Primer on MDG

Posted: November 19, 2010 in Features...

A Primer on





Former United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Kofi Annan convened world leaders in September 2000 for the Millennium Summit in New York. At this historic international gathering at the beginning of the new millennium, 189 member-states of the UN reached a consensus that rich and poor countries alike should work together to achieve peace and security, respect human rights, promote good governance and strive for development, with attention to the needs of the poor, the vulnerable and the children of the world, to whom the future belongs.[1] This was encapsulated in the Millennium Declaration of 2000.


Through the Millennium Declaration, the UN member-states, which included the Philippines, committed themselves to achieve a set of time-bound development goals and targets called the Millennium Development Goals or MDGs. The MDGs are clear, quantifiable goals and targets for global human development, which are anchored on eradicating extreme poverty by 2015.


(1) Why was there a need to set the eight goals?

At the turn of the new millennium, an estimated 1 billion people in the world were poor, i.e., living on less than US $1 a day, the international standard for measuring extreme poverty. Many were dying of hunger. Children did not survive infancy or were not able to go to school. Women died during childbirth. Women continued to be discriminated against. Diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis plagued the world. The environment continued to be degraded and exploited beyond its carrying capacity. These conditions have been the root of many of the problems  of the world –conflict, strife, unpeace, violence, instability and inequality.

In 2000, the UN took the lead in this worldwide campaign to end poverty, inequality and its consequences. By setting these eight goals that were quantifiable, measurable and time-bound, the message to end all forms of human deprivation became loud and clear: It can no longer be ‘business as usual’ and that we as a global community, after pledging to the achievement of the goals in September 2000, should be held accountable for achieving them. The MDGs were to become the rallying point for all countries to come together for this common end.

Supported by the UN, its resources and expertise, developed and developing countries mobilize financial support and political will, re-engage governments, re-orient development priorities and policies, build capacity and reach out to partners in civil society and the private sector.


(2) What are the eight goals?


The eight MDGs have been formulated in such a way that they are indeed measurable, quantifiable and realistic. Each of the eight goals has a set of targets. These targets are quantified through indicators that will be set as the benchmark for measuring each country’s progress.



Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

  • Halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015.
  • Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people.
  • Halve the proportion of population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption and halve the proportion of underweight children.
  • Halve the proportion of people with no access to safe drinking water or those who cannot afford it by 2015.


Achieve universal primary education

  • Ensure that children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015.



Promote gender equality and empower women.

  • Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015.



Reduce child mortality

  • Reduce  under-five mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015.


Improve maternal health.

  • Reduce maternal mortality rate by three-quarters by 2015.
  • Increase access to basic reproductive health services to 100% by 2015.


Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

  • Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015.
  • Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it.
  • Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.



Ensure environmental sustainability.

  • Implement national strategies for sustainable development by 2005, to reverse loss of environmental resources by 2015.
  • Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss.
  • Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
  • By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.


Develop a global partnership for development.

  • Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system. Includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction – both nationally and internationally.
  • Address the special needs of the least developed countries. Includes tariff and quota-free access to the least developed countries’ exports; enhanced programme of debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) and cancellation of official bilateral debt; and more generous ODA for countries committed to poverty reduction.
  • Address the special needs of landlocked developed countries and small island developing States and the outcome of the twenty-second special session of the General Assembly.
  • Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long term.
  • In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries.
  • In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.


(3) With only six years left to 2015, how is the world faring in the achievement of the MDGs?


Based on the 2009 Global MDG Report[2]:


  • Progress is moving too slow to achieve the MDGs by 2015.
  • While data is not available to assess the full impact of the economic crisis, progress on Goal 1 has slowed down due to the crisis. The most damage has been done to the number of people living in extreme poverty. The World Bank estimated this number to be around 55-90 million higher than expected because of the crisis.
  • 72 million children are out of school; half of them have never been inside a classroom. Efforts must be made to get all children in school, to eliminate inequalities based on gender and ethnicity.
  • The number of deaths of children under the age of five declined steadily, despite population growth.
  • Strong partnerships and strong national policies have resulted in protecting the ozone layer.
  • The least progress of all has been made on maternal health. Fewer than half of pregnant women received the WHO-recommended four prenatal medical visits.
  • The world is on track to meet the safe water target – but almost a quarter of the population in rural areas still uses unimproved sources of water.


(4) What has the Philippines achieved thus far?


