The Millennium Development Goals: Polices, Progress and Challenges Research Paper


Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) comprise eight goals that all the Nations which form the United Nations agree to achieve by year 2015. The main aim of coming up with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was to ensure that the level of social and economic development in the developing countries and by extension to oversee a sense of unity worldwide through collaborations on various spheres of development.

The ideology behind the introduction of these goals may be better understood by looking at what they were meant to achieve. This paper is going to discus MDGs, its policies, its progression and challenges.

Why the UN Developed the Millennium Development Goals

To Start with, there was the need to address the issues of persistent poverty and ways to eliminate the latter. Hence the main goal was set to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger (Nafziger 2006, p.16). This goal was subjected to developing countries leaders who are members of the United Nations to ensure that every individual has access to sustainable food rations (Webb 2000, p. 75).

Secondly, there was the need to ensure that every person has access to primary education thus universal primary education was enhanced. It was due to the fact that education plays a key role in the entire nation and world development, that this goal was set up (Pinheiro 2006, p35). Moreover, it is clear that an educated population has the ability to analyse situations in a more critical manner hence it becomes easy for the nation to incorporate various developmental projects (Berger 2003, p. 25).

Ideally, the key pillar of the eight MDGs is the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment (Fukuda-Parr 2005, p400). Over the years, the role women play in developing a nation has been seen as substantial, highly valuable and relevant in the society (Hans 2000, p295).

Moreover, the need to have a healthy population that can take part in the development of a nation has been clearly outlined. In this view, the need to combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases is also inclusive in the MDGs set to be achieved by the year 2015 (World Bank 2000, p6). In setting this goal, the world leaders gave cognisance to the threat posed by diseases especially the HIV/ AIDS pandemic more so in the least developed countries.

Thus, a deliberate measure to curb various diseases in the entire world has been outlined in the millennium development goals (Christian 2004, p40). In addition, the need to have a sustainable climate and clean environment became a top priority goal set by the United Nations and is seen as a crucial pillar of the MDGs (Webb 2000, p.85).

It emphasises the commitment of world leaders to ensure that climatic and environmental challenges are dealt with by increasing forest cover and establishing modalities aimed at reducing pollutant emissions such as carbon monoxide into the atmosphere (Boehle 2007,p25).

Maternal and child health have also been seen as a priority in the MDGs and a vital agenda to be emphasised on (Gore 2010, p72). This due to the fact that there is more safety when expectant mothers are attended to by qualified health professionals since they will be given medical guide in regards to issues surrounding child birth (Jolly 2002,p110).

Need Anything Written?
Let's see if we can help you!
Let’s See

Nevertheless, the reasons that led to UN developing a pillar of global partnerships, was because there was no single country that would claim to have total dependence on itself (Manning 2010, p10).Therefore, the United Nation based this pillar on the need to good governance which concentrates on both national and international affairs of a given nation (Ramesh 2006, p.70).

Good governance as an overall supportive pillar provides a supportive tool in resources and polices through which projects may be undertaken (Sands 2005, p.20). It is a determinant factor in which issues such as transparency, accountability and priorities are planned. Additionally, with good governance comes the ability to establish polices that cater for poverty eradication, public service, and decentralisation of services as well as observing the rule of law while observing human rights (Ahmed 2005, p.60).

Nevertheless, good governance combines MDGs at two levels; that is an indirect link, which is seen through the growth of a country and the direct link which is outlined by the specific elements that affect the overall achievement of the MDGs (Kaufman and Kraay 2003, p350).

These elements are attributed to factors such as income which is essential in financing both private and public investments. Here, the importance of accumulation of human capital is cited as necessary and one that has the potential to foster high growth (Margaret and Karen 2009, p74).

Factors that have limited the UN’s effectiveness at realising MDGs in practice

One of the major challenges that affect the development of MDGs is inequality in the distribution of income. Since UN draws its membership from an inevitably diverse hemisphere, they are all endowed differently in terms of resources that may be utilised in the achievement of various development agenda (Kaufman and Kraay 2003). Consequently, differences in endowment are a major determinant of how fast or slow MDGs are achieved in these individual countries.

Agreeably, one of the key determinant factors of development is how much a country is able to gather in terms of revenue that is further distributed to various segments of the economy (Nafziger 2006, p15). Distribution of income as a challenge in achieving the millennium development goals may thus be affected by factors such as how much individual governments may allocate projects at different times (Pinheiro 2006, p20).

We may argue for instance that the more a government has to spare the more it will advance an agenda such a reduction of maternal mortality and provision of comprehensive health care (Sands 2005,p19). On the other hand, nations that have less income and thus less to spare will be seen to have a challenge in implementing the various aspects of MDGs (UNDP 2002, p14).

