Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Can the millennium development goals be attained?

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 12 August 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:394
  1. Andy Haines, dean1,
  2. Andrew Cassels, director, health and development policy2
  1. 1 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  2. 2 World Health Organization, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to: A Haines

    To achieve the UN's goals worldwide, less developed countries need to address weaknesses in health systems and policy makers need to look beyond aggregate national figures to inequalities in outcomes


    In September 2000 the largest ever gathering of heads of state ushered in the new millennium by adopting the UN Millennium Declaration.1 The declaration, endorsed by 189 countries, was then translated into a roadmap setting out goals to be reached by 2015.2

    The eight goals in the section on development and poverty eradication are known as the millennium development goals. They build on agreements made at major United Nations' conferences of the 1990s and represent commitments to reduce poverty and hunger, to tackle ill health, gender inequality, lack of education, lack of access to clean water, and environmental degradation (box). The big difference from their predecessors is that rather than just set targets for what developing countries aspire to achieve, the goals are framed as a compact that recognises the contribution that developed countries can make through fair trade, development assistance, debt relief, access to essential medicines, and technology transfer. Without progress in these areas (summarised in the final goal) the poorest countries will face an uphill struggle to achieve the other goals. The notion of the goals as a compact between North and South was reaffirmed at the international conference on financing development in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002.3

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    Achieving the millennium development goals requires steep declines in maternal and child mortality


    Health and the millennium development goals

    Health is central to the achievement of the millennium development goals—both in its own right (see goals 4, 5, and 6), and as a contributor to several others. For instance, the impact of poverty on ill health is well known and extensively documented. Ill health can also be an important cause of …

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