United Nations

Millennium Development Goals
get $40-billion shot in the arm


The globally significant UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – under the banner ‘Keeping the Promise: United to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals’ – concluded on 22 September with the adoption of a global action plan to invigorate stakeholders to achieve the eight time-bound anti-poverty, disease reduction and healthcare goals by their 2015 target date. Also at the Summit, on the sidelines major new commitments were made to substantially improve women’s and children’s health among other initiatives against poverty, hunger and disease.

Importantly for healthcare, more than US$40 billion was pledged over the next five years to accelerate worldwide progress on women’s and children’s health.

The Summit came at an important juncture in the 15-year scheme. It has been 10 years since the goals were initiated and prior to the Summit, at first glance it appeared highly unlikely that the targets would be met and that interest in trying to achieve them was flagging particularly following the global economic recession. However, the Summit has served as a much need spark to re-energise stakeholders and inject new life into the potential of achieving the MDGs by 2015.

The outcome document drawn up for the three-day Summit reaffirms world leaders’ and other stakeholders’ commitment to the MDGs and sets out a concrete plan of action for achieving the goals by 2015. Based on examples of success and lessons learned over the past 10 years, the document spells out specific steps to be taken by all stakeholders to accelerate progress on each of the eight MDGs. It also points out that, despite setbacks due to the global economic recession, remarkable progress has been made on fighting poverty, increasing school enrolment and improving health in many countries, and emphasises that the goals remain achievable.

“Let us remember: the world still looks to the United Nations for moral and political leadership. The great goals are within reach. We can achieve them by looking forward, pulling together, uniting our strength as a community of nations in the name of the larger good,” Ban Ki-moon UN Secretary-General, said at the UN General Assembly on 23 September.

Speaking at the closing of the MDG Summit, a day earlier, Ban said: “Between now and 2015, we must make sure that promises made become promises kept. The consequences of doing otherwise are profound: death, illness and despair, needless suffering, lost opportunities for millions upon millions of people.

“We must hold each other accountable. “The UN system and I personally will do our utmost to promote accountability on all sides.

“The MDGs were never meant to be a one-way street – something that rich countries do for poor ones. Quite the contrary: our long-standing work for development in general has always been based on global solidarity – on a shared interest – on a powerful sense of community and linked fates in an interconnected world.”

Learning from experience

Usman Iftikhar, who led a team of specialists in drawing up the UNDP report: ‘The path to achieving the Millennium Development Goals: A synthesis of evidence from around the world’, spoke about being able to accelerate change based on the knowledge that has been gained over the past decade.

“The second generation of national MDG reports are critical because they provide us with an in-depth understanding of what drives and constrains progress. The previous national reports were more of an advocacy tool; this time, we have concrete country-level evidence that gives us rich experience and guidance on what to do to make progress in the next five years,” Iftikhar said.

Several ways of achieving these goals have come to the fore over the past decade. For example, evidence shows that investing in women’s and girls’ empowerment can bring significant progress on some of these goals. A case in point is Egypt, which mindful of women’s vulnerability in the labour market and where women’s unemployment rate used to be four-times higher than that of men, has created a programme inspired by Latin American countries to reward companies that are committed to gender equality in hiring, wages and promotions.

Looking at reports from the past decade, investment in education was also highlighted as one of the best ways to increase income, agricultural productivity, gender equality and health.


Although all MDGs impact healthcare – three are specifically designed to improve global public health. These are the reduction of child mortality, the improvement of maternal health and the combating of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Specifically, the healthcare-related goals are:
● Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate
● Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio
● Achieve universal access to reproductive health
● Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
● Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it ● Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases Global Strategy

One of the key outcomes concerning healthcare at the Summit was the launch of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, which sets out a plan to save the lives of 16 million women and children. It calls for a bold, coordinated effort, building on what has been achieved so far – locally, nationally, regionally and globally.

With $40 billion of pledges from various countries, the private sector, foundations, international organisations, civil society and research organisations the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health – www.un.org/sg/globalstrategy – has the potential to save the lives of more than 16 million women and children, preventing 33 million unwanted pregnancies, protecting 120 million children from pneumonia and 88 million children from stunting, advancing the control of diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, and ensuring access for women and children to quality facilities and skilled health workers.

Ban praised the initiative saying: “We know what works to save women’s and children’s lives, and we know that women and children are critical to all of the MDGs. Today we are witnessing the kind of leadership we have long needed.”

ate of upload: 19th Dec 2010


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