In demonstration of the progress made by various countries in regard to MDGs and for one to understand the role of income distribution in attaining the MDGs, these nations may be put into number of categories. There are the fast growing regions with significant progress on MDGs most notably the Eastern Asia region (Ramesh 2006, p.60). Then there are fast growing regions with limited progress on MDGs where countries in Southern Asia fall in.

Further, there are the slow growing regions with significant progress on MDGs and two regions, (Latin America and the Caribbean, and North Africa and Western Asia) exhibit a related pattern in attainment of MDGs. Finally, there are the slow growing regions with little progress on the MDGs where two regions (Europe and Central Asia, and the countries of sub-Saharan Africa) characteristically fall into (United Nations 2006).

It has been demonstrated that there is a high correlation between progress on MDGs and the rate of growth of Growth Domestic Product GDP per capita whereby growth has been found to be leaning towards poorer polices and that may mostly be seen through the quality of economic institutions (Fukuda-Parr 2005, p.396). It is important to look at these aspect and how it has contributed to the slow realisation of MDGs since the attainment of these goals can only be through institutions (Berger 2003, p.30).

Slow economic growth has a direct impact on almost all aspects of life. It thus does not come as much a surprise that most of the nations that seem to lag behind in attainment of MDGs are noted to have low economic growth rates (McNeil 2007, p18). The relationship between the attainment of MDGs and economic growth is tied since these goals have a sense of dependence on monetary gains of individual nations. In this case, developed countries take lead in realisation of the MDGs (Robeyns 2005, p.110).

The negative impact of corruption on the rate of progress on the MDGs also emerges as a factor pulling behind their focused attainment. Corruption loots off a sector its rightful share of economic achievement that ends up in pockets of some individuals or organisations (Manning 2010, p.10). As far as the achievement o MDGs are concerned, it is feared that corruption operatives may direct monies projected to be used in implementation of various projects to individuals and organisations other than the intended (Hulme 201, p.24).

One of the most important facets of implementation of any program is the formulation of polices that are relevant and correlates with the ideas of a given strategy. In this regard, neglecting polices that were formulated during the introduction of the millennium development goals has posed a challenge and in some cases a near halt to the expectation of achieving these goals (Hans 2000, p.320).

Policies are important in that they offer a guideline on how things should be done and within what period of time. In achieving the MDGs, polices may be said to be the only assurance that indeed there will be some commitment by the various governments that are stakeholders in one way or the other. These polices having been formulated on an international platform, remain critical to observe as a matter of helping in making progress on achieving the MDGs (UNDP 2004).

This can be seen from the commitment of the various bodies that are charged with the task of financing various projects that are geared towards the achievement of the MDGs (Hedley 2005, p.140).

Without clear guidelines on how to go about the various items on the agenda of the UN in regard to MDGs, it would be difficult to know where or how the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the African Development bank would use the resources at their disposal to enhance the attainment of the millennium development goals (World Development Report 2004).

The wave of globalisation and democratisation has largely changed people’s expectations of the state (Jolly 2002, p108). However, some key areas such as public administration especially in developing countries have been unable to cope with the changing demands of rapidly evolving socio-economic and political global and national environments (Webb 2000, p.75).

In that case, issues relating to civil services and provision of services to the people have consistently challenged governments leading into a slow pace in implementation of both local and international agreements (Boehle 2007, p.28). Matters like overstaffing of government departments and semi-autonomous organisations, favouritism and malpractice in recruitment and promotion, political and ethnic pressures, low salaries, and corruption are all contributors to slow pace in the road to attaining MDGs (UNDESA 2003).

Each of these malpractices leads into a breakdown in government performance where some of the segments that suffer most have to do with poverty eradication since the poor populace is dependent on what may be called transformational leadership that is expected to provide vision and direction to the organisation (Margaret and Karen 2009).

On the contrary, these transformational promises are more often delayed and some goals remain largely unachieved. This analysis helps in understanding why the millennium development goals have continued to be largely unattained despite the target deadline drawing ever so close (Christian 2004, p.42).

The role of social-cultural barriers in hindering the fast achievement of MDGs cannot be looked down upon (Gore 2010, p.70). These barriers can be seen where some societies become unreachable due to their ties with traditional beliefs and practices. Examples may be cited where in some communities in Sub Saharan Africa there are strong beliefs of attending to the sick by giving traditional medicines that can be obtained from herbs (Alston 2003, p.90).

