Information and stories on Millennium Development Goals

goal 4
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is in charge of the implementation of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved by the United Nations in 2016 to improve economic, social and political stability around the world through 2030.

The Millennium Goals Program

The goals range from clean water and sanitation, to increasing infrastructure and industrial development in cities. These new sustainable development goals are a legacy built from the UNDP Millenium Goals Program (MDGs) and strive to continue to the success of the older program.

The Millennium Goal program took place from 2000 to 2015 and its key achievements claimed by the UNDP are:

  • More than one billion people have been lifted out of poverty since 1990
  • Child mortality has dropped by more than half since 1990 along with the number of children out of school
  • The total number of HIV/AIDS infections has fallen by nearly 40 percent since 2000

While the UNDP claims that the United Nations Millennium Development Goals strategy is the most successful sustainable development project in history, the organization did state that there were lessons to be learned and more work to be done for future global endeavors. While many of the MDGs were interconnected, similarly to the SDGs, the MDG’s Goal 2 was to achieve universal primary education.

Goal 2 was largely successful. The literacy rate of people ages 15 to 24 was increased from 83 percent to 91 percent from 1990 to 2000 but the gaps between wealthy students and impoverished students and urban students and rural students still remain.

A Focus on Education

Goal 4 of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal strategy aims to combat this disparity by providing quality education. This task has numerous targets that it plans to reach by 2030 (the end of the program), and one that it plans to reach by 2020. The full list can be found on the UNDP’s Goal 4 targets page.

 Many of these targets make sure that not just boys and men receive help in their education process, but that girls and women do as well. For example, targets one and two specifically state boys and girls in regard to education in their wordings. Target one aims to provide better education and preparedness so that both girls and boys are able to complete free primary and secondary education.

Target two aims to provide early education so that children will have a better chance of completing their primary education. The third target aims to ensure the continuing education of men and women, and hopes to ease their access to tertiary education, such as technical schools, vocational schools and college.

Sustainable Development Goal 4

When searching for statistics about the accomplishments of Goal 4 thus far, it is difficult to see the impact. But it is important to remember that this program is a mere two years old.

Worldwide education statistics will still look similar to the end of the MDG program. However, one can see the seedlings that will sprout in the future and benefit individuals and society as a direct result of Goal 4. In fact, this fruition has already begun — India made Goal 4 part of their country’s “Vision 2030,” or the domestic plan for their future.

Strides in Educational Programs and Infrastructure

On September 1, 2016, or National Teachers day, a coalition program was launched by the government of India, private companies and the U.N. in which students will learn about the 17 Goals through cartoons and comics. These cartoons will be produced in six different languages and be shown in school and distributed around the country.

In 2015, Buenos Aires, Argentina founded a multilingual school, and despite common misconception, the school is not a Spanish to English school as many think. The school is actually a cooperation between Buenos Aires and Beijing that offers classes in the native languages of both countries — Spanish and Guarani for Argentina, and Mandarin and Cantonese for China. This initiative fits into both Goal 4 and Goal 17 of global integration.

Global Goals and Steps for Change

These are not the only initiatives related to Goal 4 implemented by countries looking to improve life for their citizens — SDG funding in Columbia is being used to improve rural education; funding in Mozambique is increasing access to professional training; and in Sri Lanka, food quality at schools is being improved.

With the U.N. groundwork, and cooperation and initiative taken by countries on Goal 4, it is easy to see how it will improve education around the world. 

– Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Poverty in Rwanda

Small, landlocked and with a densely packed population of approximately 11.9 million people, Rwanda has become one of the fastest growing economies in Central Africa. Since the 1994 genocide that left 800,000 dead, Rwanda has seen over two decades of uninterrupted economic growth and social progress.

However, even with these great strides, more than 60 percent of the population continues to live on less than $1.25 a day. The government has guarded its political stability since the genocide and has prioritized long-term developmental goals to assure that its economy continues to grow and poverty falls. Here are 10 important facts about poverty in Rwanda.

