Millennium Development Goals progress

What is the progress in the 10 years since the United Nations created the Millennium Development Goals, eight international goals to improve social and economic conditions in the world's poorest countries? An opinion by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation:

The millennium goals themselves embody impatient optimism. They recognize how much there is to be done, while at the same time signaling the scale and scope of the world's ambition. The world is not called on to conjure progress from a void. Instead, it is called on to learn from very real progress on nearly all the goals, to expand it, and to speed it up.

One refrain I hear is that we are off track on many of the goals. That statement is technically accurate. Not every country will meet every goal, and there is a risk that some of the global goals won't be met. But that binary outlook -- with total success on one side, total failure on the other, and people on all sides blaming each other -- obscures extraordinary progress driven by extraordinary people across the globe.

Take the goal for child mortality. The goal is a two-thirds reduction, and we may not reach it by 2015. But have we failed when 4 million children who would have died in 1990 will survive in 2010? Have we failed when we have reduced polio, a crippling childhood disease, by 99 percent in the past 20 years?

Another complaint I hear a lot is that progress isn't spread evenly. Some people dismiss the fact that 1.3 billion people have lifted themselves out of poverty by pointing out that most of them live in China and India, not in African countries.

I believe that when poor people lift themselves out of poverty, we ought to celebrate, no matter where they happen to live. … All lives have equal value, and I am not comfortable comparing one person's suffering to that of another.

While it's true that some countries are reducing poverty more quickly than others -- and some, sadly, have moved backwards -- eight African countries have already achieved the goal on poverty reduction, and several more are on schedule to do so by 2015. Across nearly every goal, there are inspiring examples of even the poorest countries making dramatic improvements in short periods of time.

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