Putting the Millennium Goals to use 08

1. What are the Millennium Development Goals?

The idea

Decreasing hunger, more children attending school, fewer people perishing from diseases like malaria or HIV/AIDS. These are issues that cannot be resolved single-handedly.

In the year 2000, the beginning of the new millennium, the United Nations published a Declaration containing eight concrete goals for tackling poverty and inequality. This ‘Millennium Declaration’ was signed by heads of government from all UN member states. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are concerned with making progress measureable, and facilitate global cooperation toward this common goal.

2015 will be the year of truth: have we achieved our objectives? In this chapter of the Toolkit, we cover how you can use the MDGs in conjunction with the project that you support.

The Goals
MDG1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
MDG2 Achieve universal primary education
MDG3 Promote gender equality and empower women
millenniumdoel-4 Reduce child mortality
millenniumdoel-5 Improve maternal health
MDG6 Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
MDG7 Ensure environmental sustainability
MDG8 Global partnership for development

For an extensive description of each MDG, you can view http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/.

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2. What has been achieved so far?

Successes and challenges

Each year, the United Nations publishes a report detailing the state of affairs of the MDGs. The 2014 Millennium Development Goals Report (available here) for instance tells you that 90% of children in developing countries now attend school. Or that the number of people who lack access to clean water, has been cut in half. At the same time, it informs you that the worldwide output of CO2 continues to increase.

How much do you know about the success of the MDGs? Test your knowledge by taking the World’s Best News Quiz:

Or, take a look at this animation:

The MDGs are explained in detail in this video clip:

Hans Rosling’s TED talk ‘The good news of the decade’, on the topic of the global decline of infant mortality rates.

Not all goals will be achieved by 2015. Although much progress has been made, inequality between people has also increased. For instance, China and India have experienced enormous economic growth, but this does not always reach the poorest members of the population. Women continue to have a lower chance of finding a good job in comparison to men, and children with a disability make up over a third of those who lack access to education. This shows that there is still plenty to accomplish. For this reason, the MDGs will be carried forward in a different way.

The MDGs can be used to present a nuanced picture of development cooperation. A lot has already been achieved, but we want to advance this even further, especially since there is an ongoing need for development cooperation.

The UN has a special website on which you can look at separate indicators. It allows you to see precisely what has been achieved in a particular country. The level of progress is calculated through critically examining both positive and negative developments. Take a look at the situation in the country where you support a project!

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3. How could you put the Millennium Goals to use

2015: The Millennium year +15

ledig 2010 04Plenty has changed in the fifteen years since the establishment of the MDGs. In 2015, the goals will be evaluated. What does this mean for you? And how can you incorporate the MDGs into communications about the project that you support?

  • Core message: In effect, the MDGs are outcomes we are all working towards. You and your partner organisation are part of a larger, global plan for development and poverty reduction. By linking to the MDGs, you draw attention to more than just your project: you become part of the worldwide teamwork for a better future for everyone! This is a powerful message to base your communications on.
  • Results: A great deal has been accomplished in the past 25 years. Poverty has decreased, more children attend school, and fewer mothers die in childbirth. This is good news! Use these positive results to show that investing in development through projects like your partner organisation’s, is worthwhile and contributes to a greater good.
  • Publicity In 2015, a lot of attention will be paid to the MDGs in the media. There are going to be events, debates, and functions centred on poverty and/or development. By directing attention to the MDGs, you make yourself part of a media trend. You could for example consider organising a symposium, or writing an opinion article for a newspaper. This could involve your partner organisation as well. Perhaps you can align activities in your project with the MDGs and make a video clip about it
  • Information Many reports and pieces of information in relation to the MDGs are becoming available. Take the time to familiarize yourself with this material and see if you can find anything relevant to your work. For example, you could read the statistics on Niger’s water facilities, or articles on education in Bolivia, if you are working on a project there. You can then deploy this knowledge when rolling out the project with your partner organisation. It can also be useful for communicating about the project; this way, you can keep your supporters informed on the latest regional or policy developments.
  • Fundraising You can also integrate the MDGs into your fundraising. For example, by constructing a school in location X in country Y, you are contributing to the realisation of MDG 2 (sending all children to school), 1 (cutting poverty in half), and 3 (equal opportunities for men and women). You can call on people to help with the realisation of the MDGs by contributing to the project! The new post-2015 period will quite possibly bring new subsidies with it or offer new financing opportunities. It will be worthwhile to be well prepared!

