The 2000s were a decade of extraordinary progress against global poverty. More people escaped poverty during the 2000s than any other decade in history. More importantly, progress occurred in every major region of the world. It may not be possible to establish a direct causal link, but it is no coincidence that this progress coincided with global efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). When the MDGs were launched in the year 2000, leaders from every country in the world pledged their support. Few could have known at the time how influential these goals would become.
Since 2000, the MDGs have been the dominant global development framework, and they have galvanized public support around the world for ending hunger and extreme poverty. Scarcely a summit passes where heads of state don’t renew their support for the MDGs. Civil society groups, particularly faith-based ones, have been loyal advocates of the MDGs, dedicated to holding government leaders accountable for following through on their pledges.
MDG 1 calls for eradicating hunger and extreme poverty with a target of halving the proportion of people who live in hunger and poverty by 2015. Other goals include achieving universal primary school enrollment, reducing child and maternal mortality,
promoting gender equality, reversing the spread of infectious diseases, and improving environmental sustainability.
The MDGs are the global community’s most holistic approach yet to human development. Before the MDGs, the conventional “development” yardstick was a nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Clearly, growth in GDP is important for development. But progress against hunger and extreme poverty does not automatically accompany economic growth. Today, most people living below the international poverty line ($1.25 per day) reside in middle-income countries, illustrating how economic growth does not always reach people at the bottom.
In 2012, the World Bank announced that the percentage of people living below the international poverty line had already fallen by more than half, thus achieving the 2015 target. The hunger target has not been achieved yet—but it is within reach if all countries are willing to step up and do their part.
A post-MDG global development framework should include a bull’s-eye goal to end hunger and poverty in every country in the world by 2040.