10 Facts About Poverty in Rwanda

  1. Rwanda’s global income ranking has improved from the seventh poorest in 2000 to the twentieth in 2015. This is due to the government’s commitment to strong governance and the principles of market economy and openness.
  2. Although more than 60 percent still live in extreme poverty, Rwanda has reduced the percentage of people living below the poverty line from 57 percent in 2005 to 45 percent in 2010.
  3. The decline in poverty can be attributed to three main reasons: an increase in farm productivity, an increase in non-farm employment and an “increase in the number of livelihood activities in which an individual engages, such as running small businesses,” according to United Nations Rwanda.
  4. The country’s Vision 2020 is a strategy that aims to “transform the country from a low-income, agriculture-based economy to a knowledge-based, service-oriented economy with middle-income country status by 2020,” the World Bank reports.
  5. To achieve Vision 2020’s goals, the government has developed a medium-term strategy, the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS 2). This showcases its overarching goal of growth and poverty reduction through four areas: rural development, economic transformation, government accountability, productivity and youth employment.
  6. Inequality measured by the Gini coefficient fell from 0.49 in 2011 to 0.45 in 2014.
  7. Almost 64 percent of parliamentarians are women in Rwanda, compared to just 22 percent worldwide. This has enabled women to advance economically.
  8. As it continues to rebuild after the genocide, foreign aid still contributes to 30-40 percent of the Rwandan government’s revenues.
  9. Economic growth fell by 4.7 percent in 2013 after some donors withheld aid over a 2012 U.N. report that alleged the government was backing rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  10. At the end of 2015, Rwanda had met most of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). With a two-thirds drop in child mortality and near-universal primary school enrollment, the country saw strong economic growth accompanied by substantial improvements in living standards.

These facts about poverty in Rwanda demonstrate the current programs and priorities. With a strong focus on homegrown policies and governmental initiatives like Vision 2020 and EDPRS 2, Rwanda has contributed to significant improvements in access to services and human development. The country’s Growth Domestic Product (GDP) grew eight percent each year from 2001 to 2014 and continues to see improvements in life expectancy, primary school enrollment, literacy and healthcare spending.

However, economic growth has been slowing down recently and remained subdued in 2017. Although the country still has some ways to go, these 10 facts about poverty in Rwanda are meant to show a glimpse into the remarkable growth the country has seen already.

– Aaron Stein
Photo: Google

Traffic Accidents Disrupt Cambodia's Millennium Development GoalsThe main cause of death in Cambodia is traffic accidents. While there are expected damages to the car and its surroundings, the effects of the accidents extend much further than the intersection where it occurred. As a result of the traffic issues, Cambodia is suffering from the destruction of lives and property and from reduced development efforts. Specifically, traffic accidents disrupt Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goals efforts, the first of which is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

The challenges to national development arise directly, and indirectly, from the costs associated with each traffic accident. According to a 2013 study, traffic accidents cost the government about $337 million. That is equivalent to nearly three percent of Cambodia’s GDP. The costs stem from the destruction of the roads and cars, medical expenses, court service fees and non-productivity. The Minister of Health, Dr. Nuth Sokkom, reported that upwards of 50 percent of hospital patients are there because of traffic accidents. Costs accumulate when injuries are severe, as some riders need a year’s worth of treatment or are permanently disabled. When these cases arise, the financial burden shifts to the government to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves.

Specifically for low-income families, the effect of a traffic accident is even more costly. A family can spend years trying to pay off the debt incurred. Even for the survivors, victims and their families are often forced to sell land and livestock in order to make ends meet. Further, since a majority of victims are young men who are the head of their household, the children of the victims’ families are impacted on an educational level. To help with work at home, many children drop out of school. Research shows that the dropout rate has increased to 30 percent among victims’ families.

Ear Chariya, director of Cambodia’s Institute for Road Safety, has made statements regarding the number of accidents and attributes the problem to a couple of different sources. First, traffic signs and lights are already in place, so driver caution needs to increase. Second, the government simply is not doing much to enforce traffic laws and hold abusers accountable.

