In September 2000, 189 U.N. member states and more than 25 international organizations of public and private scope, committed themselves to the complex cause of extreme poverty reduction on a global scale. It was informally spoken of as the largest collective impact agreement at the time, marking history.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were the articulation of their commitment. It quantified targets for eight dimensions of addressing the poorest quintile of the world's human population -- the segments of society earning and subsisting on less than $1 a day -- the generally recognized international poverty line.
Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality
Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health
As with all multi-faceted socio-economic-environmental issues, the goals were interconnected and interdependent on succeeding in tandem. One could not reach gender parity without achieving universal primary education. And one could not reduce child mortality without improving maternal health. And onward and upward.
The goals also made visible the critical role girls and women have to play in their communities and countries. It was a recognition that although females comprised more than 50 percent of the human population worldwide, they were severely underrepresented in the educational system as well as among decision-making leadership positions across public and private sectors.
As a direct result of the MDGs, gender equalization in remote regions of second and third world nations have experienced constructive developments over the last 15 years, albeit uneven progress based on target indicators such as the gender parity index, which correlates girls' to boys' school enrolment ratios. For instance, Goal Two's target of gender equality at primary school level was attained, however, cultural and systemic obstacles to accessing secondary and tertiary educational levels remained essentially unmoved. Political participation in electoral structures has seen inroads. However, women's relegation to the informal economy versus participation in the formal economy continues to persist.
Overall, an uptick here, a downtick there and a leveling off elsewhere has raised questions of the effectiveness of the MDGs. Although critical evaluation is necessary and valid, the broader perspective is not should we continue, but how do we continue. Change writ large is a massive undertaking. Purposefully shifting economic evolution is akin to forging new cycles of creative destruction, a concept popularized by Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter and overused during the tech industry run-up of the 1990s.
Perhaps the MDGs are the "perennial gale of creative destruction," acting as catalysts that "incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one."
As we embark on 2015 with a long view towards the end date of the MDGs on December 31st, we have an opportunity to direct, shape and influence the next iteration, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And many have done so; more than a thousand recommendations from academics, non-governmental organizations and think-tank pundits have already been received. Multiple UN agencies and external groups, such as the Copenhagen Consensus, are currently collecting and collating data to determine the goals and targets for 2015 to 2030, and ultimately earmarking the $2.5 trillion in committed development aid.
Within the feedback framework, the UN is engaging individuals beyond insiders and stakeholders. My World is the first UN global survey open to all people and calls upon their input to help order the priorities of the SDGs. If there is ever a stateless plebiscite to partake in, it is one that induces the question: what kind of world do you want? And it is one that offers an opportunity to place your opinion in a voting vehicle that will deliver real-world impact in your own lifetime. In this micro-act, one can set in motion a force that will have macro-outcomes, perhaps driving the next perennial gale of creative destruction, destroying the old and creating the new.