In September 2000, world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit recognized a collective responsibility to work toward “a more peaceful, prosperous and just world." The UN Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) reaffirmed this vision and launched an ambitious global partnership for development, setting specific targets to be met by 2015 and using numerical indicators to measure progress. The MDGs recognized the stark reality of widespread human deprivation and environmental degradation, and galvanized support to reduce poverty, achieve basic education and health, and promote gender equality and environmental sustainability.
By 2015, the world will have met some of the MDGs’ key targets, such as halving the poverty rate, and will get close to completing primary education for all children; but achieving the health goals looks difficult and Africa lags behind, despite the substantial progress it has made since 2000. Overall, the MDGs have been remarkably successful in focusing attention and mobilizing resources to address the major gaps in human development.
Building on the MDGs, the global community should move beyond meeting basic human needs and promote dynamic, inclusive and sustainable development. Future goals must reach beyond traditional development thinking to become sustainable one-world goals that apply to poor and rich countries alike. Surveys show that even for the poorest, meeting basic needs is not enough. The World Bank’s Voices of the Poor exercise, for instance, concluded that the priorities of the poor are jobs, better connections to the rest of the world, reduced threats of violence and ending humiliation and disrespect. The new goals should not only provide for basic human needs, but also ensure essential human rights and create enabling conditions to help individuals realize their potential.