Achieving the MDGs: What will it take?

01 Jun 2010

Though the number of people living below the poverty line fell by 400 million during 1990-2005, there are still 1.4 billion poor people in the world. An estimated 64 million have joined them because of the 2008 economic crisis and the proportion of hungry people increased by 14.6 per cent. Five years remain for the world to achieve the globally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). What will it take to get there?

New Horizons - A decade after the Millennium Declaration, there is undeniable progress on some MDGs in many countries. There have been noticeable reductions in poverty globally. Significant improvements have been made in enrolment and gender parity in schools. Progress is evident in reducing child and maternal mortality, increasing HIV treatments and ensuring environmental sustainability. Developing countries are increasingly incorporating the MDGs into their national development strategies, reforming policies and building institutions in order to implement those plans effectively. There have been welcome developments in the global partnership where, although still not complete, some countries have met their commitments.

The gender gap in schools has narrowed significantly. By 2007, 95 girls per 100 boys were enrolled in schools. In 1999, it was 91 girls to 100 boys. The abolition of school fees at the primary level has been important contributing to surges of enrolment in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Nepal. Accomplishments have also been evident in child and maternal health across the globe. Under-five mortality decreased from 93 deaths per 1,000 live births to 67 and the Maternal Mortality Ratio fell from 320 to 251 per 100,000 live births between 1990 and 2008.

Challenges, however, are also abundant. While the share of poor people is declining, the absolute number of the poor in South Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa is increasing. Countries that achieved rapid reductions in income poverty are not necessarily making the same progress in gender equality and environmental sustainability. Lack of progress in reducing HIV is curtailing improvements in both maternal and child mortality. Moreover, adequate attention has not been paid to the quality of education and health services in the rush to expand coverage. In sub-Saharan Africa, no country is currently on course to achieve all the MDGs by 2015. MDG progress is also threatened by the combination of high food prices and the impact of the international financial and economic crisis. Sustained poverty and hunger reduction is at risk because of vulnerability to climate change, particularly in the area of agricultural production. Weak institutional capacity in conflict and post-conflict countries slows MDG progress. And rapid urbanization is putting pressure on social services.

Today, the world has the knowledge and resources to accelerate progress. What is required is increased commitment to see through the strategies, policies and interventions. In its International Assessment of what it will take to achieve the MDGs, UNDP has issued a new report bringing together evidence from countries over the last 10 years about what has worked in making progress towards the MDGs. Proposing an 8 point action plan, the What Will It Take To Achieve The Millennium Development Goals? An International Assessment report assures that the MDGs can be achieved even in the poorest and most disadvantaged countries.

For further information about the MDG's, please visit or the UN Millennium Campaign

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