In 2000 world leaders established the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of global targets seeking to reduce poverty and promote development. For the first time there were measurable objectives on which developed and developing countries could base their development strategies. The UK's Department for International Development (DFID) has made the achievement of the MDGs a central strategic objective.
There has been notable progress towards reaching several Goals, including those focussing on child mortality and primary education. However, the Goals seeking improved gender equality and maternal health, amongst others, are seriously off-track.
A major United Nations (UN) Summit was held from 20-22 September 2010 to review progress towards achieving the MDGs five years before their 2015 deadline. Our report focuses on this Summit. In general the Summit was a success and a number of its outcomes should enable better progress on these Goals by 2015, particularly a Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health. The UK Government showed effective leadership by focussing on women's and children's health, doubling its funding for these sectors and committing to prioritise them across its programmes.
A number of developing countries made impressive commitments, particularly regarding women's and children's health. But whether or not these pledges translate into achievement of the Goals by 2015 depends on two key factors.
Firstly, it is vital that both donor and developing countries fulfil their promises. The number of off-track goals demonstrates that much greater commitment is needed by a number of developing country governments. Further, certain donors, such as the Italian Government, are not fulfilling their aid commitments. It is therefore important that different governments' post-Summit responsibilities are clearly identified with appropriate timelines attached. DFID should help build civil society capacity and strengthen Parliaments to ensure governments are held to account. It should also seek to boost political support for the moral and economic case for gender equality.
Secondly, multilateral organisations, notably the UN, must work as efficiently as possible to support improved health, education and other basic services in developing countries. The UN is seeking to improve co-ordination between its agencies but progress is too slow. DFID must continue to press for better co-ordination and the amount of funding it provides should be related to success in achieving improvements.
DFID should also engage in planning for a new international framework to replace the MDGs after 2015. A review of the effectiveness of the MDGs should be carried out to assess whether this framework represents the best approach to facilitating development before a new set of targets is agreed for the post-2015 framework. This new framework should include a greater focus on: reaching the most vulnerable people and the very poorest; giving higher priority to climate change, biodiversity and the environment; and addressing population growth.