Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals

Every serious Model United Nations Delegate who started before 2015 know about the Millennium Development Goals. After 2015, Model UN delegates learned that the humanitarian goals of the United Nations were now outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals. Are the MDGs and SDGs linked? What is the relation between them? and to what extent did the Millennium Development Goals succeed? The following article will review the successes and failures of the Millennium Development Goals and the transition to the Sustainable Development Goals.

In September of 2000, the United Nations embarked on an ambitious agenda to solve some of the most pressing global issues. Global leaders convened the Millennium Summit which produced the Millennium Development Goals. With the deadline for completion in 2015, the MDGs outlined eight tasks to accomplish: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empowerment of women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, and spur global partnership for development. In order to help finance these goals, finance ministers of the G8 nations agreed to give money to the leading international finance institutions in order to forgive debt to heavily indebted nations, most of which were places where the MDGs had the most potential for progress.

There have been many successes in the program, though progress has been uneven across the globe. This article will outline each of the eight MDGs and highlight the progress made for each one. The article will conclude with an examination of the newly created Sustainable Development Goals and their aim of continuing the work of the MDGs.

Goal 1 – Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger

Target 1.A - Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.25 a day
Though the overall goal was met five years ahead of time, sub-Saharan African still retains a high level of poverty, as does southern Asia. While over a billion people have been lifted out of poverty, over 800 million remain.

Target 1.B - Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people
The economic crisis in the late 2000's hurt this target. The proportion of people working age that are employed has actually fallen from 62 percent to 60 percent with significant deficits in Africa and southern Asia.

Target 1.C - Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
Approximately 800 million people are still undernourished globally, with over 90 million of those being under the age of five. The goal itself was nearly accomplished, though sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia still see the worst results.

Goal 2 – Achieve Universal Primary Education

Target 2.A - Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling
From 2000 to 2015, the percentage of children attending primary school jumped from 83 percent to 91 percent. Literacy rates among the 15-24 year old range jumped from 83 percent in 1990 to 91 percent in 2015. Still, over 95 million children do not attend school with the worst results coming from sub-Saharan Africa and children that live in conflict zones.

Goal 3 – Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

Target 3.A - Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015
This goal has underpinnings for many of the other goals. Educating women leads to lower birth rates, lower infant mortality, as well as overall improvement of global health. Most places have managed to eliminate gender disparity in schooling, though we should not take this to mean equality across the board. This has not carried over to equal employment, as only half or working aged women are employed globally, compared to three quarters of working aged men.

Goal 4 – Reduce Child Mortality

Target 4.A - Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate
Children with mothers having at least a secondary education are three times more likely to survive than children of uneducated mothers. With the results working hand in hand with Goal 3, from 1990 to 2015 the under-five mortality rate was decreased by more than half. While this was not the two thirds goal, it is still quite a feat. Most deaths in children under five are considered preventable and will be the focus moving forward.

Goal 5 – Improve Maternal Health

Target 5.A - Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio
Though not reaching the three quarters goal, the maternal mortality rate has been cut in half. Most of the deaths are caused by poor pre-natal care as well as women not having access to skilled health professionals at the time of birth.

Target 5.B - Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health
The global community has struggled to reach this target. Only half of pregnant women receive the amount of care they need during their pregnancy.

Goal 6 – Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and other Diseases

Target 6.A - Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
This goal was ambitious. By 2013, new HIV infections fell by 40 percent. More than 75 percent of the new infections occurred in just fifteen countries. As of 2013, nearly 35 million people globally live with HIV.

Target 6.B - Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it
Of those 35 million, only 13.6 million receive the antiretroviral therapy needed. While this is an increase from the early 2000s, it was not even an increase of one million people.

Target 6.C - Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases
- By 2015 there was a 58 percent decrease in the global malaria mortality rate. Most of the lives saved were in children under five. Simple bed nets were able to prevent most of these malaria infections.
- Thanks to enhanced tuberculosis prevention diagnosis and treatment, over 37 million lives were saved between 2000 and 2013.
- This highest mortality from HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis is still in sub-Saharan Africa.

