Were the MDGs Successful? The Efficacy of Global and Regional Frameworks

Since the SDGs were adopted as a global framework in 2015, many have attempted to evaluate the success of the Millennium Development Goals in achieving goals of:

  1. to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
  2. to achieve universal primary education;
  3. to promote gender equality and empower women;
  4. to reduce child mortality;
  5. to improve maternal health;
  6. to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
  7. to ensure environmental sustainability; and
  8. to develop a global partnership for development.


While based on empirical data, each of these eight goals was advanced during the time period of 2000 to 2015, the question as to whether or not the existence of the Millennium Development Goals directly accelerated progress in each area remains to be seen. According to Brookings, the clearest victories of the MDGs were in lives saved. During the MDG era, accelerated progress in addressing child mortality, maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis saved an estimated 21 million extra lives.[1] In addition to saving lives, the MDG period saw significantly increased participation in education, access to potable water, and nutrition in some regions (Sub-Saharan Africa in particular), with stagnated progress in others.

But did the Millenium Development Goals play a significant role in sparking accelerations in achievement in the 8 key issue areas, or would increasing rates of international cooperation achieved these same gains without the framework? This is the central question for the efficacy of UN frameworks as a whole. Many critics of the Millenium Development Goals often cite the fact that many of the nations that achieved progress in the areas, were already on track for progress well before the adoption of the framework. While this is a valid criticism in the case of China and India, nations in Africa experienced rapid progress towards the goals that they were not on track to achieve before the adoption. Therefore, the success of the Millenium Development Goals as a global framework is contestable. But, one thing that’s clear is that in order to ensure the success of the SDGs, research has to be done in order to identify which types of government, public sector, and private sector actions contributed to advancement towards the goals.

Works Cited

[1]  Rasmussen, John. “How Successful Were The Millennium Development Goals?.” Brookings. N. p., 2017. Web. 8 Dec. 2017.

One thought on “Were the MDGs Successful? The Efficacy of Global and Regional Frameworks

  1. “Therefore, the success of the Millenium Development Goals as a global framework is contestable.” This is a good point. The MGDs definitely were not met – that is a fact. There is still a lot of issues (hence the SDGs), but they did create a global awareness. People became more alert of their surroundings and a lot of progress was made. It is often said that the MGDs were flawed to begin with because of their lack in specificity and overlap, but they made an impact and started something the SDGs have a chance to finish.


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