After the Millennium Development Goals: What’s Next Post-2015

World We Want

The United Nations (UN) set out in 2000 to develop a comprehensive agenda for international development in the new millennium. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were spearheaded by Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General from 2004 to 2008. They were an attempt to refocus international assistance on the most crucial issues facing humanity, ranging from eradicating extreme poverty and hunger to combatting HIV/AIDS, and they came with an ambitious deadline: completion by 2015. Now with only two years left to meet the existing goals, the UN has turned its gaze toward the future.

Did the Millennium Development Goals fail?

Although many countries are not on track to meet the targets of the MDGs, the goals have made significant progress in determining universal standards of living and mobilizing international resources. The world is on the path to halve global poverty by 2015 as well as increase access to clean water two-fold. Primary education enrollment for both boys and girls is also on the rise. The child mortality goal, however, is far from completion. Despite their successes and failures, the MDGs have accomplished a particularly important task: they have drawn attention to crucial issues that require international cooperation in order to achieve any improvement.


With the MDG deadline looming, post-2015 development planning efforts have begun to escalate. On July 20th, 2012, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed 26 members to the UN High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, chaired by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Inductees include members of academia, civil society, and the private sector. The panel has been tasked with advising the Secretary-General on issues that should be included in the post-2015 agenda by consulting relevant stakeholders. After their November meeting in London, the panel announced a consensus on their vision for post-2015 development:

    • Continue work on the current, unfinished MDGs.
    • Focus on ending poverty and promoting sustainable growth with a focus on education, health, jobs, and livelihoods.
    • Emphasize accountability and transparency.
    • Move from access to quality in areas such as education and healthcare.


In the buzz surrounding the post-2015 development agenda, several recommendations continue to be repeated. A few crucial policies must be adopted by the High-level Panel in order to move forward with a successful framework for the future of the Millennium Development Goals:

1. Engage in citizen consultations.

Though the current MDGs are commendable, they have been criticized for initially failing to take into consideration the opinions of civil society organizations and local stakeholders. The High-level Panel has already begun consulting members of civil society, but including voices from the global south is even more crucial. Citizens have the ability to give insight on possible obstacles and solutions to make the development process smoother and more successful.

2. Focus on locally-led, sustainable development.

By creating opportunities for civilians and building local capacity, growth is more efficient and sustainable. One way to achieve future sustainability is to place local organizations in charge and set the stage for independent progress: Save the Children Guatemala is a great example. Foreign aid is maximized when it is in the hands of capable citizens who know where it is needed most and how to distribute it among vulnerable populations.

3. Engage the private sector.

With the global financial crisis taking a toll on aid in the form of Official Development Assistance (ODA) from governments, civil society organizations should turn to the private sector for funding and resources. Modern standards of corporate social responsibility ensure that businesses have a duty to share the wealth. The High-level Panel even includes one member of the private sector: Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer of Unilever.

4. Utilize approaches that are “new, specific, and measurable.”

The Clinton Global Initiative requires these three criteria as the basis for the commitments it supports to improve the lives of people around the world. While they are by no means exclusive, these principles summarize the key characteristics that every development project should embody. Future goals should favor innovation and include precise outcomes in order to be effective.

5. Foster equality.

As one of the major cross-cutting themes in international development, the international arena has raised standards of equality, especially gender equality. Otherwise, equality has not been a major priority. In the new agenda, equality must be at the forefront of all development initiatives. The High-level Panel has pledged to move from access to quality in their post-2015 objectives, but they must focus on quality for all. Inequality is a threat to progress in any context.

Get Involved

Do you want to take part in the discussion on post-2015 development?

30 November 2012

This post is one of a series that I contributed to The MIDCM Column, a blog written by students in the Minor in International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland.


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