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No Goals at Half-time

Development experts delivered a mixed verdict on the validity and progress of the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/">Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)</a> and suggested further action at the <span style="font-style: italic;">No Goals at Half-time: What Next for the Millennium Development Goals?</span> conference. They explored how to combine their diverse academic disciplines in new ways to help achieve a more integrated approach to the global development framework. The event organised by the<a href="http://www.lidc.org.uk"> London International Development Centre (LIDC) </a>and held at <a target="_blank" href="http://www.birkbeck.ac.uk/">Birkbeck</a> on 5 November 2008 was a timely assessment of the MDGs at the mid-point towards their target date of 2015.</p>
<p>Scroll down this page for podcasts from the conference. <a href="http://www.lidc.org.uk/news_detail.php?news_id=38">Click here</a> for&nbsp;reports and&nbsp;PowerPoints.</p>

The MDG1 targets aim to reduce poverty and hunger and increase gainful employment. Although there are substantial data and methodological difficulties in tracking the targets, it is clear that despite some significant achievements they will be missed in many parts of the world in 2015. It is very important to understand these achievements and failures, and their respective causes. Agriculture and food are critical to MDG1 in a number of ways, particularly in areas where progress has already been slow.

MDG 2, the achievement of universal primary education, has a target of ensuring that by 2015 children everywhere will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. Net enrolment ratios have increased, with notable regional increases in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia. However, regional ratios disguise wide variations between countries. National ratios disguise variations in enrolment patterns across the grades of primary education and in the enrolment by grade patterns by income group, gender and location.

This presentation looked at the ways in which MDG3 was conceptualised as foundational to the other MDGs with an earlier target date. It highlights the debate as to whether this position enabled the MDG project to take a global agenda for women's rights further or contributed to a fracturing of the alliances built in the wake of the Beijing conference in 1995.

The intensity of international efforts to reduce child mortality has varied since global child mortality data became available. During the 1980s UNICEF spearheaded a “Child Survival Revolution” focused on simple, mainly vertical, interventions, yet in the 1990s interest waned as UNICEF focused on other issues and child survival seemed to disappear from WHO’s agenda. The MDGs have given renewed energy to the child survival movement, especially MDG4’s target to reduce under-five mortality by two-thirds. This is meant to be a global and regional goal, not a country-level goal.

Delivering a baby can be a time of great celebration, but is also a time of great risk. Two-fifths of maternal deaths occur from the start of labour until 24 hours later. Every minute a woman dies in childbirth or from complications during pregnancy. The current slow progress in achieving MDG 5’s target to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters requires us to speed up the provision of good quality delivery care. There are also huge differences in coverage of such care between and within countries.

Progress is being made to achieve the targets for MDG 6 but there is more work to be done. Global trends for HIV show that the epidemic is beginning to plateau but the need for treatment and prevention continues to outpace current interventions. Malaria interventions with bed-nets and appropriate anti-malarial treatment for children under five are making inroads into reducing deaths.

This presentation provided some basic definitions of environmental sustainability. It also identified the players that can determine the pace at which sustainability may be achieved. It was shown that there are a number of different ways of 'knowing' sustainability and 'doing something about' bringing it about. The role of consumption was highlighted, and the challenges of changing behaviour in both the South and the North. This framework contributed to the analysis of MDG 7 and provided an explanation of outcomes and the basis of a critique.

This presentation covered three areas: 1) a short history of the MDGs and their rationale, 2) progress on MDG8 (ODA, debt relief and access to markets), and 3) current challenges in light of the financial crisis and the projected economic downturn.