Global lies?

A partial history of UN development goals,
and some global social science



Matt Berkley

24 July 2021



Global lies?

A partial history of UN development goals,
and some global social science


Claims by world leaders, academics and others
on global goals, progress and policies

compared to

original UN resolutions, other documents and meanings of words









Governments spend billions of dollars on "development"  research.

Suppose tax money misleads citizens about progress.

Suppose tax money misleads citizens about the promises.

World leaders, academics, and others often tell a different story from official documents on global goals, progress and some influential large-scale social science.




"Article 25.

Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:

(a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs"

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Adopted by General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI), December 1966
Entered into force 23 March 1976

Status of ratification and reservations by nations:


A few problems in global development

If the poorest die, economists say people did better:
  the basis of some policy advice from rich countries

- "Ending extreme poverty by 2030" is in fact based on an idea which is partly inhumane:
if you are forced to spend more, you "rise out of poverty".

-  The official World Bank "poverty" research team have said that countries "frequently change the questionnaires"; also, the figures are not based on either inflation rates faced by poor people or changing needs, assets or debts.  But the concept of poverty is clearly about whether things are enough, not whether their level is high or low independent of need.  Strangely, none of this stops the World Bank and others misleading the public that they have figures on poverty trends.


Governments mislead in UN resolutions that some goals agreed in 2015 for 2030 are "supremely ambitious".  

The existing goals agreed before 2015 include safe water and sanitation for all by 2025, and by 2020 in the poorest countries.

In 2011 the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries agreed the goals for 2020.

At the 2012 UN sustainable development conference, countries agreed it was important to base new goals on Agenda 21 - which contains the goals for 2025. 

In 2012, countries promised to achieve Agenda 21 in full. 

In 2015, leaders reaffirmed all the relevant conference and summit outcomes - which includes Agenda 21 and the Least Developed Countries goals. 

In 2015, 2016 and 2017, UN member governments reaffirmed Agenda 21 in the UN General Assembly, in resolutions with no country voting against.  Yet they are not reporting on the more ambitious agreed goals.   They are having it both ways.

Nations are in fact violating their agreements to "implement", "follow up" and "review progress on" existing goals.  

The UN resolutions clearly say that the Economic and Social Council and the all-country High-Level Political Forum should follow up all the conference and summit outcomes

- not just the "SDGs" for 2030, some of which are easier. 


In 2017, five UN agencies reported the wrong numbers for "food insecurity".

The numbers they are supposed to report would be embarrassing, such as about 10% "moderately or severely food-insecure" people in the United States.

The FAO wrongly claimed that "severe food insecurity" is the SDG indicator. 

UN agencies are not independent, and nor are the World Bank or IMF.  Their governing boards are from member governments, who are accountable to their citizens for how they act towards the agencies.

Governments, schools and universities give a wrong impression that leaders in 2000 pledged to achieve goals in 25 years, when numerous documents show the pledges were for 15 years. 

The wrong impression is in heads of state and governments' 2015 Summit declaration and in speeches at that Summit.

Authorities mislead the species that the whole UN development agenda was just some weaker, narrower goals for 2015 rather than those actually agreed in resolutions.

They mislead even though nations reaffirmed the actual commitments at the 2005 and 2010 summits, at the 2012 Rio conference, and in numerous General Assembly resolutions.

The words "Millennium Development Goals" themselves mislead.

Official FAO claims of success on hunger pledges depend on an indicator and targets which were not agreed:

It was pointed out in 2015 that the FAO was misrepresenting an agreed target.  An FAO statistician with a key role in monitoring global progress responded.  He emphatically contradicted, without evidence, the earlier documents which disproved his point:  the FAO did change to an easier target than the World Food Summit had agreed in 1996.


UK schools have been teaching clear falsehoods about commitments in UN resolutions.  UNICEF has been actively involved in these falsehoods.   