While the Philippines is progressing well in its bid to achieve most of the targets, faster pace of gains is urgently needed to reach some of the 2015 goals, especially because poverty has increased in the country. Specifically, current trending shows that targets for Goal 2 (Achieve universal primary education) and Goal 5 (Improve maternal health) are least likely to be achieved. And while the country is still within the target of less-than-1-percent-of-the-population for HIV/AIDS, the rising number of HIV cases has become a cause for alarm as well.


On Goal 1:


Poverty incidence in the Philippines rose from 30 percent in 2003 when  population was at 80 million, to 33 percent in 2006, when population had ballooned to 86 million. With limited resources, poverty incidence continues to increase as the population increases.


Poverty in the Philippines is a rural phenomenon:


  • 70% of the poor live in rural areas;
  • 62% work in agriculture
  • 56% is self-employed
  • 12.9% is poor

Poverty incidence shows stark inequality:

  • 7% in Metro Manila
  • 60% in Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)


  • 44.2% of Luzon is poor
  • 20.5% of Visayas is poor
  • 35.4% of Mindanao is poor



On Goal 2:


  • About 5.2 million children are not in school.
  • 61% of young children are not ready for school
  • 53% are not enrolled in Grade 1
  • Majority of children drop out after Grades 1 and 2
  • The national average of cohort survival is 63.6%
  • Boys are twice likelier to repeat or drop out of school
  • Sulu Province in Mindanao has the smallest percentage of children enrolled in public primary schools at 62% compared to the national average of 81.7%

On Goal 5:

  • In 2008[3], an estimated 3.4 million Filipino women became pregnant.
  • 54% of these pregnancies (about 1.9 million) was unplanned.
  • Half of unplanned pregnancies result in abortion.
  • 11 mothers die every day due to pregnancy-related causes.
  • Women lack access to reproductive health services.

On Goal 6:

  • HIV cases among the youth have been increasing at an unprecedented rate.
  • HIV cases among the 15-24 year-old group nearly tripled from 41 in 2007 to 110 in 2008.[4]
  • Aside from youth, other vulnerable populations include: persons in prostitution and their clients, males who have sex with males, people who inject drugs, and overseas Filipino workers.[5]

(5) What needs to be done to ensure the attainment of the MDGs by 2015?

A country has to adopt a “not business as usual” policy and this means strengthening good governance, demonstrating political will, mobilizing financial support and political will, re-orienting priorities and policies, building capacity and reaching out to civil society and the private sector and engaging national support.

The Philippines has the “fertile ground” to achieve the MDGs and it must continue to explore this potential to its fullest and plant the seeds that will yield the best returns like what some municipalities and cities have done on MDG localization, or civil societies that have successfully lobbied for increases in budget spending on MDG issues, such as health, education and the environment.

The country can still do much in the political front by conscientiously working for good governance, accountability and transparency by eliminating the obstacles to it. In addition, the country needs to be conscious about the potential of its human capital and continue to invest in good quality education, health, nutrition, infrastructure to support the delivery of basic social services, and employment that will engender sustainable pro-poor growth.

To summarize, the challenges are many:

  • There is a need to raise adequate resources to fund the achievement of the MDGs;
  • Reverse the trends in social budgeting;
  • Sustain high economic pro-poor growth to reduce income inequality;
  • High population growth rate is diluting the gains of economic growth;
  • Address conflict issues since conflict hinders development;
  • Data acquisition, monitoring and reporting system, especially at the local level;
  • The MDGs must be brought to the local level where their achievement will be won or lost.


The issues and recommendations with regard to the four lagging MDGs are:

(1)    To reduce poverty, growth has to be inclusive, high and sustained. Economic growth is fundamental to poverty reduction but growth has to be high – at least 6%; growth has to be consistent and not up and down; growth must be broad-based, it must create jobs and economic opportunities; it must be inclusive and equitably shared or must benefit every sector of society.

(2)    National and local response to poverty reduction must be closely linked. Poverty reduction will be won or lost at the local level. Local government units (LGUs) that have targeted poverty reduction in their local development plans have shown gains. National and local governments must work hand-in-hand with all sectors in poverty reduction. LGUs must take the lead in translating national poverty interventions in their communities.

(3)    Education and maternal health are the best ways to combat poverty. The chances of getting out of poverty increase with:

(a)    Higher level of education – 2/3 of poor households is headed by those at best with primary education.

(b)   Smaller family size – Among poor families, 13% are 3-member families, while 54% are 9-member families. The non-poor in the Philippines have an average family size of 4.5; the poor have 5.9; and the core poor have 6.4.

