Can the Millennium Development Goals be Saved?

NEW DELHI – The target date for fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals is 2015, and the world knows it is not on course to meet those goals. So world leaders are set to gather at the United Nations to undertake a comprehensive review, with the aim of agreeing on a roadmap and a plan of action to get to the MDG finishing line on schedule.

I was at the UN in September 2000, when world leaders met at the Millennium Summit and pledged to work together to free humanity from the “abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty,” and to “make the right to development a reality for everyone.” These pledges include commitments to improve access to education, health care, and clean water for the world’s poorest people; abolish slums; reverse environmental degradation; conquer gender inequality; and cure HIV/AIDS.

It’s an ambitious list, but its capstone is Goal 8, which calls for a “global partnership for development.” This includes four specific targets: “an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system”; special attention to the needs of least-developed countries; help for landlocked developing countries and small island states; and national and international measures to deal with developing countries’ debt problems.

Basically, it all boiled down to a grand bargain: while developing countries would obviously have primary responsibility for achieving the MDGs, developed countries would be obliged to finance and support their efforts for development.