You have heard me say it on more than one occasion that the world’s problems are all primarily economic in nature. Economics is about how we allocate our scarce resources among competing ends. If resources were abundant, we would have no economic problems – essentially, there would be no poverty and no hunger. Unfortunately, even good air and water are scarce, so therein lies the problem. In my travels around the world, I have seen poverty in places like the Mississippi Delta, rural Alabama, Mexico City, Dakar, Senegal, Accra, Ghana, and even Baltimore and Chicago right here in the USA, and, dare I say, right here in Monroe County, Michigan.
In case you are not aware, to deal with the economic problems of the world, the entire world came together under the United Nations for the first time in the year 2000 to set a group of ambitious goals designed to eradicate extreme poverty once and for all , known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
There were eight MDGs which were to be achieved by 2015: 1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, 2. Achieve universal primary education, 3. Promote gender equality and empower women, 4. Reduce child mortality, 5. Improve maternal health, 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, 7. Ensure environmental sustainability, 8. Global partnership for development.
According to a 2015 article by Paul Abernethy titled, “Millennium Development Goals 15 Years Later: How Did We Do?,” Abernethy refers to the United Nations’ “2015 Millennium Development Goals Report” – the final report that documents the 15-year effort to achieve the aspirational goals set in 2000.
Between 2000 and 2015, significant progress was made towards the MDGs, however, there was still much to be done to lift people out of extreme poverty. How did the world do? Well, not too bad, in spite of the poverty we still see all around us. There were achievements that have had a transformational effect on people’s lives and the countries they live in; there’s a lot to celebrate, but even much more work to be done, especially since COVID recently reversed some of that progress:
• Over 1 billion people were lifted out of extreme poverty. In 1990, nearly half of the population in the developing world lived on less than $1.25; that dropped to just 14% in 2015.
• The primary school net enrollment rate in the developing regions reached 91% in 2015, up from 83% in 2000.
• Many more girls enrolled in school compared to 2000. The developing regions as a whole achieved the target to eliminate gender disparity in primary, secondary and tertiary education.
• The global under-5 mortality rate declined by more than half, dropping from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births, between 1990 and 2015.
• Since 1990, the maternal mortality ratio has declined by 45% worldwide, and most of the reduction has occurred since 2000.
• New HIV infections fell by approximately 40% between 2000 and 2013, from an estimated 3.5 million cases to 2.1 million.
• Over 6.2 million malaria deaths were averted between 2000 and 2015, primarily of children under 5 years of age in sub-Saharan Africa. The global malaria incidence rate fell by an estimated 37% and the mortality rate by 58%.
• Ozone-depleting substances were virtually eliminated since 1990, and the ozone layer is expected to recover by the middle of this century.
• Official development assistance from developed countries increased by 66% in real terms between 2000 and 2014, reaching $135.2 billion.
A lot of positive change happened between 2000 and 2015 that certainly needs to be celebrated. Yes, progress was made, but millions of people were still being left behind. Needless to say, no one could have predicted the devastating effects of COVID-19. If the world is ever to see the end of extreme poverty we need to focus on tackling more issues. So, in 2015, after an assessment, the world came up with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a follow up to the MDGs. Many of those focus on the environment. I will address those next time.
Kojo Quartey is president of Monroe County Community College and an economist.
This article originally appeared on The Monroe News: Kojo Quartey: Millennium Development Goals, world poverty and hunger