Where Are We Now? The Millennium Development Goals — Part Four

In 2000, United Nations member states adopted the Millennium Declaration and its accompanying goals. Collectively known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), each of the eight goals aims to eliminate extreme poverty, the conditions it causes, and its effects.

The final installment of this series covers the seventh and eighth goals, which focus on environmental sustainability and a development framework. The purpose of these two goals is to support and sustain the global efforts invested into the first six goals.

When the MDGs were created, the UN General Assembly set a December 31, 2015, deadline to accomplish all eight goals. With the deadline just around the corner, how much progress has been made toward the seventh and eighth goals, and what remains to be accomplished?

Ensuring Environmental Sustainability

The seventh MDG is to ensure environmental sustainability and covers four target goals that address significant environmental issues impacting the world today. The four targets are:


    • Implement sustainable development policies and programs around the world and reverse the loss of environmental resources.
    • Reduce biodiversity loss.
    • Reduce the percentage of the world population that does not have access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
    • Improve the lives of a minimum of 100 million slum dwellers.


Since 2000, measurable gains have been made toward this seventh goal. Between 1990 and 2010, more than 2 billion people gained access to safe drinking water, and more than 240,000 people gained access to basic sanitation. There has also been progress made in improving the lives of those living in slums. The proportion of slum dwellers declined from 39 percent to 33 percent between 2000 and 2012, with those slum dwellers gaining access to housing, sanitation, and safe drinking water.

Between 1990 and 2010, more than 2 billion people gained access to safe drinking water, and more than 240,000 people gained access to basic sanitation.

While progress has been made on some targets, challenges to completing the seventh goal remain. These challenges include reducing carbon emissions globally, amplifying access to sanitation, and protection of environmental resources. Since 1990, CO2 emissions have increased by more than 46 percent, and around 2.5 billion people still lack access to sanitation facilities. While 58 percent of the Earth’s surface is now under protection, key biodiversity areas remain unprotected.

Growing a Global Partnership for Development

The eighth and final MDG, also known as growing a global partnership for development, has the following target goals:


    • Further develop an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system.
    • Address the special needs of least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small-island developing states.
    • Deal with the debt problems of developing countries.
    • Provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries and make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.


More action is needed to achieve the eighth goal of fostering non-discriminatory trading policies and addressing the needs of small-island and landlocked developing states. Few changes have been made to the tariffs that developed nations impose on these developing countries since 2004, and, as a result of the global economic crisis in 2009, a number of additional trade restrictions were introduced. Still, 83 percent of less developed country exports enter developed countries duty free, and developing countries claimed 44 percent of world trade in 2012. Aid to small-island developing states increased in 2010 but dropped for landlocked developing countries.

Progress under the eighth goal to increase the developing world’s access to communications and access to medicine has moved in a positive direction. While only 31 percent of people in developing countries are able to access the Internet, the number continues to grow annually, due to increased smartphone access. In 2011, the number of worldwide cellular subscriptions reached 6 billion.

What Needs To Be Done After 2015

Considering all eight goals, the UN member states have largely been successful in tackling the issues of extreme poverty. However, a close to the MDGs in 2015 will not mean a close to all development efforts. Even if all eight MDGs are met, the final objective of development and sustainability suggests the need for continuing efforts after 2015.

In September 2013, UN member states reaffirmed their commitment to the eight existing MDGs. States agreed to reconvene at a high-level summit in September 2015 to adopt a new set of goals, build on existing successes, and address other significant developmental challenges.

Already, organizations have been given a chance to add their concerns to a post-2015 declaration. Many believe that the eradication of violence against women and children should be prioritized, and there is a growing call for accountability in governance. There is no doubt that more can be done in the future for the sustainability and health of the global environment and economy.

Where Are We Now? The Millennium Development Goals — Part One
Where Are We Now? The Millennium Development Goals — Part Two
Where Are We Now? The Millennium Development Goals — Part Three