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Millennium Development Goals

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  • What are the Millennium Development Goals?
  • In September 2000, the United Nations (UN) held a Millennium Summit where 189 states of the United Nations made a commitment to work toward a world in which the elimination of poverty and sustained development would have the highest priority. The Millennium Declaration was signed by 147 heads of state and passed unanimously by the members of the UN General Assembly. The resulting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) grew out of that declaration and the agreements and resolutions at world conferences organized by the United Nations during the 1990s.

    The MDGs focus the efforts of the world community on achieving significant, measurable improvements in people's lives by the year 2015. They establish targets and yardsticks for measuring results—not just for developing countries but for the rich countries that help fund development programs and for the multilateral institutions that help countries implement them.

    The eight MDGs listed below guide the efforts of virtually all organizations working in development and have been commonly accepted as a framework for measuring development progress:

    • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
    • Achieve universal primary education
    • Promote gender equality and empower women
    • Reduce child mortality
    • Improve maternal health
    • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
    • Ensure environmental sustainability
    • Develop a Global Partnership for Development

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  • In light of the current global economic crisis, can the MDGs still be reached and how, from the World Bank's point of view?

In 2004, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund started producing the annual Global Monitoring Report, which focuses on how the world is doing in implementing the policies and actions for achieving the MDGs and related development outcomes. The reports provide a framework for accountability in global development policy.

The latest Global Monitoring Report released in spring 2009 warns that the current global economic crisis and recession pose serious threats to the hard-won gains in achieving the goals, considering that estimates show an additional 55 million to 90 million people will be trapped in extreme poverty and more than a 1 billion people will be chronically hungry in 2009.

In 2005, 1.375 billion people lived on under US$1.25/day, or 25 percent of the population. The MDG target is to halve the 1990 poverty rate (of 41.7 percent) to 20.9 percent by 2015. Extreme poverty is projected to fall to15 percent by 2015; it still appears that the target will be met at the global level. Sub-Saharan Africa is not likely to meet MDG1 based on current trends.

However, the first goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015 from its 1990 level is still reachable at the global level based on current projections, but risks abound.

At the country level, a majority of developing countries are at risk of missing most of the MDGs. Sub-Saharan Africa is falling short on all MDGs and South Asia lags on all human development MDGs. Low-income countries, particularly fragile states, are at risk of MDG shortfalls. Most human development MDGs are unlikely to be achieved, as current trends and prospects are gravest in health.

Although the current crisis calls for a special focus on social protection programs that shield poor and vulnerable people from immediate hardship, it is vital to speed up progress toward the human development goals. Key programs in health and education—such as controlling major diseases including HIV/AIDS and malaria, strengthening health systems, and supporting the Fast Track Initiative in education—need to be reinforced.

The Global Monitoring Report outlines priority areas for action in light of the current worldwide economic situation:

  • Ensure an adequate fiscal response in developing countries to protect the poor and vulnerable groups and to sup¬port economic growth. Priority areas must be strengthening social safety nets and pro¬tecting infrastructure programs that can create jobs while building a foundation for future productivity and growth
  • Provide support for the private sector, especially for small and medium enterprises, and improve the climate for recovery and growth in private invest¬ment
  • Redouble efforts in human development and recover lost ground in progress toward the MDGs, particularly those related to health and education.
  • To support these efforts, the report emphasizes three key global priorities:

  • Donors must deliver on their commitments to increase aid. The increased needs of poor countries hit hard by the crisis call for going beyond existing commitments.
  • National govern¬ments must hold firm against rising pro¬tectionist pressures and maintain an open international trade and finance system. Completing the Doha negotiations would provide a much-needed boost in confidence to the global economy at a time of high stress and uncertainty.
  • Multilateral institutions must have the man¬date, resources, and instruments to support an effective global response to the global cri¬sis. The international financial institutions will need to play a key role in bridging the large financing gap for developing countries resulting from the slump in private capital flows, including using their leverage ability to help revive private flows.

Media Contact: Merrell Tuck, (202) 453-9516, mtuckprimdahl@worldbank.org

Updated: August 2009




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