In 2000 the United Nations set out 8 international development goals to be achieved by 2015. These were called the Millennium Development Goals and strove to increase infrastructure, human rights and human capital across the globe. Now just 6 months away from the original deadline, we look at how close we have come to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
The original goals set out in 2000 were to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnerships.
It is clear that many of these goals are far from being achieved. While some detractors claim that the original aims were immeasurable or were selected with little analysis, it is worth taking the time to look at the context in which the goals were set, before declaring the initiative a failure. The Millennium Development Goals were established as we entered the new millennium. The fear of Y2K had come and anticlimactically gone, and people were ready to move into the future. However no one could have known what massive global changes that future would bring.
In 2000 the world was a different place. It was a time before the terror attacks on New York, London, Bali and Mumbai (amongst many others), before the panic of illnesses such as H1N1 and Ebola, before the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, before the prominence of organisations such as ISIL, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram, before Russia invaded Ukraine, and before the Global Financial Crisis. Sudan was still one country, George Bush was only newly elected as the President of the United States, and the first iPod was yet to be released.
Whilst 2000 was in no means a time when people were wearing rose-coloured glasses, there was little evidence or public fear of the coming wars, terrorist attacks, health crises and global-political dynamic shifts as we entered the new millennium. Now, in 2015, some of the goals that were set out by the UN seem even more idealistic than when they were originally tabled 15 years ago.
It is always difficult to try and predict future challenges, and the ever-changing global political situation in the early 2000’s brought about issues that many had not considered. When we make plans for the future, often we consider the changes that we as individuals or organisations will make and implement but we fail to look at external changes, and how they impact on us. We often make plans for the future factoring that that the economical, social and political climate will stay the same.
If we break down the goals (of those that are measurable), based on their levels in 2000 compared to how they stand now, we have a clearer understanding of where we have failed, and where there has been progress either small or large.
In 2010 the goal of halving the extreme poverty rate was met, however 1.2 billion people are still living in extreme poverty. In contrast hunger levels are still drastically high, with little change in the cases of hunger; estimated to be 852 million in 2000, compared to 850 million in 2015. However whilst this number has not changed greatly, global population growth allows us to calculate the changes relative to the differing populations in 2000 and 2015, with a decrease of 2.5%.
Education rates have also improved, with an estimated 90% of primary aged children attending school in developing countries. In 2015 it is estimated that 17,000 less children die every day compared to in the 1990’s. Additionally maternal mortality also decreased by an estimated 45%. However this decrease does not meet the initial goal of 75% reduction.
Likewise the number of HIV infections has decreased; 2.1 million people were infected in 2013 compared to 3.4 million in 2001, but does not meet the goal of halting and reversing the spread of HIV. It was also the goal to have halted and begun to reverse the spread of Malaria by 2015, however this has also not occurred with 198 million cases of malaria occurring in 2013, down from 227 million in 2000.
What can we gather from looking at these goals and their success rates? Well firstly we were perhaps a bit overly optimistic. Reaching these 8 objectives would have been an extraordinary feat, even if over these past 15 years we had experienced a stable, geo-political landscape. Secondly we can’t know what the future holds and how it will impact on our aims and work. However, does this mean that we shouldn’t aim for the stars?
Being optimistic with what you hope to achieve can push you to work harder and whilst you may not always hit the mark on what you are aiming for, it will encourage you to open up your capabilities. Unforeseen circumstances can also be beneficial to you and your aims. Innovation is borne of necessity, and when we are forced to work with challenges and shifts in the external world, we can often create new projects and resources that have a great impact.
I suppose that you could look at the Millennium Development Goals as a failed initiative, but I prefer to look at it as a valuable exercise in the use of effective goal-setting.