Boosting progress on the Millennium Development Goals

10 Jun 2011

School children play. Ensuring all children get access to primary education is the target of MDG2. Ensuring all children get access to primary education is the target of MDG2. Photo: Picture This/P.P. Saha

Since 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have served as a rallying cry for governments and peoples around the world.

Without doubt, significant progress has been made. On average, people almost everywhere live longer and healthier lives, are better educated, and endure less poverty than ever before. 

Additionally, according to the World Bank’s 2011 Global Monitoring Report on the MDGs, half of the countries now falling short of the MDG targets are not far away from them.

Yet we are all aware of the obstacles in the way. Progress towards the Goals and targets has often been slow and uneven.

Moving forward, development actors can do more to accelerate and sustain MDG progress.

Narrow sectoral strategies must be replaced by a focus on the drivers of transformational change and by maximising the synergies across different strands of development work.

For example, we need to back interventions which will have the greatest multiplier effects across the MDGs. UNDP identified a range of these in its 2010 International Assessment on achieving the MDGs.

Initiatives which empower women are a powerful driver of progress across the Goals. Similarly, expanding access to energy can simultaneously help keep children in school, enable health services to function over longer hours, and free up women’s time from backbreaking domestic chores.

Meanwhile, there needs to be greater focus on equity and inclusion.  Economic growth per se does not necessarily result in poverty reduction, and poverty reduction does not automatically lead to a reduction in inequality.

Both inequality and poverty reduction need to be specifically targeted if development progress is to create the social cohesion and sense of national purpose which helps drive transformation.

By working together in partnership to advance catalytic and equitable policies and initiatives, we can support countries to achieve the MDGs and advance towards more sustainable, inclusive, and prosperous futures for all.

Read UNDP Chief Helen Clark's speech at the June 2011 Follow-up Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals in Tokyo, Japan. Talk to us: With four years to go, what do you think should be the priorities for developing countries and development partners to speed up MDG progress?

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