Millennium Development Goals

Photo: Lara McKinley/Oxfam Aus

In September 2000, leaders from around the world signed the Millennium Declaration, which promised to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015.

They set out eight measurable targets for action – the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Ten years on, world leaders met to review the MDGs at the United Nations Millennium Development Goals summit in New York on September 20-22, 2010.

While leaders celebrated a big package of money for global health, they failed to acknowledge their collective failure to meet their aid targets. With five years to go, the world is far from achieving the MDGs. We need answers on how the money that’s been promised will be raised.

In 2005, $151 billion
would have put an end
to extreme poverty. In
the same year, the world spent $198 billion on
shoes alone.

Basic human rights

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are clear and direct challenges to countries and international organisations to focus on basic human rights and needs.

According to the UN, the world has never before seen so much prosperity: "We only need about $50 billion of additional aid per year to meet the MDGs. About $900 billion was invested in arms by governments in 2003 alone; and, in total, rich countries grant
$300 billion each year in support of agricultural producers."

The goals

If leaders today invest enough to achieve the MDGs, the world in 2015 will be a very different place. Children everywhere will have access to clean water, adequate food and an education. More women will survive childbirth. Vulnerable communities will be able to cope with climate-related disasters and economic shocks. More people will have decent jobs and earn enough to feed their families.

There are eight Millennium Development Goals, each focusing on a vital area of human rights and poverty for 2015:


Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger Achieve universal primary education Promote gender equality and empower women Reduce child mortality
Improve maternal health Combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases Ensure environmental sustainability Global partnership for development


1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

  • Halve the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day
  • Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people
  • Halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

2. Achieve universal primary education

  • Ensure that children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling

3. Promote gender equality and empower women

  • Eliminate gender disparity in all levels of education

4. Reduce child mortality

  • Reduce by two thirds the under-five mortality rate

5. Improve maternal health

  • Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio
  • Achieve universal access to reproductive health

6. Combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases

  • Have halted and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
  • Achieve universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it
  • Have halted and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases

7. Ensure environmental sustainability

  • Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources
  • Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving a significant reduction in the rate of loss
  • Halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation
  • By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers

8. Global partnership for development

  • Address the special needs of least developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing states
  • Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system
  • Deal comprehensively with developing countries’ debt
  • In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries
  • In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications

Source: UN

Back to top

MDGs and the Pacific

With five years to go, sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific are the two regions of the world falling most dangerously behind in progress toward achieving the MDGs.

In the Pacific, four million people live in poverty – that's almost half the total population. Nearly 18,000 children die every year, many from preventable causes.


Latest news

The cost of inequality

January 21, 2013

An explosion in extreme wealth and income is exacerbating inequality and hindering the world’s ability to tackle poverty, Oxfam warned today in a briefing published ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos next week.

Rio 1992 connected the environment and development. Rio +20 looks like splitting them up

June 19, 2012

The Rio+20 Summit will fail if it agrees to current proposals, which risk worsening the divide between environment and development efforts, warned anti-poverty and environmental campaigners today.

Eurozone breakup would cost poorest countries $30bn

June 15, 2012

A Eurozone breakup could cost the world's poorest countries US$30 billion in lost trade and foreign investment, international agency Oxfam warned ahead of the G20 leaders meeting in Mexico to discuss the state of the global economy.

Latest blogs

A disappointing outcome in Sendai

March 19, 2015

Just days after the President of Vanuatu almost broke down as he spoke of the devastation that Tropical Cyclone Pam had inflicted upon his nation, the mood is bittersweet at the closing of the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Sendai, Japan. The fight for strong and accountable action to reduce disaster risk is now more important than ever.  

Making it happen

June 18, 2014

Two major injustices – inequality and climate change – are threatening to undermine the efforts of millions of people to escape poverty and hunger.