This deals a big blow to the agenda of including health care for all individuals since most of these prescriptions are offered under unlikeable circumstances in homes as opposed to obtaining professional advice from the available facilities (Nafziger 2006, p.16). This means that such communities would need to be educated on the needs of obtaining health care on professional guidance and to shun their traditional practices (World Development Report 2004, p.8).

Generally, delivery of basic services in developing countries is fraught with challenges. Often, services are of poor quality, and financial and legal barriers inhibit access for some in society (Margret and Karen 2009). In responding to these issues, governments have been challenged to rethink service provision by among other things. In addition, there is need to decentralise service provision to lower strata of government, thereby bringing it and, as a result, government closer to the people (Sands 2005, p.5).

Concerns have been raised that despite the fact that majority of least developed countries( LDCs) are now multi-party democracies and have made important advances in electoral processes and technological advances , effective checks and balances among the different organs of the state have not been sufficiently strengthened (Robeyns 2005, p97).

Some of the most conspicuous challenges include lack of clear separation and independence among the various branches and organs of government and this works negatively to hamper the ability, right and responsibility of each branch to monitor the others.

Observably, the executive branch in LDCs is more powerful than the legislature or judiciary and the decisions made at this level are quite often not questionable or alterable (Hulme 2010, p24). Such mechanisms of ruling pose a challenge to the implementation of the MDGs in that there may be an influence of the same parties that are supposed to be committed to their attainment (Berger 2003, p37).

According to UNDESA reports (2003), the problem is even accelerated by the realisation of the fact that even the legislative branch is frequently unable to fulfill its duties given the severe lack of human and financial resources. The issues that surround it also include inadequate representation, autonomy and financial dependence. In some extreme cases, parliaments are often bypassed during important decision-making processes like trade negotiations and the allocation of public resources (Ahmed 2005, p88).

This shows that the challenges that are faced by these economies are not limited to internal affairs but also affects their external connections and they cannot thus be separated from engagements such as commitment to oversee the implementation of MDGs in their respective nations (Manning 2010, p10).

The effects of catastrophic experiences that are brought by national disasters sometimes take a toll order on some countries and make them spend a lot of time recovering (Fukuda-Parr 2005, p390). This means that the objective of achieving the MDCs may sometimes take a back seat in case of such occurrences so that a nation is able to attend to the needs of the people at the moment as a matter of urgency (Gore 2010, p75).

These calamities sometimes drain a country’s resources and may require that the technocrats look for some other ways of funding these activities (Ahmed 2005, p87). However, it is also highlighted that some countries like. Bangladesh has made commendable progress on some MDGs despite the national disaster and an unfavorable land to person ratio (Ramesh 2006, p62).

Commendably, the population growth rate has been drastically brought down as well as the poverty situation and progress has been reported in achieving gender equality more so in education while the infant mortality rate has been significantly reduced(Boehle 2007,p29).

Among the factors that have contributed to this success is the establishment of institutions of democratic governance while keeping a vibrant civil society in private, public and even Community based and non-governmental organisations. An innovative social society network has also overseen the adoption of pro poor polices (Hulme 2010, p23).

Despite the close similarities that can be seen in the challenges faced by developing countries, there are some key distinctions especially in how these challenges manifest themselves in these nations. Looking at the three most challenging facets that surround most of the LDCs, it will be observed that their economies tend to be fragile in that they may not necessarily exhibit any system of predictability and they are easily affected by slight shifts in international monetary markets.

When this happens, it affects the strength of local currencies in either way which may in the overrun affect the cost of undertaking the budgeted activities (Pinheiro 2006, p43). This means that the budgetary allocations of the various activities associated with the MDGs may also shift. The LCD nations are also affected by their inability of self sustenance and they are weakened by low human and material capacities.

Despite these outright distinctions and similarities, the most important fact to bring out is that all these factors are contributors to the slow pace in attainment of MDGs as a whole. Perhaps the most prevalent pandemic that is associated with Sub Saharan Africa id the HIV/AIDS disaster which has severely depleted national capacities in health, education and agriculture far more extensively in these countries (Hedley 2005, p 145).

The least developed countries trying to attain the MDGs, should embrace capacity building (UNDESA 2003). This may mean creation of state institutions that are embedded with principles of efficiency, transparency and accountability. Upholding of these principles can only take root with the support of enlightened and determined leadership that can guide governments to carry out policies which represent the needs of all members of society (Webb 2000, p 70).

In addition, these nations must develop and initiate policies that provide security to the population and give emphasis to the functioning rule of law while putting a close focus on provision of important social services like education and health. Further deliberate steps must be taken to develop a framework that is conducive to economic growth and empowerment of civil society (Sands 2005, p18). Another key element that has continued to challenge these nations is climatic and environmental issues.

