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World Millennium Goals (aka We're Not Meeting Them)

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Mar. 30th, 2011 | 10:45 pm

In the year 2000, world leaders at the United Nations headquarters in New York came together to draft the United Nations Millennium Declaration which challenged the world community to address eight specific issues by the year 2015. The United Nation’s Millennium Development website (http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals) outlines the eight goals as follows:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Target 1A: Reduce by half, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than USD 1 a day. Target 1C: Reduce by half, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
2. Achieve universal primary education. Target 2A: Between now and 2015, give children everywhere, boys and girls alike, the means to complete a full course of primary schooling.
3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
4. Reduce mortality of children under five.
5. Improve maternal health. Target 5A: Reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio.
6. Combat HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases. Target 6A: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.
7. Ensure environmental sustainability.
8. Develop a global partnership for development.

With only five more years until the target date, the world is stepping back to assess its progress. According to the World Health Organization’s website (http://www.who) improvements have been made worldwide in the following areas:

• Child mortality (age five and under) has fallen 30% since 1990 to 8.8 million.
• New HIV infections have decreased by 16% globally between 2001 and 2008.
• While the world population still does not have adequate sanitation, safe drinking water is more readily available. The world community on track to meet the safe drinking water target by 2015.
• More women have access to skilled midwives, doctors and other health aides for childbirth. However, in Africa and South East Asia, less than 50% of all childbirths are attended by a trained health worker.

While these are positive signs of improvement, there are still many countries that will fall short of their millennium targets. The success stories in the reduction of rates of poverty, hunger and infectious diseases in Central, West and East Asia and North Africa are countered by the struggles of countries in Sub Saharan and Western Africa and South Asia.

Asia and the Pacific

Asia, which is home to 60% of the world’s human population, is the largest and most heavily populated continent. Countries like China, Japan, India, South Korea and Indonesia have helped contribute to Asia’s overall standing as having the third largest GDP in the world. Along with Japan and South Korea, the cities located along the Pacific Rim (Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong) make up what are called the Asian tigers or highly developed industrialized economies. These industrial centers have a ready supply of skilled and educated workers.

The years following World War II saw the Japanese economy grow to become the largest in Asia and one of the largest in the world. Only in recent years has the Japanese economy slowed due to the global recession in the 2000s and the devaluation of the yen.

The economies of China and India have done especially well in the past ten years, growing at a rate of more than 8%. Other economies in Asia have seen high rates of growth, particularly mineral rich nations like Kazakhstan, Iran, Bahrain and Brunei. China has the fastest growing economy in the world and will have the world’s largest economy in 2027. This is due to China’s market based economic reforms in the late 1970’s including the establishment of special economic zones where free market enterprise was encouraged. China’s increase in wealth has also meant a decrease in poverty. The percent of China’s rural population living on less than one dollar a day has dropped from 9.6% in 1990 to 3.8% in 2009 (China).

Central, West and East Asia have seen the largest drop in childhood malnutrition, each going from 19% in 1990 to 7% in 2007 (Chatterjee). Vietnam has reduced the number of underweight children from 45% to 20% (Global Development).

The story is not a positive one for South Asia. While India has seen economic growth in the past decade, the number of people without sufficient nutrition dropped only 2% from 24% to 22% between 1991 and 2005 (Global Development). Access to potable water is still a challenge for rural populations and urban populations do not have enough water to sustain their growth rates. The number of poor in India’s rural heartland (states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh ) is currently at 64% but will probably rise to 71% by 2015 (India’s). However, India as a whole is making strides to reduce the number of its extremely poor population by 188 million people (Millennium).

Seventy seven percent of Southern Asia’s population is employed in the informal sector which offers no formal work arrangement or benefits. Though the number of people living on less than $1.25 dollars a day in South Asia has fallen by two thirds since the 1990s (Hinshaw), this region still has some of the highest rates of child poverty and malnutrition in the world. Also, inequality in education is mirrored in an unequal work force (Millennium). Pakistan’s troubles (socio-political, war on terror, security issues, slow economic growth and recent flood) have all deterred the country’s ability to meet their target goal.