School examination boards, both for the UK and for other countries, mislead on UN pledges

School examination board misleads on safe water



The BBC Editor's Choice web page on global poverty and its award-winning World Service statistics programme "More or Less" gave a fictional account of the World Bank research method. 

They misled that the World Bank estimate inflation faced by the poor

Instead of answering the complaint on this, the BBC Trustees misled the public about it. 

Many Oxford Reference books understate UN commitments

China, Russia, the UK, the UK parliament "scrutiny" committee and the BBC overstate success on child survival promise


Amazingly, the same news organisations which in 2000 correctly reported Millennium Summit commitments, in 2015 understated them:

It seems most relevant articles in the Lancet mislead on world leaders' promises of 2000:

In 2015 the Lancet was informed that, in addition, its editor and ombudsman had misled in the same way.

After this, the Lancet has carried on misleading its readers that nations had agreed 25-year targets when the truth was 15.   The Lancet ombudsman's published report makes no reference to his own error or the fact that I suggested it would be more suitable for someone to adjudicate who had not made it.

In 2017 the Lancet Commission on Pollution:
1) spread baseless propaganda about an "MDG" target for "safe" water being met using the wrong baseline and the wrong definition, and

2) gave a false impression of both pre-2015 and post-2015 sustainable development goals -  in line with the usual propaganda version making recent governments look better, misleading the public that goals are new or ambitious compared to the past.


UN Statistics Division information on "Millennium" Development Goal indicators

UN Statistics Division information on Sustainable Development Goal indicators




Computers now do the work of millions of clerks, accountants, researchers and so on. 

Taking that into account:

What should we reasonably expect as progress on human nutrition?


When governments allow citizens to be misinformed
pledges or progress,

what human rights agreements
are not broken?



Governments and world leaders at the UN
keep recommitting to previous agreements,
such as goals to meet by a particular date.  

Are they acting in the spirit of the promises

giving up on goals whose deadlines have passed,

rather than

trying to meet them
as soon as possible
and telling us about progress?



Some important claims about international pledges and human progress, repeated by world leaders, prominent academics, school examination boards and others, do not in fact have support from the original documents.







Some ways to use this material:

You might like to search for issues or names using your computer.

The evidence is mostly in date order, so you can find some documents that way.
The draft index may help.

Partial, detailed list of contents including some internationally agreed goals 

Partial index



I appreciate the great efforts by many farmers, labourers, mothers, fathers, and workers and volunteers in many spheres of activity who have worked attempting to make the world better for the creatures who live, and may live, here.

It is clear that efforts and agreements between nations, and within them, have achieved much in recent generations for the human race:  food for a vastly increased population, improved survival chances, advances in legal protection, and cultural shifts towards more equality of treatment for some groups in some respects or in some situations.  

We all make mistakes, and we all give in to temptation.   

The fact people make mistakes does not necessarily mean they have done anything wrong, or failed.

I have made mistakes similar to some I have identified.  I have had deep moral failings.  I have been part of the same cultural-intellectual-social-political-moral problem.

In 2002 the work of Thomas Pogge and Sanjay Reddy reminded me of at least one concern I had in 2000 about influential policy recommendations by economists, which included that they did not look at prices faced by the poor.

In 2013 I became aware of what leaders had pledged in 2000 at the Millennium Summit, through observations by Thomas Pogge.  I do not know whether I had seen related observations by him previously.  



2018: "World's Largest Lesson" continues to push propaganda to children

I like the idea of people working together to improve life for all sentient creatures in and on the earth.  

(It is very difficult to predict the long-term effect you have.  It may be very difficult to predict the short-term effect.  It is difficult to be sure about other beings' experience.  Even if you could be certain about that, it would be difficult to define or add up happiness or well-being.)

I also like the idea of people being told the truth about global goals and large-scale research.

Otherwise, people are more likely to get the wrong ideas about governments' successes and failures, and the wrong ideas about policy successes and failures; and to have their democratic power taken away.

