A poster for the United Nations' campaign on the Millennium Development Goals. There are only two years to go until the deadline for the goals. Photo by: United Nations

The Millennium Development Goals have been the biggest game in “development-town” since 2000, helping to shape priorities for both international and national development. The result has been, on average, unprecedented progress and improvements in the quality of life across the developing world, with the MDGs providing both a motivation for progress and a yardstick for its measurement.

In the foreword to the official MDG Report 2013, U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon calls the goals “the most successful global anti-poverty push in history.” Ambitious and wide-ranging achievements have included halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty since 1990, adding more than two billion people to those with improved access to drinking water, a 25 percent reduction in mortality rates from malaria, and a reduced debt burden for developing countries. More limited progress on other MDG targets now needs urgent attention, with progress lagging behind on environmental sustainability, child and maternal survival, sanitation, HIV prevention, universal primary education and gender equality. What’s more, there is a sense that there has been little or no progress on key areas that were not covered by the MDGs, including equity, employment, and governance.

With just over two years to go until the deadline for the goals, and with plans already well underway for the post-2015 framework, major efforts are being made to intensify progress on the MDGs. Next week’s U.N. General Assembly Special Event on the MDGs and its side events will focus on this last big push. Building on a report issued earlier this year, A Life of Dignity for All, the draft outcome document for this event highlights five areas that are crucial to accelerate progress:

1. Targeting progress on the MDGs in areas that are most off-track.

2. Emphasizing accessibility for the most vulnerable.

3. Sustaining momentum.

4. Creating approaches that have cross-cutting effects, particularly the empowerment of women and girls.

5. Strengthening global partnerships for development.

While the MDGs were originally framed as global targets, they have been applied intensively at the national level, to both drive and benchmark progress. Understanding where, how and why this progress has been achieved is vital to ensure that it is sustained and, if possible, accelerated. The Development Progress project at ODI aims to do just that: looking in detail at what works and why in particular countries, considering the barriers to further progress, and building a solid foundation of data and evidence to better inform policy. This is about looking at progress from the bottom up — focusing on the individual pieces in the jigsaw and constructing the global picture one piece at a time. 

Edited for style and republished with permission from the Overseas Development Institute. Read the original article.

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