Post 2015 Millennium Development Goals – What Next?

At the turn of the millennium, world leaders gathered together with the intent of releasing the developing world from the grip of extreme poverty . The ‘United Nations Millennium Declaration’ articulated a number of development goals that aimed to improve the livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Positive Outcomes                                                                                  The Extreme Poverty Rate

A number of the MDGs have already met, and even

exceeded expectations. 2014 U.N. data highlights a

number of encouraging results:

Drinking water access has been made available to an

additional 2.3 billion people and gender parity in

education has, by and large, been achieved.

Meanwhile, figures show a reduction in TB and malaria

related deaths, in line with 2015 targets. Furthermore,

extreme poverty in the developing world has been

halved (see  figure 1A).

 Lessons Learned

Despite this positivity, a number of the MDGs remain

unmet (see figure 1B). In an ideal world, the MDGs could

be achieved with little resistance from political, social and

economic forces. Global concerns over climate change,

security, resources and finance have made the attainment

of the MDGs elusive.

Trocaire’s 2010 publication entitled, ‘Countdown to 2015:

How can Ireland and the EU can save the Millennium

Development Goals’, sheds light on how the globalisation

of competition and financial turmoil in the developed

world has had severe ‘spinoff effects’ for developing

countries in terms of limited resources and growth opportunities.
Figure 1B

Figure 1B


Moving Forward: Post-2015 Framework

 1) Local vs Global Goals
One of the main critiques of the MDGs is the fact that progress has been inconsistent across regions. Trocaire (2010) note that significant economic growth in China in the past decade has lifted a vast number of people out of  poverty. However, by contrast, certain regions of sub-Saharan Africa have experienced  limited progress.

Globalised goals can give a skewed picture of what the reality is as they provide median figures for a collection of very different regions. A number of authors suggest that  the post-2015 goals should adopt a more localised approach, with attainable goals for specific regions, as opposed to general worldwide development standards.

2)      Descriptive vs Prescriptive
The MDGs described clear indicators of development, but failed to provide prescriptive policies to support the attainment of these goals. Von der Hoeven (2012) suggests that post-2015 agreements should focus on the governmental policies that underpin development.

This would ensure that the emphasis would centre on creating a deep appreciation for development, versus the more  goal-based approach employed in the form of the MDGs. However, without hard goals it can be hard to measure the extent of development, as vague guidelines and policy prescriptions replace hard numbers and targets. This will be a critical discussion during the formulation of the post-2015 plan.

3)      Developing /Developed World Balance
The MDG agenda was largely formulated by the first world, donor community. Post-2015 discussions must be a joint venture that include both donors and beneficiaries. Without this balance, the new framework will run the risk of ignoring the acute insight of the people of the developing world.

Southern governments, social innovators and people must have a sense of ownership of the design of the new framework. This will guarantee that the ‘Post-2015’ agreement will not be solely developed by a group of outsiders looking in. Consequently, it will be formulated from an internal and external viewpoint, thus offering  more realism and a united front against poverty.

4)      Broader definitions of ‘poverty’
We often imagine poverty as something that is merely a third world problem and ignore the deprivation on our own doorstep. In fact, 74% of the world’s poorest reside in ‘middle-income countries’ (Dochas, 2012).The ‘Post-2015’ strategy must pursue the eradication of poverty in all countries , regardless of what development status they may be branded with.

Poverty is an absolute concept, but it is also relative in nature. Ireland, for example, is a developed country but there is a growing inequality divide between rich and poor (Trocaire, 2012). We must be aware that poverty affects every society, albeit at different levels of extremity. Trocaire (2012) suggest that the next set of goals must be extended to include broader definitions of poverty, while still giving priority to the most severe cases of impoverishment.

Likewise, definitions of poverty must be broadened. Poverty at its most basic form is a lack of income and resources, but poverty is also a mindset caused by outside pressures. Dochas (2012) note that these forces can include ‘the impact of climate change, conflict, insecurity and human rights violations’.

Final Thoughts

The ‘Post-2015’ framework must be universally empowering. The developed world has much to offer their developing counterparts, however we must be sure that the focus remains firmly on sustainable economic and social development and not short term ‘quick fixes’.

We must empower the developing world with tools for change. Eventually, dependence must be replaced with independence as societies grow out of economic infancy. The age-old cliché still rings true:

‘If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime’.

This is a process, and will not happen overnight, but it is an attainable goal for the next 15 years.


Dochas. (2012). Dóchas Submission to EC Public Consultation. Dochas.

Melamed, C. (2012). Post-2015: The Road Ahead. Overseas Development Institute.

Trocaire. (2010). Countdown to 2015: How can Ireland and the EU help save the Millennium Development Goals. Trocaire Publication.

Trocaire. (2012). Beyond 2015: Where next for the Millennium Development Goals? Event Report. Trocaire Publication.

United Nations. (2014). The Millennium Development Goals Report 2014. UN Working Paper.

Von der Hoeven, R. (2012). MDGs post 2015: Beacons in turbulent times or false lights?. UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.