If governments allow people to be misled on government pledges, and on human progress, what human rights agreements are not broken?




Apart from governments, UN agencies and the BBC, some organisations which have been linked to The World's Largest Lesson or Project Everyone:


Can you see anything questionable here?



The World's Largest Lesson authors say some bizarre things:

1. The authors claim to know about poverty from what people spend but not their needs. 

Why are they saying a definite number of people are in extreme poverty?  

The official numbers are on a fixed amount of money per person, not adjusted for people's needs. 

Is poverty not where your needs are greater than your resources?   

Why do Project Everyone and UNICEF assume poor people need the same in different years?

2. The authors claim to know about countries' performance on water safety - but it is not clear there is any research on such a trend.  

The UN agencies have been reporting trends using statistics on type of source, not quality or safety.

3. The World's Largest Lesson does not say when countries are supposed to have halved the proportion without "safe" water.   Is it based, like the other claims, on the idea that the 147 countries agreed to halve the proportion from the 1990 level?

The Millennium pledge was from the 2000 level.   Contrary to the standard belief, the "MDG" water target proposed in 2001 says nothing about 1990 either.   After the easier "MDGs" were proposed, the General Assembly specifically agreed a baseline of 2000 for water in December 2001.

4. It is not clear why the authors say progress was "a result of the MDGs" or why they call the numbers "what was achieved through the MDGs".    

5. Why did they write the year 2000 for the "MDGs" being agreed?   

I have looked at the resolutions the UN Statistics Division and academics talk about, and cannot find any references to "Millennium Development Goals" in any documents of 2000.  

The Millennium Declaration says nothing about that easier 1990 baseline, and nor, as far as I know, did any of the 180-plus speakers at the Summit.

So it seems that the World's Largest Lesson misleads that the easier targets are what leaders agreed in 2000.

The problem is not just this material or this organisation.

The problem is that this kind of misinformation is widespread from governments and commentators.

The same material appeared in a course for teachers in September 2017 co-authored by UNICEF, with thanks to UNESCO:


Below:  In the same course, The World's Largest Lesson confuses:

a) the generally easier "MDGs" proposed by the Secretary-General in 2001 - to which member states responded in resolution 56/95 of 14 December 2001 not by endorsing them, but instead asking UN civil servants to publicise the Millennium Declaration,


b) world leaders' formal pledges in the Millennium Declaration which they or their successors reaffirmed in 2005 and 2010.

In fact even without mention of the year 2000, the words "Millennium Development Goals" can give the same wrong impression.

The suggestion below is interesting because if the ideal was to tell people what nations had agreed at the millennium, there seems to have been a general failure, including by these authors.

It is strange that governments and UN agencies have used the public's money to deceive them about leaders' commitments. 

The quiz answer below reminds me of the Global Citizen Festival in 2015, when the BBC broadcast an actor on a stage saying, basically, "you can't fight for your rights unless you know what they are".

He was speaking in a programme which included the false implication that world leaders in 2000 had adopted the easier targets.

The World's Largest Lesson, the misleading "No Going Halfway" film shown around the world and the Global Goals website are produced by Project Everyone:




Below: In the same course for teachers, the World's Largest Lesson makes the new Sustainable Development Goals look newer than they are.

The "MDGs" were only part of the agreed agenda before the SDGs.   It is striking, if you look at previous summits and resolutions, how much nations were already committed to or aiming at - in some respects going back decades:


Is "integrating" economic, social and environmental dimensions, with concern for people, planet, peace, prosperity and partnership, "new"?


Let's look at some evidence.

It should perhaps already be clear that the UN has since the start been about "people, peace, prosperity and partnership".   The symbol is a dove.

"The General Assembly...

Taking note also
of Economic and Social Council resolution
[...] on the convening of a United Nations conference on environment and development...

...the major cause of the continuing deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of production and consumption...

