About the Millennium Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) provide a clear agenda to improve the lives of the world’s poor. First laid out in the UN Millennium Declaration, they were approved by 189 governments in September 2000, in one of the biggest gatherings of world leaders.

The eight goals provide a roadmap for development, setting out targets to be achieved by 2015, with 1990 as a baseline. Although ambitious, the MDGs are feasible, as well as mutually reinforcing. Seven goals address issues needing urgent attention in developing countries—poverty, hunger, primary education, gender equality, child and maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, sanitation, water supply and the environment. Health is a top priority. Three goals relate directly to health. Three others also relate indirectly to health.

One other goal recognises the role of developed nations and addresses aid, debt relief, technology transfer and global partnerships. Some countries will need development assistance to meet the goals.

While the MDGs provide a more complete vision of development than previous agendas for growth, they do not cover all health and development issues comprehensively. They make no mention of effective health systems or noncommunicable diseases. However, many countries will inevitably have to address weak, inefficient or inequitable health systems if they are to meet the goals.

The best strength of the goals is that they concentrate on the essentials to improve human development, set out a plan to reduce poverty and offer a yardstick for development, with measurable targets and indicators to track progress.