Published on Let's Talk Development

Mixed picture on MDG attainment

This page in:

This year’s report card on where the world, the regions, and the developing countries are with regard to attaining the various Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), shows quite a diverse picture. As the Global Monitoring Report 2013 points out, progress toward the MDGs has not been universal and there are many poor countries that are still very far away from the targets where we want them to be by 2015. 

If we take a look at progress towards attainment of the MDGs, we can conclude that four out of 21 targets have been met by 2010, well ahead of the 2015 deadline. Note that even though there are 8 Goals, there are 21 targets and about 56 indicators through which the world tries to monitor their progress.

The four targets already achieved are:

  • MDG 1.a – halving the proportion of the population living on less than $1.25 a day was met;
  • The first part of MDG 3 – eliminating gender disparities in primary education;
  • MDG 7.a – ensuring environmental sustainability; and
  • MDG 7.c – halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe water.

MDG 7.d, achieving a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, is a bit of an outlier. When the MDGs were adopted in 2000, it was thought that that approximately 170 million people were living in slums and that improving the lives of over a 100 million could be seen as ambitious. However, shortly after 2000, a recount of how many people were living in slums found the number to be close to a billion. Hence, even after the improvements in the lives of a 100 million slum dwellers, still well over 800 million people call a slum their home.

However, there really is no time to be complacent. Current analysis shows that without a vast acceleration of progress, the world should expect that globally only the second part of the target of MDG 3, on gender equality and women empowerment by eliminating gender disparities fully in primary and secondary education, could be attained between now and 2015.  Hence, progress on the remaining MDGs is less than stellar.

When analyzing progress toward the MDGs at the regional level, the picture becomes more diverse and less gloomy for some regions. For example, the East Asia and Pacific region can be expected to attain most, if not all MDGs, while at the other end of the spectrum Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to meet none. This is not necessarily because of a lack of effort in Sub-Saharan Africa, but because the region’s starting position was much worse than any other.

For example, infant mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa stood at 178 deaths per 1000 live births in 1990, more than three times that in East Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe and Central Asia. Absolute progress, in Sub-Saharan Africa, stood at 69 fewer deaths per 1000 live births by 2011, which is twice as large as the other three regions. But Sub-Saharan Africa’s progress is still well off the two-thirds reduction stipulated for the MDG on infant mortality reduction. The same holds for many of the other MDGs. The relative manner in which the MDGs are defined i.e. halve poverty, reduce by two-thirds or reduce by three-fourths, masks some of the strong improvements not just in Sub-Saharan Africa but also for South Asia.

When analyzing progress toward the MDGs at the country level, the picture becomes more diverse and maybe a bit gloomier. For example, even though we expect that the MDG on promoting gender equality will be attained globally, only half of the countries we monitor are expected to achieve it. The picture becomes more unsatisfactory if we look at the MDGs that are most likely not being met globally – for example, only 18 countries are anticipated to achieve the MDG on reducing infant mortality.

At the same time though, our analysis shows that a number of countries are quite close to achieving various MDGs and with an acceleration of progress can still achieve or get quite close to achieving the goal by 2015. For example, 20 countries are expected to attain the MDG on reducing infant mortality between 2015 and 2020. Those countries are possible candidates for targeted acceleration. You can see and check this information at the wonderful dashboard developed by the World Bank.


Jos Verbeek

Manager and Special Representative to the UN and the WTO in Geneva

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000