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Study Notes

Millennium Development Goals

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

The Millennium Development Goals represent a set of development targets established in 2000 and designed to be met as fully as possible by the end of 2015. A new set of goals is being developed.

The key goals are

Eradicate extreme poverty and hungerAchieve universal primary educationPromote gender equality and empower womenReduce child mortalityImprove maternal healthCombat HIV / AIDS, malaria and other diseasesEnsure environmental sustainabilityDevelop a global partnership for development

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Target: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day

  • There has been clear progress in reducing the scale of extreme poverty
  • The proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 47 per cent in 1990 to 24 per cent in 2008—a reduction from over 2 billion to less than 1.4 billion
  • That said the rate of extreme poverty reduction has slowed down because of the impact of the global recession post 2008 and the effects of high world food and energy prices
  • By 2015, over one billion people will live in extreme poverty; 4/5ths of these people will live in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.
  • Those countries that have made most rapid progress towards the first of the MDG have been fast growing countries of East Asia, most notably India, China and Vietnam.

To fight extreme poverty the World Bank in 2012 reported five key areas that need to be given extra focus.

  • Poor Health and Nutrition
  • Lack of Education
  • Depleted Environment
  • Corruption and Conflict
  • Poor Government

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

Target: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. More than half of all out-of-school children are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Progress has been made in lifting school enrolment rates for primary and secondary education although the pace of improvement has slowed in recent years. In developing regions, the enrolment rate for children of primary school age rose from 82 to 90 per cent between 1999 and 2010.

There was a steep rise for Sub-Saharan Africa with enrolment rates jumping from 58% to 78% despite a rise in the size of the primary school age population. 70% of pupils completed their primary education but more progress is needed to address the percentage of girls who are out of school – this links to the MDG goal which focuses on gender opportunities. Only six African countries recorded primary completion rates of 90 percent and above in 2009.

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Target: Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people

Target: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

  • Worldwide the female HDI value averages about 8 per-cent lower than the male HDI value
  • Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament (percent) - now there are 8,716 women parliamentarians globally, which is 19.25% of the total number of MPs
  • Ratio of girls to boys in primary and secondary education (percent) - The ratio between the enrolment rate of girls and that of boys grew from 91 in 1999 to 97 in 2010 for all developing regions
  • Female education - On average in the world, 60 percent of women ages 25 and older have at least some secondary education, compared with 67 percent of men
  • Female participation in the labour market - Women lag behind men in labour market participation (51 percent compared with 77 percent for the world as a whole). In the Arab States, only 25 percent of women of working age participate in the labour market, compared with 73 percent of men
  • Ratio of young literate females to males (percent ages 15–24)
  • Share of women employed in the non-agricultural sector

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

Target: Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate

There has been a 35 per cent drop in child mortality rates and currently, 41 countries are poised to reach the MDG target of a 2/3rd reduction in under-5 mortality rates by 2015. Despite this progress there are several areas of crucial concern:

  • There are big disparities in infant survival rates between rich and poor households and between families where the mother has an education and where she does not
  • Nearly one in five children under age five in the developing world is underweight
  • In the world's poorest countries every 2 minutes a woman dies from complications of childbirth
  • The riskiest place to be born is sub-Saharan Africa which has 38% of the world's first-day deaths

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

Target: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio

In 2010, 32 women per hour died as a result of giving birth. The global burden of maternal death has fallen sharply with a reduction of 47 per cent since 1990 – but the maternal mortality ratio in developing regions was still 15 times higher than in developed regions. One in ten maternal deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa was attributed to the effects of HIV-aids. There has been a ten per cent rise over twenty years in the percentage of birth deliveries attended by skilled doctors, nurses or mid-wives (65% in 2010) but this figure drops to less than half in Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases

Target: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS

  • Contraceptive prevalence (percent of women ages 15–24)
  • Incidence of tuberculosis (per 100,000 people)
  • Prevalence of HIV, female (percent ages 15–24), total (percent of population ages 15–49)


  • At the end of 2010, 6.5 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV or AIDS in developing regions. The incidence of new HIV infections per year per 100 people aged 15-49 in 2010 was highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (0.41) and Southern Africa (1.08). For developing regions the incidence of HIV has fallen from 0.09 in 2001 to 0.07 in 2010.
  • Limited progress has been made in reducing new HIV infections, but there is better news on increasing life expectancy because of the wider availability and lower cost of using life-saving antiretroviral therapy. The price of antiretroviral treatment has fallen in the past decade: from $10k per person per year in 2000 to $100 in 2011. Young people aged between 15-24 years account for 40% of all new adult HIV infections. Infection rates in young women 15–24 years old are twice as high as among men of the same age


  • An estimated 655,000 malaria deaths occurred in 2010, of which 91 per cent were in Africa and 86 per cent were children under 5 years of age.
  • Major progress has been made in cutting malaria partly due to increased international funding and the wider adoption of insecticide-treated bed nets
  • There are worries however that resistance levels to some malaria drugs may be weakening.

Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability

Target: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources

  • Increase resilience to the effects of climate change - Studies show that the poor of the world are exposed to much greater risk from natural hazards
  • Improved water source (percent of population with access) - the proportion of people using an improved water source rising from 76 per cent in 1990 to 89 per cent in 2010.
  • Improve sanitation - nearly half of the population in developing regions—2.5 billion—still lacks access to improved sanitation facilities at the end of 2011

One of the pressing issues with this goal is the target to improve access to clean water and sanitation:

  • Eleven per cent of the global population—783 million people—remains without access to an improved source of drinking water and, at the current pace, 605 million people will still lack coverage in 2015. Rural water shortages continue to stay well above that for urban residents
  • The MDG target on sanitation is unlikely to be met by 2015. Sanitation coverage increased from 36 per cent in 1990 to 56 per cent in 2010 in the developing regions as a whole. But over 2.5 billion people in developing countries still do not have access to improved sanitation facilities. 15% of the global population have no sanitation facilities at all.

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