Millennium Development Goals Help Lift 1 Billion Out of Poverty

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals have managed to lift 1 billion people out of extreme poverty, according to a UN report released last month, which assessed the effectiveness of the 15-year strategy.

Initiated in the year 2000, the eight goals ranged from halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, and providing universal primary education.

The report stated that the proportion of people in the developing world living on less than $1.25 a day dropped from nearly 50 percent in 1990 to 14 percent in 2015.

Other gains included reducing the under-five mortality rate, which declined by more than half, and curbing the spread of new HIV infections, which fell by approximately 40 percent between 2000 and 2013.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon applauded the success of the goals. “Following profound and consistent gains, we now know that extreme poverty can be eradicated within one more generation,” he said. Yet he also acknowledged the remaining shortfalls. “For all the remarkable gains, I am keenly aware that inequalities persist and that progress has been uneven.”

Some of the shortfalls noted in the report include the persistence of gender inequality and the prevalence of large gaps between the poorest and richest households, and between rural and urban areas. According to the report, approximately 800 million people still live in extreme poverty and almost half of global workers are still working in vulnerable conditions.

Conflicts were identified by the report as the biggest threat to human development, with fragile and conflict-affected countries experiencing the highest poverty rates. This was noted as a significant issue for Western Asia, the region outlined in the report, which encompasses much of the Middle East.

While Western Asia was reported to have achieved the target of halving the extreme poverty rate ahead of schedule, with the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day declining from 5.3 percent in 1990 to 1.5 percent in 2011, the extreme poverty rate in the region is expected to have increased between 2011 and 2015, from 1.5 percent to 2.6 percent.

On a positive note, Western Asia was reportedly the only developing region in which gender parity was reached in tertiary education. The net enrollment rate in primary education also saw improvements, growing from 86 percent in 2000 to 95 percent in 2015. However, the report noted that the ongoing conflict in Syria has had a devastating impact on education, with data from the Syrian Ministry of Education indicating that enrollment rates fell by 34 percentage points for grades one to 12 in the school year ending in 2013.