The Millennium Development Goals

How realistic are they?

In its Millennium Declaration of September 2000, the United Nations (UN) adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to be reached in 2015 through concerted efforts worldwide. According to UN calculations, the estimated costs in terms of additional development aid of meeting the MDGs in all countries vary from US$121 billion in 2006 to $189 billion in 2015. It appears that while Asia is wellon track to achieving the goals, essentially through its own efforts, Africa is lagging behind. But how realistic are these levels of funding? And regarding the goals themselves, are the necessary mechanisms in place to monitor their realization, and do the proposed measures promote sustainable development? These questions are the focus of this brief.

The UN’s 2005 MDG report does not focus on replacing all other development efforts. It typically aims to send a can-do message to the developed world that calls not for fundamental change but, rather, for a modest additional financial contribution of US$48–74 billion annually until 2015. There is undoubted merit in widely circulating the message that the world’s most serious problems can be solved at relatively low cost. In this regard, the MDG process has been instrumental in putting development back on the international agenda.

Furthermore, agreeing on a list of targets has practical value in helping to keep donors dedicated to a common development agenda, facilitating the coordination of aid among donor countries to promote economies of scale, and providing a welldefined list of regularly monitored targets to encourage public support for development cooperation. Nonetheless, creating hope is one thing; generating unfounded expectations is another. The MDG process asks the public for funds that eventually will have to be repaid in terms of success.

Hence, there is a definite need to consolidate the process by focusing on realistic aims that are well cast in an overall development perspective reliable monitoring and, obviously, credible funding assessments.

Keyzer, Michiel
van Wesenbeeck, Lia
Published date: 
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Series number: 
Special Edition
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