The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog


Asia, the Millennium Development Goals, and the post-2015 development agenda

As the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) period draws to a close, the global community is reflecting on their outcomes and looking ahead to the post-2015 development agenda. Significant progress has been made on some of the eight MDGs since they were established in the year 2000, but this has been uneven geographically. For example, the World Bank estimated that the goal to halve the incidence of extreme poverty (MDG1) was achieved globally in 2010, but Sub-Saharan Africa has only made moderate progress towards this goal[1].

Assessing the outcomes of the MDGs has highlighted strengths and weaknesses of the goals themselves. In terms of its successes, the MDGs boldly strived to attain progress in a broad range of critical issue areas which were unevenly prioritised across the world. The goals were simplified so that they could be understood by the masses. Simultaneously, the MDGs provided a platform for comprehensive partnerships between a range of stakeholders including NGOs, companies and governments in countries in various stages of development.

Nonetheless, the MDGs were not without their shortcomings. A widely-held criticism is the lack of participation in the formation of the goals, which led to an agenda driven by the UN and donor countries. It was argued that some countries and regions were inherently disadvantaged by their capacity to respond to MDG priority areas and indeed measure their progress. The UN was also criticised for not adequately addressing climate change in the MDG targets.

Asia made significant progress in the area of poverty reduction, with remarkable success in industrialising countries such as China and India boosting the global average. Nonetheless, the region is still home to the largest proportion of world’s poor and fragile countries will still require substantial aid to progress in coming years. Progress towards the goal of eradicating hunger and malnutrition was less apparent and remains a major challenge. In terms of education, Asia made some progress in terms of the number of enrolments and the completion of schooling, but did not quite meet the target. The region is not on track to meet the target on child mortality, and there is significant room for improvements in terms of maternal health.

As the MDGs draw to a close and consultations for the post-2015 development agenda take place in 2013, Asian stakeholders should consider key factors to facilitate continued progress. Given the differing stages of development in the region, universal goals should allow for individual states to address their most pressing challenges within the broader issue areas. Asia’s worrying expansion of inequality in terms of income and access to public services needs to be accounted for in the region’s development agenda. Finally, sustainability goals in the post-2015 agenda will need to find a delicate balance in the need for resource consumption to pursue economic growth and protecting the Asia’s fragile environment.


[1] Note that Sub-Saharan Africa needed a growth rate 28 times its historical average during the MDG period to achieve the target of halving poverty.

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