Millennium Development Goals

The U.N. Millennium Development Goals for 2015

Aid workers receive UN relief supplies in Haiti in 2004. Getty Images

The United Nations is famous for its work to bring its member countries together to work to achieve its goals of maintaining peace and security, protecting human rights, providing humanitarian assistance, and promoting social and economic development worldwide.

In order to further its progress, the UN and its member countries signed the Millennium Declaration at the Millennium Summit in 2000. This declaration lays out eight goals, called the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), that align with the UN's main functions to be met by 2015. In order to meet these goals, poorer countries have pledged to invest in their people through health care and education while wealthier nations have vowed to support them by providing aid, debt relief, and fair trade.

The eight Millennium Development Goals are as follows:

1) Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger

The first and most important of the UN's development goals is to end extreme poverty. To reach this goal it has set two achievable targets -- the first is to reduce the number of people living on less than a dollar a day by half; the second is to reduce the number of people suffering from hunger by half.

Though this MDG has had some success, places like Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia have not made much progress. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than half of the workers are paid less than $1 per day, thereby reducing people's ability to support their families and reduce hunger. In addition, in many of these areas women are kept out of the workforce, placing the pressure to support their families entirely on males in the populations.

To further the success of this first goal, the UN has set a number of new goals. Some of these are to increase regional and international cooperation on food security, reduce distortions in trade, ensure social safety nets in case of economic slowdowns worldwide, increase emergency food aid, promote school feeding programs, and assist developing countries in switching from subsistence agriculture to a system that will provide more for the long-term.

2) Universal Education

The second Millennium Development Goal is to provide all children with access to education. This is an important goal because it is believed that through education, future generations will have the ability to reduce or put an end to world poverty and help to achieve worldwide peace and security.

An example of this goal being achieved can be found in Tanzania. In 2002, that country was able to make primary education free to all Tanzanian children and immediately 1.6 million children enrolled in schools there.

3) Gender Equity

In many parts of the world, poverty is a larger problem for women than it is for men simply because in some places women are not allowed to become educated or work outside the home to provide for their families. Because of this, the third Millennium Development Goal is directed at achieving gender equity around the world. In order to do this, the UN hopes to assist countries in eliminating the gender disparity in primary and secondary education and allow women to attend all levels of school if they so choose.

4) Child Health

In nations where poverty is rampant, one out of ten children dies before they reach the age of five. Because of this, the UN's fourth Millennium Development Goal is committed to improving children's health care in these areas. An example of an attempt to reach this goal by 2015 is the African Union's pledge to allocate 15% of its budget to health care.

5) Maternal Health

The UN’s fifth Millennium Development Goal is to improve the system of maternal health in poor, high fertility countries where women have a much greater chance of dying during childbirth. The target to reach this goal is to reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio. Honduras for example is on its way to achieving this goal by reducing its maternal mortality rate by half after initiating a monitoring system to determine causes of death in all such cases.

6) Combat HIV/AIDS and Other Diseases

Malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis are the three most significant public health challenges in poor, developing nations. To combat these diseases, the UN's sixth Millennium Development Goals is attempting to halt and then reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria by providing education and free medication to cure or lessen the affects of the diseases.

7) Environmental Sustainability

Because climate change and the exploitation of forests, land, water, and fisheries can significantly harm the poorest populations on the planet who depend on natural resources for their survival, as well as wealthier nations, the UN's seventh Millennium Development Goal is aimed at promoting environmental sustainability on a worldwide scale. The targets for this goal include integrating sustainable development into country policies, reversing the loss of environmental resources, reducing the number of people without access to clean drinking water by half, and improving the lives of slum dwellers.

8) Global Partnership

Finally, the eighth goal of the Millennium Development Goal is the development of a global partnership. This goal outlines the responsibility of poorer nations to work toward achieving the first seven MDGs by promoting accountability of citizens and an efficient use of resources. Wealthy nations on the other hand are responsible for supporting the poorer ones and continuing to provide aid, debt relief, and fair trade rules.

This eighth and final goal serves as a capstone for the Millennium Development Goal project and also outlines the goals of the UN as a whole in its attempts to promote global peace, security, human rights, and economic and social development.