Magazine article World Health Report

Chapter Two: Millennium Health Goals: Paths to the Future

Magazine article World Health Report

Chapter Two: Millennium Health Goals: Paths to the Future

Article excerpt

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) place health at the heart of development and represent commitments by governments throughout the world to do more to reduce poverty and hunger and to tackle ill-health, gender inequality, lack of education, access to clean water and environmental degradation. Three of the eight goals are directly health-related; all of the others have important indirect effects on health. This chapter traces the origins of the MDGs and tracks the progress so far towards achieving them. It warns that without significantly strengthened commitments from both wealthy and developing countries, the goals will not be met globally.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2000 provide an opportunity for concerted action to improve global health. They place health at the heart of development and establish a novel global compact, linking developed and developing countries through clear, reciprocal obligations.

Seizing the opportunity offered by the MDGs will not be easy. Wealthy countries have so far failed to live up to all of their responsibilities under the compact, which include establishing fairer international trade policies, increasing official development assistance, delivering debt relief and accelerating technology transfer. Despite progress in some cases, many developing countries are not currently on track to achieve their health-related MDG objectives. Without significantly strengthened commitments from both developed and developing countries, the MDGs will not be met globally, and outcomes in some of the poorest countries will remain far below the hoped-for achievements. WHO and international health partners must intensify their cooperation with Member States to speed up progress towards the MDGs and ensure that gains are made by those most in need.

International commitments at the Millennium Summit

In September 2000, representatives from 189 countries, including 147 heads of state, met at the Millennium Summit in New York to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration (1). The declaration set out the principles and values that should govern international relations in the 21st century. National leaders made specific commitments in seven areas: peace, security and disarmament; development and poverty eradication; protecting our common environment; human rights, democracy and good governance; protecting the vulnerable; meeting the special needs of Africa; and strengthening the United Nations.

The Road Map (2) prepared following the Summit established goals and targets to be reached by 2015 in each of these seven areas. The goals in the area of development and poverty eradication are now widely referred to as the Millennium Development Goals. They represent commitments by governments worldwide to do more to reduce poverty and hunger and to tackle ill-health, gender inequality, lack of education, lack of access to clean water, and environmental degradation. They also include commitments to reduce debt, increase technology transfers and build development partnerships.

A compact to end poverty

The idea of the MDGs as a compact, in which both rich and poor countries have responsibilities, was further developed in early 2002 at the International Conference on Financing for Development, in Monterrey, Mexico. The resultant Monterrey Consensus (3) reaffirms the importance of the MDGs and provides a framework for building the partnerships that will be needed to achieve them. A few months later, in September 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, took the process a step further by recognizing that poverty reduction and the achievement of the MDGs were central to the overall sustainable development agenda (4). Both the World development report 2003 and the Human development report 2003 have further developed the concept of a compact, with a view to informing policy. …

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