...poverty and environmental degradation are closely interrelated... environmental protection in developing countries viewed as an integral part of the development process...

that the Conference, in addressing environmental issues in the developmental context, should have the following objectives:..

...action to deal with major environmental issues in the socio-economic development processes of all countries....

...sustainable and environmentally sound development with special emphasis on incorporating environmental concerns in the economic and social development process"


Suppose a teacher in Nigeria or India took the course.

How long ago would they think that resolution was?

It is Resolution 44/228 from 22 December 1989.

[the UN web address says 226 rather than 228]

Here is another pledge from a UN resolution.

"We pledge ourselves individually and collectively
to undertake the measures necessary to implement the Strategy.

...six interrelated goals must be met.

They are:

(a) A surge in the pace of economic growth in the developing countries;

(b) A development process that is responsive to social needs, seeks a significant reduction in extreme poverty, promotes the development and utilization of human resources and skills and is environmentally sound and sustainable..."

United Nations General Assembly Resolution 45/199
International Development Strategy for the Fourth United Nations Development Decade
21 December 1990

From Agenda 21, agreed by governments at the 1992 Rio Conference on Environment and Development for "now and into the 21st century": 

"integration of environment and development concerns and greater attention to them
will lead to the fulfilment of basic needs, improved living standards for all,
better protected and managed ecosystems and a safer, more prosperous future."

"3.4. The long-term objective of enabling all people to achieve sustainable livelihoods
should provide an integrating factor that allows policies to address issues of development,
sustainable resource management and poverty eradication simultaneously.

The objectives of this programme area are:

(a)  To provide all persons urgently with the opportunity to earn a sustainable livelihood;"

United Nations Division for Sustainable Development
Agenda 21
Chapter 3



117 Heads of State or Government at the World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, 1995: 

"19. Poverty has various manifestations, including
lack of income and productive resources sufficient to ensure sustainable livelihoods;
hunger and malnutrition;
ill health;
limited or lack of access to education and other basic services;
increased morbidity and mortality from illness;
homelessness and inadequate housing;
unsafe environments; and
social discrimination and exclusion."

Public money deceiving the public, 2017:


The above is more propaganda making current governments look better than they are.

It is hardly difficult to see that social, environmental and economic policies affect poor people.  If you think about it, it may seem ludicrous to suggest that before "now" it was not "recognised".

And it is.

In 1992, UN member states at the Rio Conference on Environment and Development agreed Agenda 21.

It includes goals for 2025.  Its first section is 70 pages on "Social and Economic Dimensions".

"156. Because health. nutrition and general well-being depend upon the integrity and productivity of the environment and resources, measures should continue to be developed and carried out to promote the environmental and ecological soundness of developmental activities."

Resolution adopted by the General Assembly
35/56. International Development Strategy
for the Third United Nations Development Decade
5 December 1980

The kinds of misleading information put out by UNICEF and Project Everyone are widespread.


Above: Strange statement, in view of the course's - UNICEF's:

- misrepresenting data as on "poverty" and "safe water",

- understating the pledges of 2000, and

- falsely presenting key aspects of the 2016-2030 agenda as new.

Below: The World's Largest Lesson confuses the World Bank "international" or "purchasing power parity" dollars with real US dollars worth far more.

So, other things being equal, this greatly overstates what poor people can buy. 

But in any case it is not hard to see that it is not wise to use these statistics as showing "poverty".  Other things are not equal, because for one thing the World Bank use statistics which do not include the value of living in your own house rather than having to pay rent.   It is far from clear how meaningful comparisons can be made of the value of housing in different environments.

The passage is liable to mislead in claiming "poverty" is "measured" by money without consideration of needs.   

Would it not be more accurate to say

"extreme poverty, currently not measured as people living on..."?



Perhaps you understand these two images from the Global Goals website better than I do.

I don't see how "1.8 billion" fits with "9% of the world population".

Can you say what might explain the chart below?