    With a themed event, you can raise money for your cause. For example, organise a discussion evening about Millennium Development Goal 8 (worldwide cooperation for development) and show how your project is contributing to that. Or host a charity run to collect funds for a project about infant mortality, making mention of Millennium Goal 4.

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4. After 2015: what will follow after the MDGs?

Although the MDGs will expire in 2015, we won’t stop focusing on poverty reduction. In preparation for the coming year, there has been a lot of reflection on the period following 2015, not only within the UN, but also by social organisations, researchers, and citizens’ initiatives. This involves examining the MDGs’ shortcomings, and how policy initiatives can be adapted to our changing world. For example:

  • The MDGs were set up as an initiative by ‘Western’ countries. As a result, not enough attention was paid to what issues developing countries wished to address, or what they were capable of tackling. The new process puts developing countries in a much more central position.
  • Moreover, the MDGs mainly put the onus to change in the hands of developing countries, while the richer countries were only expected to work towards global cooperation. What will replace the MDGs is expected to be more focused on global themes and transnational issues such as urbanisation, climate change, and migration-goals that require contributions from all countries.
  • Countries such as Brazil, India, and China, which were still considered ‘developing countries’ in 2000, have shown enormous growth over the past 15 years. In contrast, Europe and the United States are going through an economic crisis. ‘Poverty’ has become much more a question of unequal incomes/unequal opportunities within countries than between rich and poor countries themselves. The new goals must consequently no longer be based on rich countries donating money to poor countries, but focus on the redistribution of wealth and opportunities between groups of people. The word ‘developing country’ will also gradually give way to the name of the country itself, or to the group of people which are targeted by a particular policy.
  • Development aid comprises an increasingly smaller portion of the national income of developing countries (from an average of 60% to 38%). Other cash flows such as taxes, money sent by citizens living abroad to their family at home (remittances), and investments from places like China are all included in planning for the future.

The new agenda

Goal-10A new worldwide development agenda will be aimed at four dimensions: social and economic development, environmental sustainability, and peace and security. At the Rio+20 Conference (2012), it was decided that a set of 17 ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ would be proposed, which will coincide with the post-2015 agenda. A preliminary list of goals can be found here. The basic idea behind all these plans is to look inward: what can we change in our own behaviour to be able to live together on this planet?

Anyone interested in learning more about the post-2015 agenda for the Netherlands can click on this link: The Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 global development agenda.

Furthermore, anyone interested in global background discussions should also take a look at this brief from the Overseas Development Institute in England: After 2015: progress and challenges for development (ODI Background Note, March 2011).

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5. How to make yourself heard

Perhaps you and your partner organisation can reflect together on the future: how do your activities fit within this new framework? And what do you think the future should look like? Such peeks into future possibilities are also interesting for your supporters in regard to their involvement, so use them in your communications! Ask your supporters what they consider important, and where they believe the focus should lie.


Moreover, do you want your voice or that of your partner organisation to be heard in the worldwide consultation process?

  • Then make sure to pay a visit to http://www.worldwewant2015.org/. This site displays the topics that have been debated so far, it allows you take part in the discussion, and has a calendar of upcoming events.
  • In addition, here you can vote on the topics, which you consider important: http://vote.myworld2015.org/. The outcome will be used by the UN.
  • The Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a leading research institute in the field of development cooperation, has set up a website aimed at drawing together the latest news, ideas, and opinions from the post-2015 debate. The site (www.post2015.org) also has a Twitter account (#post2015) attached to it that you can follow and use for interaction.

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