The most disturbing new for South Asia is their child mortality rate. In 2003, 2.3 million children died in India and 481,000 died in Pakistan. Afghanistan has a staggering 257 deaths per 1000 births with one child in four dying before they reach their 5th birthday. In Nepal, Afghanistan and Bangladesh child poverty and hunger rates have reached 48% (Asia-Pacific).

South Pacific

The Island nations the make up Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia are in a unique position. Though they too are working to better feed and employ their populations, they are facing the threat of disappearing under rising seas. The nations of Kiribati, Vanuatu and Tuvalu will be the first nations affected. The entire costal village of Tegua in Vantu has been forced to move to higher ground as huts have been flooded by the influx of water (Singh). Rising tides will cause the disappearance of many of these tiny countries.


It is difficult to talk about the history of the African continent over the past twenty years without calling to mind political violence and war atrocities. Africa has been riddled by dictators, some supported by western and eastern commercial interests in diamonds and precious metals. While many African dictators have grown extremely wealthy by plundering their countries (like Charles Taylor of Liberia whose personal fortune is said to outweigh the GDP of Liberia) the populace has suffered from drought, disease and unsanitary conditions. The history of Africa in the 20th century is very complicated. Between 1879 and 1888 Europe divided and conquered most of Africa. The French, English, Spanish, Germans, Belgians, Portuguese and Italian powers set up a variety of administrations, based on varying degrees of ambition and power. After the Second World War, European began dismantling their African colonies as a result of increased resistance and independence movements in Africa and push back from within their own countries. Some countries fared better than others.

Northern Africa has fared much better than Sub Saharan Africa in terms of meeting the millennium goals. Composed of seven nations (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara), North Africa benefits from its location along the Mediterranean. Its proximity to Southwest Asia and Europe has made North Africa a thriving area of commerce along Trade Routes in the Middle Ages. Fishing resources are plentiful and a wide variety of crops thrive in this area, particularly in the historically fertile Nile Valley.

Though the conflict in Darfur has claimed the lives of several hundred thousand since 2003 and displaced millions of refugees, Sudan has still managed to achieve economic growth. Natural resources like petroleum and oil make the Sudanese economy among the fastest growing in the world. Countries like China and Japan are the primary export partners with Sudan. The Algerian and Libyan economies have also benefited from the discovery of oil in these countries (CIA).

The overall infant mortality dropped by 42% between 1990 and 2007 and the overall rate of hunger dropped (though under 5% of the population is considered undernourished). Adolescent birth rates have dropped. Clean water access improved from 54% to 64% between 1990 and 2006 (Progress).

The outlook is less optimistic for Sub Saharan and Western Africa. On the positive side, Ghana has outperformed all other countries in the world to reduce hunger from 34% to 8% between 1990 and 2005. In Ethiopia, hunger dropped from 71% to 44% between 1991 and 1995. In Tanzania, enrollment in primary school has risen from 50.7% in 1991 to 99.6% in 2008. Similarly, Rwanda saw an increase in school enrollment from 67.3% to 95.9% and Malawi went from 49% to 88% (Global Development). However, the Democratic Republic of Congo has backslid due to civil war. School enrollment dropped from 87% in 1991 to 59% in 2007. Poverty and starvation have risen from 29% in 1990 to 75% in 2004. Access to clean water and sanitation will be in very short supply. Only Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, South Africa, Angola and Botswana will have met that challenge (Africa). Lack of clean water can be attributed to desertification (due to global climate change), erosion from excessive damming on the Nile Delta and high population growth.

Sub- Saharan Africa will meet none of the millennial goals. Most of those deemed “food insecure” live in sub-Saharan Africa. They face additional challenges because of more virulent pests and diseases, continuous droughts and nutrient-poor soil. This region lacks scientists to manage and conduct agricultural research. Still, according to World Savvy.org:
“The number of people living on less than $1 a day is beginning to level off; the proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from 46.8% in 1990 to 41.1% in 2004.” (Millennium).

Sub-Saharan Africa is at 70% enrollment in primary school. While this is one of the lowest rates of enrollment in the world, it is an improvement from 1999 (Millennium).