(4)    Children should be ready for school. Young children should be exposed to early learning experiences at home and at school. Both venues should actively encourage learning through play. Parents should provide these experiences at home, seek this service out in their communities, and local officials should ensure it is available.

(5)    Schools should be ready for children. Teachers and education officials should be given the training and support to create a stimulating, healthy and safe learning environment. It should be free from violence. There should be the absence of intimidation and fear. Plus, the community and the children themselves are actively engaged in school improvement initiatives.

(6)    Keep both boys and girls in school. The whole community, including leaders, parents, students and teachers should work together to ensure all children in the area are enrolled. Efforts should also be made to help those who are at risk of dropping out.

(7)    No mother should die giving life. Every pregnancy must be considered a risk. Deliveries should be done by a skilled birth attendant in a health facility. Proper spacing of children also prevents maternal deaths by up to 40%[6], and infant deaths by up to 20%.

(8)    When pregnancy is wanted, abortion is prevented. Pregnant women who had not wanted a baby at all were likely to have an induced abortion. Findings suggest that we can prevent 89% of abortions in the Philippines if women desiring to delay or limit childbearing were to use modern but affordable, safe and highly effective methods of contraception.[7]

(9)    If a woman can plan the spacing of her children, she can plan her and her family’s life. When a woman bears children at the pace she chooses, she can be better prepared to take care of her and her family’s health, become more productive and live a fulfilling life.

(10)Sexual and reproductive rights are human rights. In 1968, the International Year for Human Rights, UN member-states recognized the right of individuals and couples to decide their family size.

(11)Investing in population and reproductive health is cost-effective. Couples who plan and limit their family size can spare more funds for their children’s education, food and health. A study showed that as much as 70% of the cost of programs for basic social services can be sourced out from savings incurred due to low population growth.[8] Investing in contraceptives would also save the government some PhP 800 million a year in medical costs for unintended pregnancies.[9]

(12)Population impacts all the MDGs. The larger the population a country has, the greater will be the pressure on basic social services and on natural resources. In the Philippines, more than one million babies are born every year. They will be needing resources in the future, such as healthcare, schooling, food, clothing and later on, employment. Even today, these needs are not being met.

(13)Protect the youth from HIV. Provide accurate information on AIDS. Access to comprehensive services for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can help prevent the spread of HIV.

(14)Local chief executives need to ensure that comprehensive STI services are in place and accessible at the local level.

(15)Local leaders should know the HIV and STI epidemic in their constituencies. We need to generate timely, strategic information for appropriate action. By knowing our epidemic, we can strengthen targeted interventions for the most at-risk and vulnerable populations. Knowing our epidemic will enable us to plan low-cost and high-impact interventions at the local and national levels.

(6) If these goals are achieved, how will the world look in 2015?

It will be a world of more harmony, a world that respects cultural and religious diversity and a world that has dramatically decreased the number of extremely poor.


The MDGs strike at the heart of what needs to be changed in the present. They are about a better future and what is possible, a future that we have chosen to take because we all believe in change and transformation into a better world – a world where no one can say that he is deprived of three square full meals a day; where each one of us had many choices; where every child can be properly nurtures, educated with life skills for a good future; where women are treated equally and enjoy equal opportunities; where we can breathe clean air, drink clean and safe water, enjoy the leisures that a clean environment provides and maintain food supply from a productive environment – a world that adheres to peace and security, respects human rights, practices good governance and protects the poor and vulnerable.




Human development is at the heart of the MDGs. In the final analysis, what should really drive all of us to attain the MDGs is the human development goal. The MDGs are all about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive and creative lives in accord with their needs and interests. These cannot be achieved if poverty persists, if access to education, knowledge, health and proper nutrition is denied and if developed countries remain oblivious to the inequitable conditions in the rest of the world.

The MDGs are feasible, but action is needed. The MDGs can be achieved, and they must be achieved because they are our future. They are the future of each one of us in this world.








[1] Officially, these are the key points of the Millennium Declaration.

[2] Global MDG Report 2009 launched in Geneva, Switzerland on July 6, 2009

[3] Guttmacher/UPI 2009

[4] National AIDS Registry, National Epidemiology Center

[5] AIDS Medium Term Plan IV, 2005-2010

[6] Lancet, 2006

[7] NDHS, 2003

[8] Orbeta, 2008

[9] Guttmacher/UPI 2009


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