The good news is that in 2016, Cambodia experienced a significant drop in the number of traffic accidents. Not only did the number of accidents decrease by about 12 percent, but the number of deaths and injuries decreased as well. With more active law enforcement to implement the rules of the road, Cambodia saw a positive turn away from traffic-related incidents. With new traffic laws in place, the government is focused on spreading awareness about the laws with the intent to continue increasing driver accountability. Given the success in the first year’s implementation, how long traffic accidents disrupt Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goals is surely limited. As the costs of the accidents are removed, both the government and the people of Cambodia can reallocate the resources toward ending the pervasive hunger and poverty throughout the nation.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Flickr

How Is Poverty ReducedMost modern technology is marketed towards the world’s wealthy, but that should not inhibit its potential to help the world’s poor. As prices fall and production increases, affordable and basic technology may be the solution for eradicating global poverty.

How is poverty reduced through basic technology? First and foremost, by understanding the realistic and productive uses for technology in a community and ensuring that it is relevant.

Too often there are stories of computers collecting dust in African classrooms, or new smartphone apps that can help impoverished people find work — in places where smartphones are unattainable. Despite the vast amount of information on the internet, it is hardly relevant to a rural family in a developing country and will rarely help them escape poverty. In reality, the technology that will help end poverty is more basic.

The United Nations is at the forefront of this vision, with the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) working towards the global spreading of information and communications technology (ICT). Founded in 1996, the IICD has come a long way in understanding the pragmatic strategy needed for implementing modern technology in developing countries. The IICD has learned that “it is not the technology itself that makes the difference but rather the people who own it and apply it.” Therefore, helping people get the most out of ICT is now as equally important to the organization’s mission as introducing it.

The IICD works to apply ICT to health, economic and education sectors in different communities around the world. It’s main focus is in the context of helping the U.N. meet its Millennium Development Goals — an effort that the IICD has been at the center of. In short, the IICD works to instigate large-scale social change through low-tech, relevant technology.

Other organizations, such as Kopernik, work on a smaller scale to improve the lives of many through simple technology. Kopernik connects poor, rural families with basic, life-altering technologies that not only save lives, but also save money and time. These simple technologies include water filters, fuel-efficient stoves and solar lights.

Technologies such as solar lights are affordable and sustainable, and their usage is linked to positive behavioral changes and higher household productivity. Investing and distributing this basic technology should be a major priority, for it is fundamental to increasing human development and reducing poverty.

It is not to say that computers and the internet are not infinitely useful and powerful, but we should keep in mind that the internet won’t help a child if they only have access to contaminated water. So, perhaps the question of how to eliminate poverty has a simple answer: distribute relevant, basic technology.

Catherine Fredette

Photo: Google


Macedonia is a relatively small country north of Greece with a population of just over two million people. Since gaining its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Macedonia has striven to improve its economic and democratic stability. As international aid and Macedonia’s own efforts to end food insecurity are at an all-time high, hunger in Macedonia has decreased drastically.

In accordance with the last set of Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations, only between 1.3 percent and 2.1 percent of children under the age of five are malnourished. A new set of goals strives to eradicate hunger completely by 2030.

Although this percentage seems small, Macedonia’s history and present state of political unrest have made it difficult to resolve issues of hunger entirely. According to a study completed this year, one-third of the country’s population remains in poverty. This rate is even higher for families with children, an issue explainable by the country’s unemployment rate, which is the highest in Europe. To tackle the looming issue of unemployment and its effect on hunger in Macedonia, the Ministry of Education and Science has worked to improve children’s access to and the quality of education.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has taken a firm stand behind this cause and worked during the past decade to institute programs that enrich student literacy and numerical competency, help disabled students and provide more opportunities for minority individuals. Furthermore, the Macedonian government is pushing its students to study abroad and also welcoming individuals from other countries to attend its universities.

Statistics at the end of 2016 indicate a strong response to this push for better education to eliminate unemployment and poverty in Macedonia. The country’s unemployment rate was reported to be 23.1 percent, compared to its high, in 2005, of 37.27 percent.

Programs put in place have already increased work readiness and lowered unemployment, which will cut off the cycle that has continued sustaining levels of hunger in Macedonia.

