Bolder, Truly Global Goals

The coming weekend will bring about a pivotal moment for the international-development community.

Over two days, a high-level gathering at the United Nations General Assembly called the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit will formally adopt what has become known as the “post 2015 development agenda.”

This new agenda heralds an end to the era of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set to expire at the end of this year, and the beginning of the more ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will underpin a coordinated global effort to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change. This time the goals are bolder — eradicating poverty instead of halving it — and broader-based. And, above all: they recognize that human progress is possible only when it respects and invests in sustaining the world we live in.

But this transition, naturally, begs the question: Were the Millennium Development Goals even met?

Short answer: not exactly.

By the end of this year, when the MDGs are set to expire, many MDG targets will not be met, and the progress between countries and regions remains uneven.

That said, some targets were met well ahead of the 2015 deadline. The world reduced extreme poverty by half, efforts in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis have shown results, and more than 2.3 billion people now have access to an improved drinking-water source.

So what benefit comes from setting ambitious targets that might not all be met? And what have we learned from our MDG experience?

As we in the evaluation community like to say, focusing on outcomes and impact gives us the information we need to refine and improve the way development is done.

The MDGs rallied the global community around agreed targets and set systems in motion to measure progress. It was the first effort by —> Read More