The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history and will serve as the jumping-off point for the new sustainable development agenda to be adopted this year, according to the final MDG report launched today by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015 found that the 15-year effort to achieve the eight aspirational goals set out in the Millennium Declaration in 2000 was largely successful across the globe, while acknowledging shortfalls that remain. The data and analysis presented in the report show that with targeted interventions, sound strategies, adequate resources and political will, even the poorest can make progress.
“Following profound and consistent gains, we now know that extreme poverty can be eradicated within one more generation”, said Ban Ki-moon. “The MDGs have greatly contributed to this progress and have taught us how governments, business and civil society can work together to achieve transformational breakthroughs”.
Breaking down the progress made on each of the eight MDGs, the report found that:
On Goal 1 – eradicate extreme poverty and hunger – the world has seen the most successful anti-poverty movement in global history, which has contributed to a reduction in the absolute number of people living in extreme poverty by more than half in 2015 since 1990;
On Goal 2 – to achieve universal primary education – in sub-Saharan Africa, the implementation of the MDGs has helped increase the primary school net enrolment rate by 20 percentage points since 2000, compared to only 8 percentage points between 1990 and 2000, and the MDGs achieved ground-breaking success in the number of out-of-school children of primary school age, from 100 million in 2000, to 57 million in 2015;
On Goal 3 – which sought to promote gender equality and empower women – women are now having significantly stronger representation both in parliaments around the world and as a workforce outside of the agricultural sector and substantial achievements have been made in gender equality in education. For instance in southern Asia, there are now even more girls than boys enrolled in primary school, as compared with 74 girls for every 100 boys in 1990;
On Goal 4 – to reduce child mortality – the MDGs were most successful in the reduction of child mortality. Between 1990 and 2015, the annual rate of reduction of under-five mortality has more than tripled globally;
On Goal 5 – to improve maternal health – with the help of the MDGs, more mothers can rely on the assistance and treatment they need during pregnancy and after, and the maternal mortality ratio has been reduced by nearly half worldwide. Nowadays three-quarters of births are assisted by skilled health personnel globally;
On Goal 6 – to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases – lower infection rates of HIV of 40 per cent, an immense increase in antiretroviral therapy, tremendous declines in malaria deaths and incidence rates as well as superior success in tuberculosis treatment prove that the MDGs work to defeat diseases;
On Goal 7 – to ensure environmental sustainability – the MDGs have significantly increased access to improved drinking water for more than 90 per cent of the global population, and since 1990, ozone protection efforts have virtually eliminated ozone depleting substances;
And Goal 8 – to cultivate a global partnership for development – official development assistance (ODA) from developed countries increased by 66 per cent in real terms between 2000 and 2014.
Goals and targets work
The MDG report confirms that goal-setting can lift millions of people out of poverty, empower women and girls, improve health and well-being, and provide vast new opportunities for better lives.
Only two short decades ago, nearly half of the developing world lived in extreme poverty. The number of people now living in extreme poverty has declined by more than half, falling from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015.
The world has also witnessed dramatic improvement in gender equality in schooling since the MDGs, and gender parity in primary school has been achieved in the majority of countries.
More girls are now in school, and women have gained ground in parliamentary representation over the past 20 years in nearly 90 per cent of the 174 countries with data. The average proportion of women in parliament has nearly doubled during the same period. The rate of children dying before their fifth birthday has declined by more than half, dropping from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births since 1990. The maternal mortality ratio shows a decline of 45 per cent worldwide, with most of the reduction occurring since 2000.
Targeted investments in fighting diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, have brought unprecedented results. Over 6.2 million malaria deaths were averted between 2000 and 2015, while tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis and treatment interventions saved an estimated 37 million lives between 2000 and 2013.
Worldwide, 2.1 billion have gained access to improved sanitation and the proportion of people practicing open defecation has fallen almost by half since 1990. Official development assistance from developed countries saw an increase of 66 per cent in real terms from 2000 and 2014, reaching $135.2 billion.
Countries in Oceania face common challenges resulting from their small size, geographic isolation and vulnerability to natural disasters. Despite these difficulties, the region has made progress in some of the MDGs.
The maternal mortality ratio declined by 51 per cent in the Oceania region over the past two decades, from 390 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 190 in 2013, still the second highest among all regions.
Oceania made substantial progress in expanding access to primary education between 1990 and 2015 with an increase in enrolment rates from 69 per cent to 95 per cent. Despite progress in improving gender parity in education, girls continue to face high barriers to schooling in all levels of education. In Oceania, it is projected that only 86 girls are enrolled in secondary schools for every 100 boys in 2015.
Women’s access to paid employment in the non-agricultural sector has been increasing over the past two decades, with an increase of 6 percentage points over the period 1990–2015, from 33 per cent to 39 per cent.
Progress has also been made in protecting marine areas, which helps to prevent loss of biodiversity, maintain food security and water supplies, strengthen climate resilience and provide services for human well-being. In Oceania, there were no coastal or marine protected areas in 1990, but 7.4 per cent of such areas were protected in 2014.
However, Oceania continues to experience high levels of poverty and slow economic growth and is in danger of missing critical MDG targets.
The report highlighted that significant gains have been made for many of the MDG targets worldwide, but progress has been uneven across regions and countries, leaving significant gaps. Conflicts remain the biggest threat to human development, with fragile and conflict-affected countries typically experiencing the highest poverty rates.
Gender inequality persists in spite of more representation of women in parliament and more girls going to school. Women continue to face discrimination in access to work, economic assets and participation in private and public decision-making.
Despite enormous progress driven by the MDGs, about 800 million people still live in extreme poverty and suffer from hunger. Children from the poorest 20 per cent of households are more than twice as likely to be stunted as those from the wealthiest 20 per cent and are also four times as likely to be out of school. In countries affected by conflict, the proportion of out-of-school children increased from 30 per cent in 1999 to 36 per cent in 2012.
In the context of the environment, global emissions of carbon dioxide have increased over 50 per cent since 1990 and water scarcity now affects 40 per cent of people in the world and is projected to increase.
New sustainable development agenda
World leaders have called for an ambitious long-term sustainability agenda to succeed the MDGs. Building on the success and momentum of the MDGs, new global goals will break fresh ground with ambition on inequalities, economic growth, decent jobs, cities and human settlements, industrialization, energy, climate change, sustainable consumption and production, peace and justice.
“The emerging post-2015 development agenda, including the set of Sustainable Development Goals, strives to build on our successes and put all countries, together, firmly on track towards a more prosperous, sustainable and equitable world”, concluded Ban Ki-moon.
The Millennium Development Goals Report, an annual assessment of global and regional progress towards the Goals, reflects the most comprehensive, up-to-date data compiled by over 28 UN and international agencies. It is produced by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. A complete set of the data used to prepare the report is available at mdgs.un.org. For more information, press materials and an inter-agency media contact list, see www.un.org/millenniumgoals