Latin America and the Caribbean
Improvement in this area has been mixed. Latin America and the Caribbean are marked by social inequality. “Out of a population of approximately 222 million, 10% of the region’s inhabitants receive 48% of all income, while the poorest segment of the population has access to a mere 2% of total earnings.” (Poverty)

While progress toward reducing poverty in Latin American and the Caribbean will not be on target, the number of people without food will has dropped by half between 1990 and 2015. Brazil and Chile have made great strides in halving the number of people who live on less than one dollar a day. Colombia and Nicaragua have increased school enrollment from 70% to 90% (Global). Mexico and Costa Rica are well on their way to reducing their impoverished populations. In Venezuela, rates of extreme poverty were at 29.8 percent in 2003, but dropped to an all-time low of 7.2 percent by 2009. Peru has cut poverty from 24 percent in 2002 to 11.5 percent in 2009. The region is close to halving the percentage of underweight children by 2015. The population of undernourished children dropped from 11% in 1990 to 6% in 2008.

Haiti leads the way in terms of national poverty where 57 % of the population is considered poor. Nicaragua has the second largest population of impoverished people at 40%. Bolivia, Honduras and Guatemala come in 3rd, 4th and 5th place (at 38%, 32 %, and 26 % respectively), making them the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere (Millennium).

Environmental sustainability in this region will be tough to meet as degradation of natural resources impact health and quality of life.

Middle East

The Middle East is made up of countries in the Arabian Peninsula, Eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamia and Iranian Plateau. Home to numerous ethnic groups including Arabs, Turks, Jews, Kurds, Persians, Assyrians, Greeks and Armenians, the Middle East is rich in ethnic diversity. This diversity of language, culture and ideas may be why Judaism, Christianity and Islam all began here.

The economies of the Middle East range from very poor (Yemen) to very wealthy (United Arab Eremites Saudi Arabia and Iran). While some nations depend on export of only oil and oil-related products, others have a highly diverse economic base (Israel, Cyprus, Turkey and Egypt). Industry in the Middle Eastern region extends beyond oil and oil-related products to agriculture, dairy, cotton, textiles, leather products, and defense equipment Banking is also an important sector of the economies, especially in the countries of the United Arab Eremites and Bahrain (CIA).

Conflicts in Palestine and Iraq have contributed to the lag in progress on some of the Millennial Development Goals, especially those related to the development and advancement of women. Women in these countries still have a long way to go especially in terms of gaining access to contraception and education on family planning. Laws about marital rape and spousal abuse are largely absent and “honor killings” persist. However, women can now vote and run in elections in Kuwait, can obtain a passport without male approval in Bahrain and are serving in parliaments in a number of countries (Discrimination).

Their successes have too often been achieved in the face of strong resistance from clergy and governments. Women's rights groups in Jordan spent years advocating for protections against gender-based violence. The Syrian government proposed legislation to increase religious influence over family law until women's rights organizations pushed back. And a regulation forbidding young women from leaving Libya without a male relative was rescinded only after a public outcry that included criticism from even the state-owned newspaper. In Yemen, female protestors have rallied the government to set the marriage at 18. Currently, there is no formally enforced marriage age for girls in Yemen. The cause was strengthened in 2008 when a 9 year old was granted a legal divorce from her husband (Holmes).


While the world will not hit the targets set back in 2000 for the Millennial Development Goals, areas in Latin America, North Africa and East, West and Central Asia have all proven that change is achievable in fifteen years. As the world assess the impact of global climate change on many already suffering areas, there will be much creativity and diversity of ideas needed to counterbalance the affects. Access to clean water, sanitation and healthcare for mothers and children are critical to keep an upward progress in South Asia, Western and Sub Saharan Africa and Haiti, Bolivia, Honduras and Guatemala. The Middle East and North Africa must focus on promoting the education and empowerment of women in their country which involves offering more laws to protect women and girls from abuse at the hands of male relatives and neighbors, ending child marriage and genital mutilation and giving women access to contraception other family planning methods. These goals are not unforeseeable. I hope that when the United Nations reconvenes in 2015 to discuss the Millennium Development Goals, they draw development plans for the next 15 years and continue doing so until these goals are met. Through routine and detailed assessments of how countries are developing, the United Nations raises the challenge not only to the nations in question but to the rest of the world. Being able to understand our part in the successes and failures of developing nations (pollution, supporting corporations that work with corrupt governments) will help us make informed decisions on how best to take action. With the help of the world community, I believe that we can meet the goals outlined in the United Nation’s Millennial Development Initiative before the middle of the century. It will simply take a strong unification of all nations to implement creative and useful strategies to end global hunger, poverty, reduce environmental damage and support women and children around the world in their bid for health and freedom.

