“At the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000, UN member states took a dramatic step by putting people rather than states at the center of the UN’s agenda. In their Millennium Declaration,*1 the assembled world leaders agreed to a set of breathtakingly broad goals touching on peace through development, the environment, human rights, the protection of the vulnerable, the special needs of Africa, and reforms of UN institutions. Particularly influential was the codification of the Declaration’s development related objectives, which emerged in the summer of 2001 as the now familiar eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to be realized by 2015.
As UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan later described them, the MDGs were a remarkable effort in international coordination. They established common ground among competitive development agencies, inspired concerted action by international organizations and national governments, and offered an opportunity for citizens to insist that governments focus on the “we the peoples” they claimed to represent. In short, they transformed the agenda of world leaders.
Fourteen years later, the MDG record has been mixed. Some goals, such as halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, have been met at the global level, but none have been fulfilled in all countries. Others, such as universal access to primary education, are unlikely to be achieved by 2015.5
However, while the accomplishment of these goals would have been an impressive achievement, even taken together they do not represent a complete or comprehensive vision of human development. They were constrained by what the member states could agree upon in 2000 and, in particular, they lacked a vision of equitable development.6 As the international community thinks about the set of goals that will follow the MDGs, it is time to address that shortcoming by adding the goal of “eliminating extreme inequality” to the original eight.”
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