The U.N. high-level panel charged with coming up with what amounts to a first draft of the next Millennium Development Goals submitted its report to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week. So what's different than the original MDGs? A great deal, as it turns out.
As most will recall, the MDGs were created in 2000 as a set of global poverty targets to be achieved by 2015. The goals were remarkably clear, concise, and direct for a U.N. agreement, and included targets such as halving the global proportion of people living on less than $1 per day, ensuring that all children had access to primary school, reducing the rate of child mortality by two-thirds, reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, and halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Although progress was highly uneven, the MDGs were widely hailed as a success in mobilizing not only resources, but national and global policies, to address some of the most blatant manifestations of extreme poverty.
With the MDGs concluding in 2015, the international community has been trying to envision what a similar set of goals -- properly updated to reflect a dramatically different world -- should look like. That is where the new U.N. panel -- chaired by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and British Prime Minister David Cameron, and comprised of 27 "eminent persons" with diverse backgrounds from around the globe -- came in. (Full disclosure: I served as the senior advisor to one of the panel members, former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta.)
Several major forces shaped the panel's work and influenced the report it eventually produced. First and foremost, the panel wanted to embrace a far more universal approach than the original MDGs, one that could be applied to countries across the full development continuum. Equally important, members recognized that they needed to shape an agenda that addresses both extreme poverty and pressing environmental challenges, including climate change, simultaneously.
A significant part of the panel's approach was also driven by an understanding that the original MDGs were least effective in reaching populations that are traditionally excluded from economic life by dint of their ethnicity, caste, geographic location, gender, or other factors. New goals would have to go directly to populations that had always been left behind. Dealing with the issue of inclusion, not surprisingly, also led the panel to embrace an approach that not only addresses the symptoms of extreme poverty, but many of its root causes, and can help spark meaningful jobs growth, particularly for young people.
The report that emerged retains or expands key parts of the original MGDs -- including efforts to end preventable childhood mortality, curb maternal mortality, and end hunger -- but also commits to ending extreme poverty by 2030, with no one on the planet living on less than $1.25 per day. Although some panel members would have preferred a $2 target, the international community has its work cut out for it: Lifting the 1.2 billion people who live on less than $1.25 a day out of extreme poverty by 2030 will require momentous effort by local and national governments, multilateral institutions, philanthropy, bilateral donors, and the private sector working in partnership.