What Next for the MDGs?
In September 2000 the UN Millennium Summit set out its vision for reducing global poverty, establishing time-bound targets that were to become known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These ambitious targets were designed as a response to the challenges of globalisation, in particular towards addressing global inequality that had arisen “because the global market is not yet underpinned by rules on shared social objectives… If we are to get the best out of globalisation and avoid the worst,” the Secretary General report noted, “we must learn to govern better, and how to govern better together.”
The agreement was a landmark in international relations and development history, and its impact in many areas has been laudable. Infant mortality rates have fallen across the globe, particularly in Northern Africa and Southern Asia. Child enrolment in primary education has improved. Debt repayments across the developing world are generally less egregious than at the turn of the millennium.
Yet despite these improvements, the MDGs have also fallen short in a number of areas. Some targets have proven un-measurable or have been assessed with inadequate data, whilst in many areas there has been no progress towards some goals, and even regression since 2000. The MDG’s have also been criticised for what they leave out – from agriculture and land rights, to non-communicable diseases and expanding wealth inequality within nation states.
The world is also a very different place since the millennium. Huge wars and both natural and man-made disasters have wreaked havoc on populations, invariably in the developing world. New nations have been born, whilst several old ones have thrown off the shackles of dictatorship and demanded power back to the people.
If the MDGs were a response to globalisation in 2000, then the post-MDG framework must recognise that globalisation has changed. Migration is quickly becoming a big issue for Western governments affected by austerity budgets, yet remittance money sent back home by migrants to developing countries dwarfs global aid budgets, topping US$530bn last year alone.
Some of the world’s biggest companies control human and financial resources larger than the majority of states. However, they are often not involved in the development agenda or subjected to any meaningful checks on corporate responsibility. This is despite the pronounced effect many have on human rights and the environment. Job creation and labour opportunities are rightly promoted as a means out of poverty, yet with the global population continuing to rise, land grabs and housing insecurity are increasingly undermining efforts for social and economic improvement.
If the past 13 years have taught us anything, it is that the global community is more willing than ever to take an active role in its own governance and development. With rapid growth in technology and social media, we are more able to achieve this now more than ever before.
At Generation Development we actively support campaigns that empower an inclusive response to the post-MDG challenge. In particular, the exclusion of the global youth cannot be ignored. If you want a voice in how your world is going to look, now is the time to get involved. Find out more about our mission at Generation Development here and how to make your voice heard on the changes that you want to see.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama
 Report of the Secretary General, “We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century”, A/54/2000 (2000), http://www.un.org/millennium/sg/report/summ.htm accessed 31/01/13
 Lois Jensen (2010) The Millennium Development Goals: Report 2010, New York, N.Y.: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs
 Amir Attaran (2005) “An Immeasurable Crisis? A Criticism of the Millennium Development Goals and Why They Cannot Be Measured”, PLoS Medicine, Volume 2, Issue 10