Goal 7 – Ensure Environmental Sustainability

Target 7.A - Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources
- While the loss of forest cover has decreased, this decrease is negligible. The developing world still continues to allow forests to be cut at alarming rates. While carbon dioxide emissions increased by over 50 percent from 1990 to 2012, the good news is that ozone-depleting substances have been eliminated from use. Our endangered ozone layer is expected to recover.

Target 7.B - Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss
- Protection of ecosystems and coastal marine areas has increased. By 2014, 15.2 percent of land and 8.4 percent of coastal marine areas were protected.

Target 7.C - Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation
- Between 1990 and 2015, nearly 3 billion people gained access to better drinking water. This helped meet the target, though almost 2.5 billion people still use unimproved facilities for water and sanitation.

Target 7.D - Achieve, by 2020, a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers
- This target is especially vague, as improvement can be measured by many different means. Taken individually, these measures of improvement seem good, but if there is not an overall improvement, the situation hardly improves. The UN says that 320 million people in slums gained access to improved water and sanitation and gained more durable housing.
- Nearly 900 million people are estimated to be living in slum conditions today, up from 792 million in 2000.

Goal 8 – Develop a Global Partnership for Development

Target 8.A - Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system
- From 2000 to 2014, development assistance from developed nations increased by 66 percent.

Target 8.B - Address the special needs of least developed countries
- While aid to least developed nations fell 16 percent, it is positive that 79 percent of imports from developing nations enters developed nations duty (tariff)-free.

Target 8.C - Address the special needs of landlocked developing countries and small island developing States
- The UN projected a 2.5 percent increase in programmable aid in 2015 which will benefit least developed and low-income nations. This assessment by the UN does not directly address this target.

Target 8.D - Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries
- In 2000 the debt burden of developing nations was 12 percent. By 2013 it was down to 3.1 percent.

Target 8.E - In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries
- By 2014, generic medicines were available in 58 percent of low-income nations.

Target 8.F - In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications
- 95 percent of the global population was covered by at least 3G mobile-cellular network in 2015, up from 58 percent in 2001. By 2015 at least 43 percent of the population had access to the internet. There is much room for improvement with this target and many global companies, such as Alphabet (Google) and Facebook, have been working on low cost solutions to accomplish this.

The MDGs were ambitious in their scope and they have faced criticism. Many say that the some of the goals were not based in actual analysis and others would have been more beneficial. It is argued that the targets set by the goals were unattainable. It cannot be denied that much progress was made, but as is evident above, there is much more to be done. The Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) were meant to pick up where the MDGs left off. The global community realized that a more comprehensive plan needed to be put into place so the momentum provided by the MDGs could be continued. At the same time, the MDGs were more focused, and easier to measure, while the SDGs seem to be trying to catch everything. Below is a list of the seventeen SDGs.

  • Goal 1 – No Poverty
  • Goal 2 – Zero Hunger
  • Goal 3 – Good Health and Well-being
  • Goal 4 – Quality Education
  • Goal 5 – Gender Equality
  • Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy
  • Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • Goal 9 – Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities
  • Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Goal 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production
  • Goal 13 – Climate Action
  • Goal 14 – Life Below Water
  • Goal 15 – Life on Land
  • Goal 16 – Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  • Goal 17 – Partnerships for the Goals

There are many similarities between the MDGs and the SDGs. There are 169 targets associated with the seventeen goals. Goals one through six strongly lean towards the MDGs. As evidenced by goals seven, and eleven through fifteen, environmental concerns have become a focus in the SDGs. Once again, the SDGs have a fifteen year deadline with an expected completion date of 2030.

​The Sustainable Development Goals have received much criticism from analysts for their seeming overreach. The seventeen goals are very broad and often vague. They encompass all of what humanity seems to have issues with. While nobody argues that these issues need to be addressed, many say that a deadline of 2030 is unattainable. If compared to the MDGs, the SDGs are even more far reaching. Considering that all the MDG goals were not attained, most think it unlikely that the SDGs will be in that time frame.

​Regardless of the disagreements over the MDGs and the SDGs, it cannot be argued that there have not been successes because of them. As noted above, world hunger has been significantly reduced, poverty is declining, and education parity is much closer. Those receiving a primary education has increased and diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis are being combated with success. Regardless of whether the deadlines are met, the goals are at least turning mere conversation about issues into action by global parties.