Millennium Goals leave the most deprived behind


The Millennium Development Goals exclude the world's poorest populations. [khym54/Flickr]

A report by the NGO ATD Fourth World highlights the failures of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the struggle against poverty, claiming some performance measures exclude the most disadvantaged.

In a report entitled Challenge 2015: Towards Sustainable Development that Leaves No One Behind, the ADT Fourth World movement presents its suggestions for improving development goals after 2015. Their assessment of the challenge of combating poverty is mixed.

The Millennium Development Goals, whose 2015 deadline is fast approaching, have partly failed to reduce poverty and extreme poverty in the world.

“The MDGs have not affected the poorest. We now need to make sure that the post 2015 agenda leaves no-one behind,” Isabelle Pypaert Perrin, Director General of ATD Fourth World, declared during the presentation of the report at the annual Convergences World Forum, on 8 September, in Paris.

Research for the report involved more than 2,000 people in 12 countries, the majority of whom are in poverty or extreme poverty, and concluded that the MDGs “have not reached the poorest populations”.

However, if the MDGs have failed in certain respects, such as education and maternal health, the goal of halving the proportion of the population living on less than a dollar a day between 1990 and 2015 has been met ahead of time, according to a 2013 report by the United Nations.

“The world reached the poverty reduction target five years ahead of schedule. In developing regions, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 47% in 1990 to 22% in 2010”, the report asserts, supported by data from the World Bank.

In 2007, the $1 a day poverty indicator was revalued to $1.25 a day.

The poorest in developed countries not represented in the statistics

“The $1.25 indicator has rendered extreme poverty in developed countries completely invisible, since it was designed and calculated only for developing countries,” says the ADT Fourth World report.

In the statistical database of the United Nations on the MDGs, no measure exists for extreme poverty in the United States, or for the EU countries worst affected by the economic crisis and austerity policies, like Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Unreliable Indices

In 2010, the United Nations Development Programme designed a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) that identifies the sum of household deprivation in the domains of health, education and living conditions.

One criticism of the index is that some people “appear too poor to enter into the statistics, owing to the inefficiency of the system”.

When using the MPI to measure the number of people living in absolute poverty, ATD Fourth World came up with the figure of 1.65 billion, significantly higher than the UN’s 2012 estimate of 1.4 billion.

Reviewing the framework

The report recommends a review of the indicators used for the next objectives and the way they are governed, in order to better take into account the most deprived after the deadline of the MDGs in 2015.

Among their recommendations, ATD Fourth World particularly stress the importance of a greater inclusion of the poor and extremely poor in the formulation of development policy, but also of orienting the indicators in order to better take into account the most deprived and excluded populations .

“For any given campaign, policy or action, the impact on the bottom 20% must be seen as a reference to evaluate its efficacy,” the report underlines. Under such a system, development targets would only be considered successful if they were also achieved for the most vulnerable income and social groups.

In the year 2000, the United Nations established eight Millennium Development Goals, to be achieved by 2015. These goals are:

  • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Develop a global partnership for development

In 2015, the UN hopes to launch an ambitious programme of "sustainable development", to improve and extend the eight Millennium Development Goals.

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