Emily Trosclair

Photo: Flickr


Significant progress has been made on the issue of hunger in Oman, including the country already meeting eight of its Millennium Development Goals. The amount of extreme poverty and hunger has been cut in half in Oman since 1990.

The World Food Program defines hunger as undernourishment, or chronic undernourishment. Undernourishment is the result of chronic hunger, that can result in stunted growth in children, the loss of mental and physical abilities, and even death. Undernourishment affects one in six people around the world today.

Another unfortunate result of hunger is referred to as the “under five mortality rate” or the proportion of children who die before reaching the age of five. Hunger plays a large part in this rate, and Oman reduced it’s under five mortality rate by two-thirds since 1990. In fact, the percentage of children under five who were underweight was 9.7 percent in 2014, compared to 23 percent in 1995.

Maternal health is also a big beneficiary of the fight against hunger. As mentioned, undernourishment can have drastic effects on the health and livelihood of individuals, let alone those who are eating for two. Maternal mortality is a huge problem in countries where poverty and hunger rates are high, and Oman was no exception. Since 1990, the maternal mortality rate has been reduced by 75 percent.

Oman has made such strides in the past two decades, that it is now on the other side of the coin. In 2014, Oman donated $1 million to the World Food Program to be used to fight hunger in Mauritania and Senegal, two countries in Africa that are plagued by drought and constant violence.

Success stories like this on hunger in Oman should be built upon for future progression across the board. Oman was near the bottom, with poverty levels and hunger levels affecting the lives of its citizens. Thanks to collaboration from other countries throughout the world, and the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals, Oman has come closer to stabilization than ever before.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Thailand
Thailand is being touted as a development success story. Sustained growth and poverty reduction are the reasons for the incredible progress. Poverty in Thailand was reduced from 21 percent in 2000 to 12.6 percent in 2012 and 7.5 percent in 2015. Between 1999-2005 the economy grew annually by five percent, which created jobs and improved education.

While Thailand has become a middle-income country and an active development partner, the country’s growth has slowed to only 3.5 percent between 2005-2015. Despite this, Thailand is making great progress towards meeting their Millennium Development Goals.

Thailand’s economic success is not shared with all citizens. Poverty in Thailand mainly affects those living in rural areas. There are 7.1 million people living in poverty and 80 percent of those live in rural areas. The inequality is not limited to those living in rural areas. Some areas and ethnic groups are affected more than others, particularly in the Northeast, North and Deep South.

Poverty and inequality create a challenge for a country with a faltering GDP. While the World Bank predicts that growth will increase 3.2 percent in 2017, it has grown by less than 2.5 percent annually between 2014-2016.

A 20-year strategic plan to end poverty in Thailand and help attain developed country status includes reforms to stabilize the economy and provide equal economic opportunities, environmental stability, and effective government bureaucracies. The country has already implemented large-scale public infrastructure projects, renewable energy tariffs, strengthened the renewable energy market, identified opportunities for energy efficiency improvement, diversified fuel sources and created a state enterprise policy committee. On a more economical level, the country has transferred supervisory oversight of specialized financial institutions to the Bank of Thailand, created a National Savings Fund and created a retirement safety net for workers.

Thailand may achieve its desired goals and see an end to poverty in the country if it can sustain growth and implement additional sound reforms.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr

Fighting to Overcome Hunger in Malaysia
Malaysia, a country located in Southeast Asia, has one of many populations facing extreme rates of poverty. The issue of hunger in Malaysia has been prevalent throughout the past few decades. In 2011, 57 percent of children living in Southeast Asia were underweight.

Although the rates of hunger in Malaysia dropped from 29.6 percent to 17.6 percent in 2013, the U.N. described this drop as inadequate for meeting the target of the Millennium Developmental Goals. In other words, the country needs a much greater turnaround if the target goals toward reducing hunger are to be accomplished.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has done ample research into the prevalence of hunger and poverty in Malaysia and the burdens that follow. It subsequently found that children who are malnourished face an increased risk of exhibiting cognitive and developmental disabilities at some point in the future.

