Saturday, October 17, 2015

The report card of the millennium

A few weeks ago, on September 25 2015, the world sat down and reviewed its 15-year performance report. This was done with some fanfare, not in the least because the coolest pope in history attended, but the discussion did not receive as much attention as it deserves. Shouldn't the world be talking about this more? How did we do on the promises we had made? Did we meet our targets, did we miss them by a whisker or a mile? The discussions emerging from the UN Sustainable Development summit remind me of the days when I was part of one of the most organised workplaces possible - a consulting company. The same wordy discourses on strengths and 'development needs' which, if someone wanted to simplify them, could be said like this: There are three things you did well last year. There are four things you absolute suck at and you need to get better at them fast if you want to survive. Get to it. And this is how I'd like to simplify the world's 15-year report card:

In September 2000, the world's leaders got together and adopted the "Millennium Development Goals", also called the MDGs, which were time-bound, quantified targets to address the inequity and injustice in the world. There were 8 goals in total, each broken down into targets and indicators. For example, the slightly lofty-sounding Goal 1 -"To Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty", had two targets and five indicators:

Target 1: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day.
Indicators (World Bank ratios):
1. Proportion of population below $1 (1993 PPP) per day
2. Poverty gap ratio [incidence x depth of poverty]
3. Share of poorest quintile in national consumption

Target 2: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
Indicators (UNICEF, WHO and FAO ratios:
4. Prevalence of underweight children under five years of age
5. Proportion of population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption

...and so on for the remaining 7 goals. This internationally agreed framework of 8 goals, complemented by 18 targets and 48 technical indicators was going to address poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion-while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability. They included basic human rights-the rights of each person on the planet to health, education, shelter, and security.

Cut to September 2015, and to my original question: how did we do? We did well in some goals, messed up others. While the proportion of people living under $1.25 PPP a day is lower than it was, the proportion of women dying in childbirth remains unacceptably high and 6 million children are still dying before reaching their fifth birthday. As the MDG dream drew its last breath, it gave birth to MDG 2.0, with bigger and more numerous arms and legs. The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are 17 goals with 169 targets. They are more ambitious and they have greater world consensus. We're now going to have NO ONE living under $1.25 a day by the time we arrive in 2030, we're going to have no one dying of AIDS, and we're going to do all this while taking care of the planet.

The infographic below summarizes our performance on the first six MDGs and their evolution into the first five SDGs.

Next: MDGs 7 and 8 and SDGs 6 through 17.

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