The "poverty" and "undernourishment" indicators are in the Sustainable Development Goals framework. 

A different official method, Sustainable Development Goals indicator 2.1.2, is based on eight questions to individuals: "moderate or severe food insecurity".

The Secretary-General's 2016 SDG progress report estimated that 20.5% of adults were in that category in 2015, up from 20% the previous year (though the statistics may not be reliable enough to be sure about that). 

If it applied to the same proportion of children, that would be about 1500 million people.

That is not far from double the usual UN figure for "undernourished" people (around 800 million). 

In September 2017 the FAO updated the "undernourishment" statistics above. They stated there was a recent rise in the "undernourishment" numbers.

They did not report the new SDG indicator - "moderate or severe food insecurity" - and did not explain why, instead reporting "severe" food insecurity.

The global hunger figure emphasised by the UN is around 11%.  

For the United States, the latest official figure for adult "moderate or severe food insecurity", for 2014 -  for the official SDG indicator - is around 10%. 

So is the UK figure, given in an FAO "technical report" of 2016.  

Voices of the Hungry, FAO Technical Report 1.  August 2016   

The 2017 report from the Secretary-General and the main UN 2017 nutrition report (The State of Food Security and Nutrition) have no numbers for the SDG "food security" indicator - even leaving out those which did appear in last year's report.

That is perhaps surprising.  For one thing, people might be interested to see baseline estimates for the start of the SDG period 2016-30.  (It may be more honest, though, for some indicators to say there is no reliable baseline.)

The nutrition report (which does not in fact have much detail on nutrition in the human species) has figures for "severe" food insecurity among people rather than on the actual indicator, "moderate or severe".

In the 2017 report, the 2014 and 2015 percentages are higher than those given in 2016 for those years.  Perhaps that is because the new figures are for children as well.  Perhaps the FAO have assumed that if adults lack food, children are likely to be even worse off.

The figures for adults in 2014-2015 are both 7.7:

(2016 Statistical Annex to UN Secretary-General's progress report on SDGs)

The figures for people of all ages in 2014-2015 are 9.2 and 8.8:

(2017 State of Food Security and Nutrition report from five UN agencies)

So the UN estimates for the actual SDG indicator - "moderate or severe", among all people - for 2014-5, which for unnamed reasons the agencies have not published, may be higher than the 20% and 20.5% given for adults.

(I do not know why the new figures indicate a fall from 2014 to 2015.  As in other contexts, it is not clear what the uncertainty figures in brackets for individual years tell us about the UN's assessment of uncertainty about the trend, which might be more helpful [provided we can trust what the figures are telling us.])

How do the statistics in the UN reports relate to the agreed targets?

One of the Millennium pledges was to halve the proportion of people who "suffer from hunger". 

Clearly, that would include more than just people who are chronically, severely lacking in calories, or just those who are "severely food insecure".

So these "severe" statistics do not relate well to the Millennium pledge.


What about the 2016-30 Sustainable Development Goal targets?

"2.1     By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round

2.2       By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition..."

Perhaps some of the leaders are not really leaders, but doing what they think other people want.

It is not clear what the five UN agencies, or the Secretary-General, are telling us about progress overall on the actual targets mentioned by national leaders.

Note: Eight yes/no questions may not be enough to give precise estimates. 

The questionnaire does not give much information on nutrients, and does not ask whether family members died.  

I do not know whether people may end up giving different answers over time from the answers people gave in a similar situation before.

The inhumane idea that if you are forced to spend more, you rise out of poverty

[?] share held [!] by lowest 20%

Definition: Percentage share of income or consumption [! – in fact spending] is the share that accrues to [!] subgroups of population"

Poverty - Source and Definitions,,print:Y~isCURL:Y~contentMDK:20522391~menuPK:1202036~pagePK:34004173~piPK:34003707~theSitePK:841175~isCURL:Y,00.html

Above, the World Bank claims to "define" what people earn as what they spend.