In addition, there seems to be a correlation between individuals suffering from hunger in Malaysia compared with those who are overweight. According to UNICEF, “A child whose growth was stunted in early childhood is at greater risk of becoming overweight later in life.” Likewise, an increased risk for being overweight correlates with “increased access to junk food and drinks, physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyles.” These growing issues have led to the implementation of different health and training programs by numerous healthcare groups in Malaysia. The programs are accessible to children (especially within the school system), teens and adults.

In 2005, a volunteer-based organization known as Stop Hunger Now set up offices in Kuala Lumpur and began implementing a meal packaging program, specifically targeting malnourished individuals in Malaysia. Stop Hunger Now has thousands of volunteers who package together vegetables, rice, soy and tons of vitamins.

With assistance from local, U.S. corporations and community groups, Stop Hunger Now has supplied more than two million meal packages for malnourished people throughout Malaysia.

Lael Pierce

Photo: Flickr


In the past decade, access to education has been on the rise in Azerbaijan. As of 2009, the literacy rate in Azerbaijan was 99.5 percent, an impressive number for the Caucasus region. Education in Azerbaijan is well on the way to meeting the Millennium Development Goal 2 of universal primary education in the next few years. However, there are clear, massive inequalities in primary education between refugees and non-refugees.

Azerbaijan has one of the largest displaced populations, as it is currently home to over one million refugees who are internally displaced people (IDP) hoping for asylum status. According to UNICEF, Azerbaijan has the highest IDP population per capita in the entire world; a majority of these people are Azeris, who have been displaced from their own homes due to the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Refugee Children Require Additional Educational Resources

Azerbaijan is leading the Caucasus region in access to education for refugees. In 2003, Azerbaijan began allowing refugees to attend public school. However, since there is a large IDP population, inequities in refugee education are inevitably holding back universal education in Azerbaijan. Many refugee children do not have the same access to education as native children, affecting early, primary and secondary schooling.

A 2010 report indicates that about 20 percent of Chechen refugee children in Azerbaijan do not attend school, and of those who do attend, many cannot understand their instructors due to language barriers. This is common for many refugee populations in Azerbaijan. UNICEF notes that “most refugees have special linguistic needs since many do not speak the national language, straining teachers and school resources.”

It is common for displaced children to experience violence and hardship due to their refugee status, leading to many children requiring additional special psychosocial learning. Additionally, refugee children enter school later and tend to be less prepared for school, compared with the average Azerbaijani student.

Though Azerbaijan is working to ensure increased access to education for all children, many outside organizations have taken initiative to increase educational opportunities for refugees in Azerbaijan. For example, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that oftentimes, refugee children do not go to school because their school materials are too expensive. To remedy this, the UNHCR created a textbook fund, giving more than 8,000 textbooks to about 2,000 refugee children.

In the future, there is a great deal of hope for the state of universal education in Azerbaijan.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr


In her first official statement as U.N. Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed called for a new approach to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She gave her speech to the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) operational activities segment, which met between February 28 and March 2, 2017.

Participants at this year’s ECOSOC meeting discussed increasing coordination, accountability and transparency in the U.N.’s approach to the SDGs. In her address, Mohammed stated that to achieve the SDGs would require all countries to “redefine traditional planning, delivery and monitoring.”

Mohammed has a track record of fighting for the environment. She has held positions as the former Minister of the Environment of Nigeria, the founder of the Center for Development Policy Solutions and a professor for the Master’s in Development Practice program at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Mohammed’s past achievements show her commitment to the SDGs. In her address she said that, “achieving the SDGs is not an option, but an imperative for a safe and secure future of prosperity, opportunity and human rights for all.” The SDGs are an investment in preventing crises from forming out of global challenges like poverty, climate change, environment and hunger.

Mohammed believes that achieving the SDGs will require the U.N. to take more initiative. While the U.N. is actively engaged in efforts to achieve the SDGs, policy and framework has expanded immensely since the creation of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000. For example, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda laid out specific guidelines for implementing the SGDs in 2015, and the Inter-agency Task Force was created in 2016 to analyze progress. Only time will tell what developments will come in the future.

Josh Ward

Photo: Flickr