The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009

25 Sep 2008


Nine years ago, world leaders set far-sighted goals to free a major portion of humanity from the shackles of extreme poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease. They established targets for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women, environmental sustainability and a global partnership for development.

In short, they adopted a blueprint for a better world – and pledged to spare no effort in fulfilling that vision. We have made important progress in this effort, and have many successes on which to build. But we have been moving too slowly to meet our goals. And today, we face a global economic crisis whose full repercussions have yet to be felt. At the very least, it will throw us off course in a number of key areas, particularly in the developing countries. At worst, it could prevent us from keeping our promises, plunging millions more into poverty and posing a risk of social and political unrest. That is an outcome we must avoid at all costs.

We cannot allow an unfavorable economic climate to undermine the commitments made in 2000. On the contrary, our efforts to restore economic growth should be seen as an opportunity to take some of the hard decisions needed to create a more equitable and sustainable future.

This report shows that the right policies and actions, backed by adequate funding and strong political commitment, can yield results. Fewer people today are dying of AIDS, and many countries are implementing proven strategies to combat malaria and measles, two major killers of children. The world is edging closer to universal primary education, and we are well on our way to meeting the target for safe drinking water.

However, the report also notes that many challenges remain and are likely to become even more difficult in the current economic climate. Early indications are that, not surprisingly, the poor have suffered most from the upheaval of the past year. The numbers of people going hungry and living in extreme poverty are much larger than they would have been had progress continued uninterrupted.

Economic hardship has pushed tens of millions of people into vulnerable employment and increased the number of those who, though employed, do not earn enough for themselves and their families to rise above the poverty line of $1.25 a day.

Rather than retreat, now is the time to accelerate progress towards the MDGs and to strengthen the global partnership for development. If the global community responds constructively to the crisis, the goals can still be achieved. Honouring the commitment to increase aid is critical. Equally important is ensuring that the interests of the developing countries, and especially the poorest ones, remain central in negotiations on trade. We must also ‘seal the deal’ on a new climate change regime in Copenhagen in December.

The timing is ripe for making the structural changes that are needed to move more decisively towards more equitable development and sustainability and to address the climate crisis.

The global community cannot turn its back on the poor and the vulnerable. We must strengthen global cooperation and solidarity, and redouble our efforts to reach the MDGs and advance the broader development agenda. Nothing less than the viability of our planet and the future of humanity are at stake. I urge policymakers and all stakeholders to heed the message of this valuable and timely report.

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