They say the "inequality" measure is on "income share held by the poorest 20%".  

But most of these numbers are on what people said they spent.

Too often, as in the second definition above, economists and others call the numbers "consumption", which they clearly are not.  

Where people pay for things, these numbers do not attempt to describe what people consume, but what they spend.  They also include researchers' guesses on the money value of what researchers decide are relevant such as what people gather, fish, hunt or farm for themselves, even though there may be no relevant market nearby to value the items.  

The economic researchers claim to have values for what people consume, even though the WHO and UNICEF researchers have admitted for years that there are few reliable numbers on water quality.   That seems like a basic omission.

Or the economists, politicians, journalists and others call the numbers "income" when they are not.  

Or if the researchers claim on the basis of some of the hundreds of millions of illiterate people saying how much they spent on every item in the last few weeks, that their spending has risen, they call this "rising out of poverty".

This kind of lunacy infected policy advice from rich countries and intergovernmental organisations, to poorer countries.

The strange ideas seem to affect many claims on "inequality" as well as on what people for some reason call "poverty" and which policies are "good for the poor".

Tax money from citizens has been spent on academics, civil servants, travel, conferences, publications, websites, broadcasts and "think-tanks" with the result of misleading the public -

- using a "measure of poverty" which none of the people paid to use it would in their right mind ever apply to themselves.


"The idea of "leave no-one behind" makes sense, if, at least:

1) people do not die before they get the chance,

2) they do not suffer permanent serious injury from malnutrition or other cause before they get the chance, and

3) they are not misled enough to exclude them from informed decisions."









"People talk about better data for the SDGs.
But who will watch for misuse
 of data?"

Submission to UK House of Commons International Development Committee

Published by the Committee on 15 September 2015.


In the document, I showed the UK's parliamentary "scrutineers" the text of what leaders had pledged in 2000 on saving lives. 

It wa
s more ambitious than the "MDG" targets proposed in 2001.

It is not clear when nations may have agreed the "MDG" targets.

The same parliamentary committee, in its final report for this inquiry, and in a new report of November 2017, in effect again understated world leaders' commitments.







"The phrase "Millennium Development Goals" has misled hundreds of millions of people. 

Those targets are generally easier than the solemn pledges at the Millennium Summit. 

They are easier than some agreed goals from UN meetings.

Leaders explicitly reaffirmed the other targets and promises in 2005 and 2010. 

So it is not clear why people think the narrow "MDG" targets were the UN agenda.

Perhaps even more misleading is the policy and publicity focus, which persists after 2015, on gradual progress towards goals   

-  rather than rights for all humans, which were a large part of setting up the UN in the first place and have been emphasised by leaders in declarations ever since."



The discussion below may raise choices about future education and government.

Are children now being disabled by their education from acting as citizens in a democracy?

If information is a significant part of poverty, are governments and institutions increasing poverty, even among those who do not think they are poor?

There are more examples.



Have you heard of the Millennium Development Goals?


What do you think they were?

Who agreed them?

Have you heard of the Sustainable Development Goals?

How are they different?

Are you sure the UN development agenda has been just the "MDGs" and SDGs?

You may be surprised to learn that the so-called "Millennium Development Goals" were not what was agreed at the millennium.  

Here is what leaders said at the 2010 Summit on the "MDGs".
You may like to read just the highlighted words.

"We underscore...all...conferences...and...commitments...
...these...commitments...constitute the ...framework....

That seems quite clear. 

World leaders in 2010 said their commitments are from all the conferences and summits, not just the "MDGs"

They said those commitments were the UN framework for development.

Leaders are, unsurprisingly, supposed to be ensuring quality education.  

So children must be being taught about these promises – is that right?


It is "right" in a moral sense, if you believe it is right for leaders to be honest and helpful.

But it is not true.

In 1995 the biggest gathering of national leaders in history at the time agreed something very sensible.


