Today we mark an important milestone: 1,000 days left until the end date of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs, agreed to at the UN in 2000, constitute the world’s first global development agenda. Together, world leaders committed to tangible, ambitious targets for reducing poverty and hunger, expanding primary education, ensuring gender equality, improving the health of mothers and children, halting the spread of infectious diseases, promoting environmental sustainability, and coming together in partnership to achieve these important goals.
The MDGs and the broader development agenda are a work in progress, for sure—but it’s important to recognize what they have achieved so far, and remember these critical commitments we made.
The United States is committed to the MDGs and, broadly, to improving wellbeing, promoting prosperity, and tackling some of the world’s gravest challenges, like poverty, hunger, morbidity, and inequality. In 2010, President Obama announced the U.S. Global Development Policy, the first of its kind by any administration. The policy outlined key development objectives—broad-based economic growth, democratic governance, game-changing innovations, and sustainable systems for meeting basic human needs—that feed directly into the MDGs. This year, in his State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated the U.S.’s commitment to a core tenet of the MDGs: poverty reduction. We are now in a position, the President said, to eradicate extreme poverty within a generation. USAID and its partners are working towards this important end—by connecting people to the global economy, empowering women, saving children from preventable death, ending the scourge of AIDS, and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves.
Working together, we have made substantial progress (PDF) since the Millennium Declaration was signed 13 years ago. For the first time since we’ve measured world poverty, the number of people living on less than $1.25/day is falling in every developing region—including sub-Saharan Africa. In 1990, more than 43% of people in developing countries lived in extreme poverty; as of 2008, this proportion had dropped to 23%. Estimates suggest that the MDG 1 target to halve extreme poverty was met in 2010. During this period, more than 600 million people have risen above the $1.25/day line.
We have made important gains on other MDGs, as well. The enrollment ratio of girls to boys in primary school rose, from 91% in 1990 to 97% by 2010—that’s within the margin of error of complete parity, the target for MDG 3. The incidence of tuberculosis has fallen since 2002, and, since 2006, this decline has outpaced global population growth—achieving part of the MDG 6 target to reverse the spread of infectious disease. And more than 200 million people living in urban slums gained access to improved water sources, sanitation facilities, and housing, more than doubling the MDG 7 target.
Elsewhere, though, we have more work to do. Today, 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty, and 870 million people suffer from hunger—we expect the proportion of undernourished to drop to 12.5% by 2015. This, however, falls short of MDG 1 target of 11.6% (half of the 1990 level). Globally, primary enrollment is at 90%, up from 82% in 1999. But that remains below the MDG 2 target for universal primary education. While we’re within the margin of error for gender parity in primary schools, progress on secondary education has been slower. Although we cut under-five mortality by more than a third, we are still only halfway to the MDG 4 target of a two-thirds reduction. And although maternal mortality has been halved since 1990, this is far from the MDG 5 target of a three-quarters reduction. The number of AIDS-related deaths fell to 1.7 million in 2011, a decline of 24% from the peak in 2005—but this lower mortality also means that, today, more people than ever are living with HIV/AIDS.
The MDGs touch on issues across the development spectrum. USAID’s programs reflect this broad array of efforts—and others as well, like promoting human rights and democratic governance, managing and mitigating conflict, investing in renewable energy and infrastructure, building resilience to recurrent crisis, combating climate change, and more. USAID Forward (for which the 2013 Progress Report, PDF, was just released) and the USAID Policy Framework (2011 – 2015) (PDF) outline this comprehensive approach to development.
In recent years, USAID and its partners have made substantial contributions towards MDG achievements. In these final 1,000 days, though, there is much more we can accomplish—and USAID is looking to accelerate progress as we near the finish line. Through Feed the Future and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, for instance, we are catalyzing private sector investment and expanding our reach to smallholder farmers, to help them increase productivity, adopt modern technologies, connect to wider markets, and access financial services and products. Together, these initiatives can help lift 50 million people out of poverty in the next 10 years. And in cooperation with UNICEF and the governments of India and Ethiopia, we are spearheading a global effort to reduce under-five mortality to less than 20/1,000 births in every country by 2035.
USAID is also looking towards the future of development—and towards finding new ways to address some of our most intractable challenges, such as helping fragile states realize peace, stability, and long-term prosperity. We also recently released policies and strategies to address some of the most pressing issues we face, like building resilience to recurrent crisis (PDF), the development response to violent extremism and insurgency (PDF), promoting gender equality and female empowerment (PDF), engaging and empowering youth in development (PDF), and adapting to and mitigating climate change (PDF).
The global community has also begun a discussion about “post-2015”. What will the next set of MDGs look like? USAID has been deeply involved in this dialogue. The UN Secretary General’s High-level Panel and the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, for instance, will both issue recommendations in the coming months. We are grateful for the leadership of these two bodies and the many contributions from a diversity of voices around the world—and are looking forward to continuing the conversation.
While we work to accelerate progress in these final 1,000 days, we also hope these interlinked and collaborative efforts will produce a new development agenda, for beyond 2015, that builds on the impressive and historic successes of the MDGs.
Learn more about how USAID is working towards achieving the MDGs.