The UN General Assembly has convened in New York for its annual meeting. This year a major item for discussion will be the future of the Millennium Development Goals with a special summit on Monday 23 September.
The Millennium Development Goals Report 2013, published by the UN in July 2013, documents progress in achieving the MDGs and highlights where the goals are not being met. This is a crucial source document for our joint work on The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development.
Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General summarises the report in his foreword. He writes ‘The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been the most successful global anti-poverty push in history. Significant and substantial progress has been made in meeting many of the targets—including halving the number of people living in extreme poverty and the proportion of people without sustainable access to improved sources of drinking water.’
‘We are now less than 1,000 days to the 2015 target date for achieving the MDGs. This year’s report looks at the areas where action is needed most. For example, one in eight people worldwide remain hungry. Too many women die in childbirth when we have the means to save them.’
‘This report also shows that the achievement of the MDGs has been uneven among and within countries. Children from poor and rural households are much more likely to be out of school than their rich and urban counterparts.’
‘In more than a decade of experience in working towards the MDGs, we have learned that focused global development efforts can make a difference. Through accelerated action, the world can achieve the MDGs and generate momentum for an ambitious and inspiring post-2015 development framework. Now is the time to step up our efforts to build a more just, secure and sustainable future for all’, the Secretary General concludes.
Rory Truell, IFSW Secretary General, welcomed the report. ‘The global community of social workers recognise the importance of the MDGs and have been actively involved in local communities helping to create these substantial improvements’, he commented. ‘Social workers also recognise that the MDGs are limited and there is a need for a bigger vision for the post 2015 world. IFSW and our partners are actively contributing to that bigger world vision through our work on The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development.’
Concern about the process to create the post 2015 goals have been voiced by well informed figures. One of the creators of the MDGs has said recently: ‘I am worried that the [post-2015 targets] list is getting overly-politicised and member states are increasingly insisting that it should be limited to an inter-governmental negotiating process and even starting to signal that civil society participation should be toned down. We need stronger leadership from somewhere’, Jan Vandemoortele concluded.
Several MDG targets have already been met or are within close reach, the report states:
- The proportion of people living in extreme poverty has been halved at the global level
- Over 2 billion people gained access to improved sources of drinking water
- Remarkable gains have been made in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis
- The proportion of slum dwellers in the cities and metropolises of the developing world is declining
- A low debt burden and an improved climate for trade are levelling the playing field for developing countries
- The hunger reduction target is within reach
Accelerated progress and bolder action are needed in many areas, the report argues:
- Environmental sustainability is under severe threat, demanding a new level of global cooperation
- Big gains have been made in child survival, but more must be done to meet our obligations to the youngest generation
- Most maternal deaths are preventable, but progress in this area is falling short
- Access to antiretroviral therapy and knowledge about HIV prevention must expand
- Too many children are still denied their right to primary education
- Gains in sanitation are impressive—but not good enough
- There is less aid money overall, with the poorest countries most adversely affected
Attention needs to focus on disparities, which often stand in the way of further improvements:
- Rural-urban gaps persist—access to reproductive health services and to clean drinking water are only two examples
- The poorest children are most likely to be out of school
- Gender-based inequalities in decision-making power persist
See the MDG 2013 slideshow
Visit the UN Millennium Development Goals website
Read the OECD report in April 2013 that aid to poor countries slips further as governments tighten budgets
Visit the UNDP and the United Nations General Assembly website
Read a special report on how MDG implementation is failing women and problems still to be resolved.
Read about the Global Observatory on Social Work and Social Development.