Leaders in 1995 said that poverty is partly being deprived of information. 

It seems governments have been depriving you, or your parents, or your children, of information. 

Would you say that is oppression?

Is it deprivation?

Is it inequality?

Is it corruption?

If you look at the contents pages for the document you are reading now, you can see some commitments by governments to the species. 

Frankly, the more I see humans deceiving each other – knowingly or not – about these serious matters, the more I wonder whether we are worth more than other animals.  

I think it is at least worth taking care of other creatures just in case.

Here is text from a web page for a 2007 UN report saying what the agenda was. 

If you like, you can read the text highlighted in blue.

Those words are quite similar to what leaders said in 2010.

The conferences and summits would seem to include human rights
 agreements, because those would seem to be in the "economic, social and related fields", the phrase which leaders used in 2010.

The agreements at conferences also include goals for 2010 and 2015 which are more ambitious or wider than "MDG" targets, and goals for 2025 more ambitious than "SDG" targets.

So it is not clear to me why members of parliament, or academics, or charities, or other people, have been telling you about some goals and not others.  

This seems obvious:

If leaders make a pledge, then a similar pledge, and one is to achieve more progress, then the easier target (here, in several cases an "MDG" target) is other things being equal far less relevant to holding governments to account. 

Also, when people say "the SDGs are better than the MDGs because of x", I wonder why they seem to compare the wrong things.  

The comparison seems to ignore much of what governments were already committed to before the 2015 summit – which may imply obligations now.

The first extract was from the 2010 Summit. 

What did leaders say in 2015?

"We reaffirm the outcomes of all major United Nations conferences and summits..."

means that in 2015 leaders reaffirmed existing promises, including those of the 1990s and earlier, which went beyond the "MDGs".

But leaders at that September 2015 summit also took the view that some promises did not expire until 31 December 2015.

So why did leaders not mention them, make or talk about efforts to meet them, or authorise public statements about progress on them?

Even if the commitments had expired, the General Assembly had in any case explicitly set itself the task, including in the agenda for the 2015 meeting, of implementing and following up the conferences and summits.  

So how were leaders in 2015, and how are governments now, fulfilling their stated intentions, which might reasonably be seen as promises to the people, by avoiding any reports about key dated and undated commitments and goals?


Is reviewing progress on commitments and aims not an essential part of democracy, and learning from the past?

Why did leaders and their governments not mention some key promises, before, during or after the September summit?


Where is the progress report on the promises and goals for 2015?


How does it make sense to "reaffirm" the promises which are about to end, but not tell people what they are, or how they think the species has done on those promises?

Is that not more like not reaffirming the promises?

One of the promises, agreed at a huge conference in Mexico in 2002, was to publicise the agreed goals from previous conferences and summits.

Have governments done that? 


Are governments doing that in 2020?


Do you know what your government has actually been promising you?



Leaders in 2015 mentioned goals for not just 2030 but also 2020 and  2025.

(Some of these goals already existed.)

But what about the other current sustainable development goals for 2020 and 2025?

Some goals for 2025 were agreed in 1992.  They were in Agenda 21. 

The 2011 Conference on Least Developed Countries agreed goals of water and sanitation for all by 2020.

Strangely, leaders in 2015 left these out, and instead claimed to agree similar goals for 2030, but as usual, reaffirmed conference outcomes - which includes Agenda 21 and the Least Developed Countries conference.

These leaders, like those before them, have kept reaffirming in effect,

"all the major conference and summit outcomes and commitments"


"the internationally agreed goals, including those in the Millennium Declaration",


"the internationally agreed goals, including the Millennium Development Goals".

Agenda 21 is one of the conference outcomes, and so are the goals for 2020.

Also, some commitments reaffirmed by leaders in 2005, 2010 and 2015 clearly do not "expire".


What did leaders say in 2005?


That is from the 2005 World Summit outcome document.  It looks as clear as the 2010 and 2015 commitments.

