Development Cooperation Handbook/Introduction to the Millennium Development Goals

Introduction to the Millennium Development Goals

Setting the MDGs

The UN Millennium Declaration


"We, the humanity of the third Millennium, have achieved that technological, economic and political progress from where we can no longer justify hunger and the exclusion of millions from basic health and education."
In 2000, the international community acknowledged that it has a duty to enforce the fundamental rights of those who have being excluded from the benefits of progress. In September 2000 the United Nations Assembly unanimously adopted the UN Millennium Declaration. On that occasion all the 192 Member States of the United Nations committed themselves to a work agenda that would tackle the most evident factors of poverty and injustice. They set 8 goals, they set 21 targets, they set timelines. And for the first time in world history, a concrete work agenda for the rights of the voiceless was universally agreed.

The timeline decided on 2000 was 2015. And in order to verify if they were being honest with their commitments, they set a number of indicators upon which they asked to be judged.

From 2000 to 2015 the MDGs provided a framework for the UN system and for synergizing the various international cooperation activities in a coherent worldwide effort. The MDGs targets have become an integral part of the   World Development Indicators. Each year, an annual report is prepared that assesses the progress made by member states in fulfilling the pledges they made.

Although the UN has a key role to play in addressing the challenges and in tracking the global progress towards these goals, it is national governments that have the responsibility to achieve the Millennium Development Goal targets. Thousands of projects and programmes have been operational involving a large amount of human and technical resources. However, the resources and efforts have proved to be inadequate and the progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals has been uneven and slow. Many countries finally did not allocate the resources they had committed to and the international media did not pay much attention to the MDGs, so the public is little informed about them. In this documentary, we will see projects on the ground and see what developing and developed nations are doing in order to contribute to the achievement of the MDGs.

See ⇒ The Millennium Development Goals Report 2014)

The Eight Millennium Development Goals

  • Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger: the World has enough food for all; but millions of people still suffer hunger. The MDG1 is focused on removing the factors causing extreme poverty and ensuring that no person dies of hunger.
  • Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education: millions of children do not have access to schools; the nations of the world have recognised that they have a  duty to provide basic education to boys and girls alike; the MDG2 is about enforcing the right of all the children to go to school.
  • Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women: providing women with equal opportunities means having communities enriched with the wealth that women produce and share; political participation of women means that communities are better managed, more open and that power and opportunities are better distributed. The MDG 3 deals with the removal of the obstacles to gender equity and to full  political participation of women.
  • Goal 4: Reduce child mortality; millions of children die because of the lack of care and exclusion. The MDG 4 deals with decreasing the death rates of children under-five while improving their nutrition and access to vaccinations and basic health services;
  • Goal 5: Improve maternal health: Hundreds of thousands of young mothers die due to lack of care and hygiene. The MDG 5 is about reducing maternal mortality rates by providing access for all women to reproductive health services, both during pre-natal and childbirth; it also tackles reducing adolescent birth rates and promoting the use of contraceptives;
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases: in developing countries, people die of preventable diseases.The MDG 6 aims at stopping the spread of AIDS and other diseases like tuberculosis and malaria and increasing the access of people to treatment;
  • Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability: The MDG 7 is the recognition of the rights of future generations to recieive an environment as rich as the one we are enjoying and that development will be sustained only by the conservation of the environment. MDG 7 aims at the loss of bio-diversity and environment resources, increasing people's access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation and improving the lives of slum dwellers;
  • Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development; the MDG 8 is about promoting  a healthy cooperation environment amongst nations: by making the economic and political relationship fairer and more peaceful, it will be possible to remove factors that generate poverty and ignorance.

Although the UN has a key role to play in addressing the challenges and in tracking the global progress towards these goals, it is National Governments that have the responsibility to achieve the MDG targets. Thousands of programmes and projects have been operational, involving a large amount of human and technical resources. However, the resources and efforts have proved to be inadequate; and the progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals has been uneven and slow. Many countries finally did not allocate the resources that they had committed to. And the  international media did not pay much attention to the MDGs, so the general public is little informed about them.

Not enough progress towards the achievement of MDGs


UN monitoring of MDGs ( reveals that many countries might not achieve declared targets by 2015. This is largely due to a combination of the lack of driving policy changes in these countries and the lack of consistent commitment by donor countries. In spite of official declarations to pursue the 8th MDG goal (i.e. Developing a Global Partnership for Development) by devoting at least 0.7% of GNP to development cooperation, the average contribution by donor nations is still only around 0.23%, i.e. equal to US$56 billion per year (EU has committed 0.7% by 2012). UN and World Bank estimate that an additional donor contribution of USD 50 billion per year would be still required to reach the target of 0.7% of GDP. One of the reasons for low prioritization of commitment to International Development Agenda is the low awareness, among people in richer countries, of the real development issues and on the scope and impact of international cooperation. (see ⇒ The Millennium Development Goals Report 2014)

In an International Summit, to be held in New York in September 2015, UN member countries will come together and evaluate the MDG achievements and challenges. In view of the changing world scenario, new global goals will be set for the development agenda beyond 2015. An Open Working Group is finalising new goals and targets, to be called the “Sustainable Development Goals”, that will be presented at the MDG Summit in September 2015.



Additional summits are to be held every five years after the Millennium Summit to assess the progress of the United Nations in reaching towards the Millennium Development Goals. The first follow-up to the Millennium Summit was held in the year of 2005 at the 2005 World Summit.

The United Nations summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda will be held from 25 to 27 September 2015, in New York and convened as a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly.[1] Proposed 6 themes for Interactive Dialogues are:

  • Eradicating poverty in all its dimensions and addressing inequality
  • Tackling climate change and achieving more sustainable lifestyles
  • Building strong, inclusive and resilient economies
  • Promoting peaceful societies and strong institutions
  • A renewed global partnership and adequate means of implementation
  • Reviewing progress on SDG commitments; universality and differentiations

See also


 Issue: National Governments and International Organizations – their commitment to MDGs

 The Sustainable Development Goals

  In the documentary story ⇒ The MDGs

On Wikipedia

  Millennium Development Goals
  The United Nations
  Declaration of Human Duties and Responsibilities
  Human Development Index|Human Development Index



Statistics on achievements



The MDGs and the policy debates around them - S.Kumar
People who set the MDGs are no longer those who are responsible for their achievement - Julian Parr
B.Hoeper - All policies of the Nations who signed the Millennium declaration should be coherent with the MDGs