trends are mostly due to a fall in the annual number of new infections in some countries in Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile, infection rates continue to rise in other parts of the world, especially Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In those regions, HIV prevalence has almost doubled since 2001-when the United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS was signed - and the number of people living with HIV has increased from 630,000 to 1.6 million. The estimated number of AIDS deaths also appears to have peaked in 2005, at 2.2 million, and has since declined to 2 million in 2007. This is partly due to increased access to antiretroviral drugs in poorer countries. Despite an overall decrease in the number of new infections, the number of people living with HIV worldwide continues to grow, largely because people infected with the virus are surviving longer. In 2007, an estimated 33 million people were living with HIV.

Over one third of new HIV infections and 38 per cent of AIDS deaths in 2007 occurred in Southern Africa. Altogether, sub-Saharan Africa is home to 67 per cent of those living with HIV. Women account for half the people living with HIV worldwide and nearly 60 per cent of those infected in sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide, gender inequities continue to affect women's decision-making and risk-taking behaviour, and vulnerability to HIV infection is often beyond a woman's individual control.

Data from national surveys in 36 countries has led to new evidence that while AIDS and orphanhood pose tremendous challenges to children and families, other factors also have a strong impact on children's well-being.

According to WHO, nearly a million people died of malaria in 2006. Ninety-five per cent of them lived in sub-Saharan Africa, and the vast majority were children under five. Between 190 million and 330 million episodes of malaria occurred that year, with 88 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, 6 per cent in Southern Asia and 3 per cent in South-Eastern Asia.

Globally, there were an estimated 9.3 million new cases of tuberculosis in 2007, up from 9.2 million cases in 2006 and 8.3 million in 2000. Most of the cases in 2007 occurred in Asia (55 per cent) and Africa (31 per cent). Of the 9.3 million new TB cases in 2007, an estimated 1.4 million (15 per cent) were among people who were HIV-positive, most of whom (79 per cent) live in Africa.


Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Targets: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources

Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss

Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers

Carbon dioxide emissions contribute to the greenhouse gas effect-a rise in global temperatures that is already having an impact on the planet's people, plants and animals. In 2006, global carbon dioxide emissions continued their upward trend, reaching 29 billion metric tons, an increase of 2.5 per cent from the previous year. Emissions in 2006 were 31 per cent above the 1990 level. Per capita emissions remain highest in the developed regions-about 12 metric tons of CO2 per person per year, compared with about 3 metric tons in the developing regions and 0.8 metric tons in sub-Saharan Africa, the lowest regional value. Emissions per unit of economic output fell by more than 24 per cent in the developed regions and by about 8 per cent in the developing regions. The continued growth of global emissions confirms that combating climate change must remain a priority for the world community. Achieving a substantive breakthrough in the next round of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations, slated for December 2009 in Copenhagen, is extremely important in that regard. It will also be important to demonstrate that the world can handle the climate change problem even in the midst of a global economic downturn, and seize new opportunities for ‘green' growth. From 1986 to 2007, the 195 countries that are currently party to the Montreal Protocol have achieved a 97 per cent reduction in the consumption of substances that deplete the Earth's ozone layer. This extraordinary accomplishment is a prime example of both the integration of sustainable development principles into national policy frameworks (MDG 7) and a global partnership for development (MDG 8).

Deforestation continues at an alarming rate of about 13 million hectares per year (roughly equivalent to the land area of Bangladesh). This is partially counterbalanced by forest planting, landscape restoration and the natural expansion of forests, which have significantly reduced the net loss of forest area. Action is being taken to limit the impact of fishing and other human activities on exploited fish populations. Nevertheless, the percentage of depleted, fully exploited or overexploited and recovering fish species has increased from 70 per cent in 1995 to 80 per cent in 2006. To make matters worse, climate change is gradually altering marine and fresh water ecosystems. Despite having the lowest sanitation coverage in 1990, Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have made notable progress. In Southern Asia, the population that uses an improved sanitation facility more than doubled since 1990; in sub-Saharan Africa, it increased by over 80 per cent.In 1990, almost half the urban population in developing regions were living in slums. By 2005, that proportion had been reduced to 36 per cent. Slum conditions are defined as lacking at least one of four basic amenities: clean water, improved sanitation, durable housing and adequate living space.


Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

Targets: Address the special needs of the least developed countries, landlocked countries and small-island developing states

Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system

Deal comprehensively with developing countries' debt

In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries

In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications

At their meeting in April 2009, the leaders of the Group of 20 agreed to provide $50 billion to support social protection, boost trade and safeguard development in low-income countries. They also agreed to provide $6 billion in additional concessional and flexible financing to the poorest countries over the following two to three years. Later that month, the World Bank/International Monetary Fund Development Committee urged all donors not only to accelerate delivery of their commitments, but to consider going beyond them. Failure to fulfil these promises will not only impede further progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, but could jeopardize gains already made.

The situation at hand

  • During the period 1990-2005, the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day decreased from 1.8 billion to 1.4 billion. In 2009, an estimated 55 million to 90 million more people will be living in extreme poverty than anticipated before the global economic and financial crisis.

  • The encouraging trend in the eradication of hunger since the early 1990s was reversed in 2008, largely due to higher food prices. The prevalence of hunger in the developing regions is now on the rise, from 16 per cent in 2006 to 17 per cent in 2008.

  • A decrease in international food prices in the second half of 2008 has failed to translate into more affordable food for most people around the world.

  • More than one quarter of children in developing regions are underweight for their age, stunting their prospects for survival, growth and long-term development. Meagre progress on child nutrition from 1990 to 2007 is insufficient to meet the 2015 target, and will likely be eroded by higher food prices and economic turmoil.

The successes so far

  • Those living in extreme poverty in the developing regions accounted for slightly more than a quarter of the developing world's population in 2005, compared to almost half in 1990.

  • Major accomplishments were also made in education. In the developing world as a whole, enrolment in primary education reached 88 per cent in 2007, up from 83 per cent in 2000. And most of the progress was in regions lagging the furthest behind. In sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, enrolment increased by 15 percentage points and 11 percentage points, respectively, from 2000 to 2007.

  • Deaths of children under five declined steadily worldwide -to around 9 million in 2007, down from 12.6 million in 1990, despite population growth. Although child mortality rates remain highest in sub-Saharan Africa, recent survey data show remarkable improvements in key interventions that could yield major breakthroughs for children in that region in the years ahead. Among these interventions are the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets to reduce the toll of malaria - a major killer of children. As a result of ‘second chance' immunizations, dramatic progress is also being made in the fight against measles.

  • At the global level, the world came together to achieve a 97 per cent reduction in the consumption of substances that deplete the Earth's protective ozone layer, setting a new precedent for international cooperation.

Source: United Nations Millennium Development Goals Report 2009,

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