Achieving the objectives and goals as laid out in the MDGs in a timely manner will require increased efforts by virtually all stakeholders and more so the LDCs (Hedley2005, p.134).

The developed countries may play a role by offering scaled-up official development assistance, debt cancellation, special and differential treatment in international trade, enhanced technical assistance from donors, and more extensive tapping of the enormous potential that is fronted by symbiotic cooperation (Alston 2003, p.65). In all these nations, provision of good governance structures is an essential tool.


Whether the MDGs will be achieved within the laid out time frame or not remains a factor that can be analysed by looking at each goal and the steps that have been made so far. However, it is important to note that the role of international polices in overseeing smooth and steady progress in achieving the goals is paramount.

It has been observed that the least Developed nations are particularly more in need of support that ranges from financial to human capital. There is therefore need to ensure that even the population that may not be well in the category of the elite is aware of these goals in order to share and participate in the visions and mission that are stipulated in these goals.


Ahmed, J 2005, Decentralisation and Service Delivery, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3603, pp.56-89

Alston, P 2003, Human Rights Perspectives on the Millennium Development Goals, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice Report Project, pp.89-93

Berger, J 2003, Religious Non-Governmental Organisations: An Exploratory analysis, International Journal of Voluntary and Non profit Organisations, Vol14 (1), pp. 15–39.

Boehle, J 2007, Religions, Civil Society and the UN System, Studies in Interreligious Dialogue journal, 17(1), pp.20–30.

Christian, R 2004, The globalisation of world politics: An Introduction to International Relations (Third Edition), Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 25-54.

Fukuda-Parr, S 2005, Millennium Development Goals: Why They Matter. Global Governance, Vol10, pp 395–402.

Gore, C 2010, The MDG Paradigm, Productive Capacities and the Future of Poverty Reduction. IDS Bulletin, Vol. 41, pp70–79.

Hans, M 2000, Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, McGraw Hill New York, pp. 291-327.

Hedley, B 2005, The Anarchical Society, Macmillan, London, pp. 122-155

Hulme, D 2010, The Making of the Millennium Development Goals: Human Development meets Results-Based Management in an Imperfect World, IDS Bulletin Vol 41, pp.15–25

Jolly, S 2002, Human Development and Neo-Liberalism: Paradigms Compared. In Readings in Human Development, edited by Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, and Shiva Kumar. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, pp.106–116.

Kaufman, D and Kraay, A 2003, Governance and Growth: Causality Which Way? Evidence from the World in Brief, World Bank, Washington, DC.pp.202-430.

Manning, R 2010, The Impact and Design of the MDGs, Some Reflections IDS Bulletin, Vol 41, pp 7–14.

Margaret, P and Karen A 2009, International Organisations, Lynne Rienner Publishers, Washington, DC, pp. 56-90

McNeil, D 2007, Human Development: The Power of the Idea, Journal of Human Development ,Vol,8 pp 5–22.

Nafziger, E 2006, Development, inequality, and war in Africa, The Economics of Peace and Security Journal, Vol.1 no.1, pp.14–19.

Pinheiro, P 2006, World report on violence against children, Secretary General’s study on violence against children United Nations, New York, pp 20-45.

Ramesh, T 2006, The United Nations, Peace and Security, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 34-78.

Robeyns, I 2005, The Capability Approach: A Theoretical Review, Journal of Human Development Vol 6, pp. 93–114.

Sands, P 2005, Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules, Penguin, London, pp. 1-22.

UNDESA 2003, Decentralisation and Poverty Reduction: African and Asian Experience, Division of Public Administration and Development Management, United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs. pp 45-60

UNDESA 2005, Innovations in Public Sector: Compendium of Best Practices, United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs. pp 40-55

UNDESA 2005, Progress Towards the Millennium Development Goals, 1990-2005, Statistics Division, United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs. pp 60-75

UNDP 2002, Public Administration Reform: Practice Note, United Nations Development Programme, New York. pp 10-15

UNDP 2004, Human Development Report: Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World. Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 15-20.

United Nation 2006, Governance for the Millennium Development Goals: Core Issues And Good Practices, United States. pp 23-30.

Webb, D 2000, Legal System Reform and Private Development in Developing Countries, in R.Pritchard (ed.), Economic Development, Foreign Investment and the Law Journal, Kluwer, London. pp 60-98.

World Bank 2000, Decentralisation and Governance, Does Decentralisation Improve Public Service Delivery? Vol. 1, pp. 6-10.

World Development Report 2004, Making Services Work for Poor People, The World Bank report. pp 4-8