June 8th, 2012

From Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) mark a historic and effective method of global mobilisation to achieve a set of important social priorities worldwide. They express widespread public concern about poverty, hunger, disease, unmet schooling, gender inequality, and environmental degradation. By packaging these priorities into an easily understandable set of eight goals, and by establishing measurable and timebound objectives, the MDGs help to promote global awareness, political accountability, improved metrics, social feedback, and public pressures. As described by Bill Gates, the MDGs have become a type of global report card for the fight against poverty for the 15 years from 2000 to 2015. As with most report cards, they generate incentives to improve performance, even if not quite enough incentives for both rich and poor countries to produce a global class of straight-A students.

Developing countries have made substantial progress towards achievement of the MDGs, although the progress is highly variable across goals, countries, and regions. Mainly because of startling economic growth in China, developing countries as a whole have cut the poverty rate by half between 1990 and 2010. Some countries will achieve all or most of the MDGs, whereas others will achieve very few. By 2015, most countries will have made meaningful progress towards most of the goals. Moreover, for more than a decade, the MDGs have remained a focus of global policy debates and national policy planning. They have become incorporated into the work of non-governmental organisations and civil society more generally, and are taught to students at all levels of education.

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