People sometimes say that the United Nations doesn’t do enough to solve the big problems of the world. I’ve never really agreed with that point of view, but if anyone is looking for evidence of the UN’s impact, a good place to start is the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The MDGs are an ambitious set of goals for reducing poverty and child mortality rates, and fighting diseases that sap the socioeconomic potential of poor countries. They were agreed to in 2000 by all 193 UN member countries and 23 international organizations. Creating that kind of consensus is—by itself—a significant achievement.
The great thing about the MDGs is that they provide clear targets and indicators of progress in key areas, including ending poverty and hunger, ensuring universal education, gender equality, improving child and maternal health, combatting HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability, and strengthening global development.
Although a number of countries won’t be able to achieve all of the goals by the target date of 2015, the MDGs have been helpful in getting everyone to really think about their part, the progress they’re making, and what they can learn from others. The goals have focused political attention in developing countries, encouraged UN groups to work together, and inspired wealthy and fast-growing donor countries to coordinate their efforts.
In February, the World Bank announced that the MDG goal of cutting extreme poverty by half had been achieved five years early. A week later, UNICEF and the World Health Organization announced that the goal of halving the number of people without access to safer drinking water was also reached five years early. These are noteworthy achievements though much work remains to be done. Other goals, such as reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters, simply won't be achievable by 2015, although the progress has been really good.
Already, people are talking about what the goals should be for 2030. That’s a great thing because there’s still a lot more work to do, especially in reducing diseases and maternal and childhood deaths. But I believe the global community deserves a solid B for its efforts so far and where there is progress, we should celebrate.
One of the things I’ve learned in my work at Microsoft and the foundation is that setting clear goals and honestly evaluating progress is critical when trying to tackle big challenges. The MDGs provide a report card on the progress the world is making to take care of those most in need.
Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality
Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases
Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development