UN Millennium Development Goals: Are they being reached?
The UN leader urges world leaders attending a summit to rededicate themselves to reaching the Millennium Development Goals. Despite some successes on poverty and school enrollment, many challenges remain.
United Nations, N.Y.
The status of the ambitious goals world leaders set a decade ago for reducing extreme poverty and enhancing global development by 2015 is a classic case of the glass being either half empty or half full.Skip to next paragraph
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As a largely new crop of world leaders gathers for a summit at the United Nations in New York to rededicate themselves to the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000, it is possible to cite significant progress in a number of areas, from the headway made in cutting the world’s worst poverty to significant jumps in primary school enrollment.
At the same time, however, several of the UN’s eight millennium goals have seen painfully little progress and at the current snail’s pace of improvement won’t be reached, development experts and international officials say. Among the farthest off the mark: the goal of reducing by three-fourths the maternal mortality rate, and that of reducing by two-thirds the mortality rate of children under 5.
With the 2015 goal line approaching, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wanted to seize the opportunity of this week’s gathering of world leaders in New York for the annual opening of the UN General Assembly to hold a summit focusing global attention on the work still to do if the poverty-reduction goals are to be met, aides say.
“The idea is, with five years to go, to remind the world’s wealthy and developing countries alike of the commitments they made and to encourage them to recommit to these goals by dedicating new resources and initiatives for meeting them,” says Farhan Haq, a press assistant to Mr. Ban. The secretary-general, he said, “will remind the leaders that these are the governments’ own goals, and that the summit … is about finding new ways of achieving them.”
Capitalizing on 'peace dividend'
The Millennium Development Goals were originally envisioned as a way of matching a needed revitalization and updating of global development efforts with the so-called “peace dividend” resulting from the end of the cold war. The goals’ start date of 2000 coincided with a boom in both the world economy and a proliferation of international nongovernmental organizatons addressing global poverty issues.
But this week’s “rededication” summit is being held amid a global economic downturn. Ban is mindful of the economic difficulties many countries face, Mr. Haq says, but also believes that the current difficulties must not obscure the long-term gains to be reaped by a renewed effort to reach the goals.
In opening the development goals summit Tuesday, Ban said the “books” of the world’s well-off “must not be balanced on the backs of the poor.” The summit concludes Wednesday afternoon, when many eyes will be focused on President Obama, who will offer the US vision for meeting the goals.