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No Goals at Half-time: What Next for the Millennium Development Goals?

The faltering progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) halfway towards their 2015 target date is the subject of a major meeting at UN Headquarters today in New York. LIDC is responding to this renewed interest in the eight goals to tackle poverty by holding a conference on 5 November for LIDC members to share their collective experience regarding the diverse issues raised by the MDGs. The discussions will also take a challenging look at the MDGs, identifying gaps and opportunities for further collaborative work between sectors and disciplines. 


Pressing challenges ahead

The discussions involving world leaders at the UN today are increasingly urgent as the global economic slowdown and rising food prices are threatening to derail progress towards the MDGs even further. The UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2008 warns higher food prices may push 100 million people deeper into poverty and a recent World Bank-IMF highlights how the world is not meeting its commitments, particularly regarding the aim of reducing child and maternal mortality. In the UN Report Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN, declares: “We have made important progress towards all eight goals, but we are not on track to fulfil our commitments...There is no question that we can achieve the overarching goal: we can put an end to poverty…But it requires an unswerving, collective, long-term effort. Time has been lost. We have wasted opportunities and face additional challenges, making the task ahead more difficult.”

MDG research at the Bloomsbury Colleges
Prominent LIDC members from the Bloomsbury Colleges (Birkbeck, Institute of Education, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Royal Veterinary College, School of Oriental and African Studies, and The School of Pharmacy) are involved, in varying capacities, in trying to achieve, monitor and evaluate the MDGs. These include staff at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) working to improve child and maternal health through the Towards [MDGs] 4+5 Research Programme Consortium (RPC) funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).  Also, Dr Elaine Unterhalter, from the Institute of Education, and Sheila Aikman, from Oxfam GB, referred to the MDGs in their work Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education. They have argued that education is a fundamental human right essential to the achievement of all of the MDGs and, unless gender relations are tackled, it will take more than 100 years for all girls worldwide to go to school. Professor Terry McKinley, from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), has worked extensively on the MDGs and his work has included co-writing The Macroeconomic Implications of MDG-Based Strategies in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Responses from LIDC members
Below LIDC members give their verdicts on the MDGs so far and the challenges ahead:

Professor Andrew Dorward, from SOAS, said: “Despite their shortcomings, the MDGs  represent  an important focal point for those working to address problems of poverty, hunger, ill health and inequity in the global community. Mixed achievements in reducing the proportion of poor and hungry people,  with particular problems in Africa and South Asia, have received a significant setback from high food and fertiliser prices over the last year. There are major difficulties in working out and delivering on appropriate responses to a complex set of challenges, difficulties which are exacerbated by the current turmoil in the world economy".
Professor Oona Campbell, from LSHTM, added: "Delivering a baby can be a time of great celebration, but is also a time of great risk. Two-fifths of maternal deaths occur from the start of labour until 24 hours later. The current slow progress in achieving MDG 5 requires us to speed up the provision of good quality delivery care in facilities. There are huge differences in coverage of such care between and within countries. Even in poor countries, the richest women have much greater access to services than rural women. The potential gains from expanding quality delivery facilities are enormous and extend to improvements in neonatal survival. We need to renew our commitment to meeting this priority".
In relation to MDG 6 (to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases), Professor John Porter, from LSHTM, added: "Progress is being made to halt the spread of HIV, to achieve access to treatment for HIV/AIDS and to reduce the incidence of malaria, TB and other major diseases. HIV prevalence figures show a levelling off in many developing countries but deaths from AIDS continue to rise in Sub-Saharan Africa. Access to AIDS treatment has expanded but need continues to grow and prevention activities are failing to keep pace with HIV spread. Malaria and TB control activities are reducing incidence in certain countries. Health systems' development that includes access to care and treatment facilities is needed to support disease control programmes.”


LIDC’s conference on the MDGs
LIDC members will explore the history and future of the MDGs at a conference entitled No Goals at Halftime: What Next for the Millennium Development Goals? on 5 November 2008. This event is open to LIDC members, a limited number of students from the Bloomsbury Colleges and invited external experts.
Click here for details about the event and the conference programme.
Any member of staff from the Bloomsbury Colleges can become a member of LIDC. Click here for the short online form. 
To reserve your place at the conference contact Guy Collender, Communications Officer at LIDC (guy.collender@lidc.bloomsbury.ac.uk , 020 7958 8260).
Further Reading
All Out on Poverty: How Close Are we to the UN's Targets? Guardian supplement in association with the UK's Department for International Development
A Call to Action on the Millennium Development Goals, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, UK