MDGs: Background Questions and Answers

Millennium Development Goals

  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. Develop a global partnership for development

1.  What are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are solemn pledges made by all countries in the world. They are distilled from the Millennium Declaration. They are people-centered, measurable and time-bound commitments to address the challenges facing humanity in the 21st century.

2.  How did they come to be?
In September 2000, the UN General Assembly gathered in New York for the Millennium Summit. At that meeting, 189 Heads of State or Government pledged to work together acknowledging their duty to all of the world’s people. The Millennium Declaration is the landmark document resulting from this meeting. The Millennium Development Goals were born from this Millennium Declaration.

3.  Are they new commitments?
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are not new commitments. Many of the goals re-articulate commitments already made at world conferences or summits, e.g., at the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen (1995), the World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995) or at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (2002).

4.  What are the underlying values of the MDGs?
The underlying values of the MDGs are found in the Millennium Declaration which is narrative in nature. Since the Millennium Declaration provides the context for the MDGs, it is necessary to read the MDGs and the Millennium Declaration together.

In the Millennium Declaration the world leaders recognized their collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level. They acknowledged that the main challenge of today is to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all. They agreed that the following values are fundamental to international relations: freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature, and shared responsibility.

5.  What issues do the MDGs address?
The MDGs address the most critical problems that plague our world today: extreme poverty and hunger, illiteracy, gender inequality, child and maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS and malaria, the lack of safe drinking water, and others. In the last goal, MDG #8, governments pledged to develop an open trading and financial system, to work towards debt relief for the poorest countries, to be more generous in foreign development aid, and to address the special needs of the least developed countries in the world.

6.  How many MDGs are there and what are targets?
There are a total of eight MDGs which are directed at meeting specific, measurable targets. The goals and targets (18 in total) are to be achieved by 2015.

7.  Are they achievable?
According to Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, Special Advisor to the Secretary General on the Millennium Development Goals and director of the UN Millennium Project, the MDGs are achievable. Prefacing his report Investing in Development he states: “The world community has at its disposal the proven technologies, policies, financial resources, and most importantly, the human courage and compassion to make it happen.”

8.  Where can I find the MDGs and the Millennium Declaration?
The text of the Millennium Development Goals can be found at (click on each individual goal to see the targets).  Click on “background” to see the Millennium Declaration.