Setting the goals

International Monetary Fund
Published Date:
June 2000
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The goals for international development address that most compelling of human desires—a world free of poverty and free of the misery that poverty breeds. The goals have been set in quantitative terms, so part of the story is told in words and pictures, but most of it is in numbers and charts.

The goals come from the agreements and resolutions of the world conferences organised by the United Nations in the first half of the 1990s. These conferences provided an opportunity for the international community to agree on steps needed to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development.

Each of the seven goals addresses an aspect of poverty. They should be viewed together because they are mutually reinforcing. Higher school enrolments, especially for girls, reduce poverty and mortality. Better basic health care increases enrolment and reduces poverty. Many poor people earn their living from the environment. So progress is needed on each of the seven goals.

The goals will not be easy to achieve, but progress in some countries and regions shows what can be done. China reduced its number in poverty from 360 million in 1990 to about 210 million in 1998. Mauritius cut its military budget and invested heavily in health and education. Today all Mauritians have access to sanitation, 98% to safe water, and 97% of births are attended by skilled health staff. And many Latin American countries moved much closer to gender equality in education.

The message: if some countries can make great progress towards reducing poverty in its many forms, others can as well. But conflict is reversing gains in social development in many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The spread of HIV/AIDS is impoverishing individuals, families and communities on all continents. And sustained economic growth—that vital component for long-run reductions in poverty—still eludes half the world’s countries. For more than 30 of them, real per capita incomes have fallen over the past 35 years. And where there is growth, it needs to be spread more equally.

So, the goals can be met. But it will take hard work. Success will require, above all, stronger voices for the poor, economic stability and growth that favours the poor, basic social services for all, open markets for trade and technology and enough resources for development, used well.

Reduce the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by half between 1990 and 2015As growth increased globally in the mid-1990s, poverty rates fell—rapidly in Asia, but little or not at all in Africa. Income inequality is a barrier to progress in Latin America.
Enrol all children in primary school by 2015Although enrolment rates continue to rise, they have not risen fast enough. On current trends, more than 100 million school-age children will not be in school in 2015.
Make progress towards gender equality and empowering women by eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005Getting more girls through school is essential but not enough. The gender gap may be narrowing, but girls’ enrolments remain persistently behind those of boys.
Reduce infant and child mortality rates by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015For every country that cut infant and under-5 child mortality rates fast enough to reach the goal, 10 lagged behind—and another one moved backwards, often because of HIV/AIDS.
Reduce maternal mortality ratios by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015Skilled care during pregnancy and delivery can do much to avoid many of the half million maternal deaths each year. But the proportion of births attended by skilled personnel rose slowly in the 1990s.
Provide access for all who need reproductive health services by 2015Contraceptive use is one indicator of access to reproductive health. With increasing access to reproductive health services, the rate of contraceptive use is rising in all regions.
Implement national strategies for sustainable development by 2005 so as to reverse the loss of environmental resources by 2015Despite their commitments at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, fewer than half the world’s countries have adopted strategies, and even fewer are implementing them.

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