Posted in Development

Beyond the Millennium Development Goals

In developing countries, 2015 is a year of particular interest because it is the deadline for achieving the various targets under the Millennium Development Goals. To recap, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) saw a new hope for global action in the dawn of a new millennium, and this took the shape of the 8 Millennium Development Goals, which have shaped the development policies of many a nation for the last decade and a half.

The original Millennium Development Goals, and their targets, were:


Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.25 a day

Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people

Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger


Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling


Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015


Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate


Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio

Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health


Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS

Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it

Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases


Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources

Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss

Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

Achieve, by 2020, a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers


Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system

Address the special needs of least developed countries

Address the special needs of landlocked developing countries and small island developing States

Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries

In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications

As almost all the MDGs deal with different dimensions of poverty, the question to be asked here is how well (or badly) have the two demographic giants on the planet fared? Because the MDG targets basically dealt with halving this or that indicator, the expectation never was that poverty would indeed be eradicated in 15 years. It has been tackled with vigour in both India and China, and yet they have a long, long way to go:

Poverty pie chart MDG post

While China has largely secluded its poor in the countryside, India’s poor are everywhere – on street corners in the big metros; among the ill-educated and underemployed of the small towns, living lives of quiet desperation; amidst the small and marginal farmers with an anxious eye on the next monsoon which could spell the difference between choosing to live and choosing to die; and the poorest of the poor in the tribal districts of the country, with no private land to till, and all community resources lost to the greedy contractor.

Many, like this blogger, have been trying to get the present government to look at the state of the nation’s poor, rather than posturing abroad to gain foreign direct investment – but to no avail. Well, if they don’t listen to us, they may perhaps listen to the 7.3 million people worldwide who are saying precisely the same thing. This was the number polled by UNDP in setting the goals for the next 15 years for all the countries in the world.

Given the global concerns with issues like growing carbon footprints, climate change, and unsustainable development, the new goals targeted for 2030 are known as the Sustainable Development Goals, and are more than twice as many as the original MDGs. They are:

  1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all
  9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation
  10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

Lest we forget…

The Indian electorate does have a proclivity for throwing out governments which contemptuously ignore the poor – at the State level, and the Centre. Smart cities and busy expressways just don’t cut it with the village mother whose child has to trudge 10 kilometers to school – through rain and shine…


I am a trainer of Government Officials and Elected Representatives, specializing in the urban and municipal sector. I have also written extensively on Urban Governance, Poverty, Development, Social Accountability and Municipal Management in the Indian context, and wish to share these writings with you through this blog.

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