Works Cited

Asia and the Pacific
"China to Meet Millennium Goals.” Fin24, South Africa’s Biggest Source of Financial, Business and Economic Information. 21 Sept. 2010. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. <http://www.fin24.com/international/china-to-meet-millennium-goals-20100921-2>.

Chatterjee, Shiladitya. "Approaches to Combat Hunger in Asia and the Pacific." MDG in Asia and the Pacific. ADB Sustainable Development Working Paper Series, Aug. 2010. Web. 7 Dec. 2010. <http://www.mdgasiapacific.org/>.

"Global Development : MDG Interactive." The Guardian - Guardian.co.uk. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/mdg/interactive#/>.

"India's Progress on Millennium Development Goals Found Tardy." The Economic Times. 8 Sept. 2010. Web. 8 Dec. 2010. <http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-industry/et-cetera/indias-progress-on-millennium-development-goals-found-tardy/articleshow/6519732.cms>.

“The Millennium Development Goals Report." United Nations, 23 June 2010. Web. 8 Dec. 2010. <http://www.un.org>.

Hinshaw, Drew. "Top 5 Millennium Development Goal Success Stories." Christian Science Monitor - CSMonitor.com. Web. 9 Dec. 2010. <http://www.csmonitor.com/world/global-issues/2010/0922/top-5-millennium-development-goal-success-stories/southeast-asia>.

“Asia-Pacific Not Expected to Meet Millennium DevlopmentGgoals:Report.” UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Centre. 08 Sept. 2005. Web. 10 Dec. 2010 <http://www.undprcc.lk/publications/media/ap_gulf.pdf>.

South Pacific

Singh, Shailendra. "Global Warming: South Pacific More Vulnerable Than Thought." Common Dreams | News & Views. 11 Feb. 2007. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. <http://www.commondreams.org/headlines07/0222-06.htm>.


"Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals - African Economic Outlook." African Economic Outlook - Measuring the Pulse of Africa. 29 July 2010. Web. 9 Dec. 2010. <http://www.africaneconomicoutlook.org/en/outlook/progress-towards-the-millennium-development-goals/>.

"Africa to Fall Short on Water Millennium Goals." Yahoo! News. 26 Nov. 2010. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. <http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101126/wl_africa_afp/africaenvironmentunwater>.

"Millennium Development Goals." World Savvy. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. <http://worldsavvy.org/monitor/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=348&itemid=540>.

CIA - The World Factbook." Web. 11 Dec. 2010. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/>.

"Global Development : MDG Interactive." The Guardian - Guardian.co.uk. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/mdg/interactive#/>.

Latin America and the Caribbean

"Poverty and the Millennium Development Goals." UNDP | United Nations Development Programme. Web. 09 Dec. 2010. <http://www.undp.org/latinamerica/poverty.shtml>.

"Global Development : MDG Interactive." The Guardian - Guardian.co.uk. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/mdg/interactive#/>.

“The Millennium Development Goals Report 2010.” 09 Dec. 2010. <http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/mdg%20report%202010%20en%20r15%20-low%20res%2020100615%20-.pdf>

Middle East

CIA - The World Factbook." Web. 11 Dec. 2010. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/>.

" Discrimination Against Women and Child Abuse in Arab States and Iran." MEI – Middle East Regimes, Islamic Totalitarianism and Terrorism. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. <http://www.middle-east-info.org/gateway/womenchildabuse/index.htm>.

Holmes, Oliver. "In Yemen, Women Protest Delay on Child Marriage Ban.” The Christian Science Monitor - CSMonitor.com. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. <http://www.csmonitor.com/world/middle-east/2010/0323/in-yemen-women-protest-delay-on-child-marriage-ban>.

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