Why have I put a line through part of the text?

Because it is liable to mislead.

Leaders in 2000 agreed
pledges, including 15-year pledges. 

These were generally more ambitious than what are for some reason called "MDG" targets, some of which were for 25 years.

You may have been surprised to learn that the so-called "Millennium Development Goal" targets were not agreed at the Millennium Summit. 

They were proposed in September 2001, and are of more dubious status in UN resolutions.   

On 14 December 2001, instead of agreeing the "MDGs", UN member countries responded to the Secretary-General's "Road Map" containing them by reaffirming their actual 15-year pledges and other pledges more ambitious than the "MDG" targets.

The prime ministers, presidents and so on said at the 2005 summit:

"we resolve...To...implement...strategies to achieve the...agreed...goals...including the Millennium Development Goals".

Leaders' promise here is odd, because it is not clear which meeting if any had "agreed" the "MDG" targets at all.

In any case, we can ask, as with the 2015 summit: 

How could nations

agree easier targets
than the formal pledges in the Millennium Declaration,

yet at the same time

reaffirm the more ambitious pledges?

That would be like saying in 2000

"I promise to give you ten pounds"

and then saying

"the target is five pounds, and I reaffirm the original promise".

But it may not be clear what leaders meant by "Millennium Development Goals". 

It may not be clear what citizens
(the people to whom the commitment was made) thought leaders were saying.
The US made contradictory statements, but at times insisted even after the 2005 summit that it had not agreed the "MDG" structure.   

It said that when leaders agreed statements about "Millennium Development Goals" they meant the goals in the Millennium Declaration. 

Perhaps the differences about that are the reason for leaders' very odd language in 2005:

"goals…agreed at the Millennium Summit that are described as the Millennium Development Goals".    

It is odd because that Summit did not agree goals usually "described as the Millennium Development Goals" - meaning the targets for 2015.

Leaders' words could mean the undated goals such as "Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger".

But people often think "Millennium Development Goals" means the targets.

At the 2005 Summit George W. Bush did mention commitment to the "MDGs". 

That sounds like a commitment to the unagreed "MDG" targets as well as the agreed goals from the conferences and summits.

Now, you may like to look again at the first quotation above.  Leaders in 2010 referred to the "MDGs" being agreed at a conference or summit.   Again, I do not know what they mean. 


If you look at the 2015 summit declaration, you can see that leaders in 2015 misled citizens.

They did so not just by avoiding mention of their specific commitments in the Millennium Declaration and other documents, and avoiding other targets, but also by giving the wrong impression that what was agreed in 2000 was the generally easier "Millennium Development Goal" targets.

The Millennium Declaration was partly a 15-year plan, and said nothing at all about 1990-2015.




Did charities forget about the global commitments the UN was supposed to review?

"At its substantive session of 2001, the
Economic and Social Council recommended that the General Assembly examine how best to address the reviews of the implementation of the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits of the 1990s, including their format and periodicity (Council resolution 2001/21).

At its fifty-sixth session, in 2001, the General Assembly decided to include the item entitled "Integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic and social fields" (resolution 56/211) in the provisional agenda of its fifty-seventh session.

At its fifty-seventh session, the General Assembly decided to include the item in its annual agenda and invited the Secretary-General to submit a report on the subject (resolution 57/270 B).

The General Assembly considered this item at its fifty-seventh to sixtieth sessions (resolutions 57/270 A and 57/270 B, 58/291, 59/145, 59/314, 60/180, 60/251, 60/260, 60/265 and 60/283 and decision 60/551 C [page 154]).

At its sixtieth session, the General Assembly held a High-level Plenary Meeting from 14 to 16 September 2005 in New York with the participation of Heads of State and Government and adopted the 2005 World Summit Outcome (resolution 60/1).

At the same session, in implementing the provisions of the 2005 World Summit Outcome, the General Assembly established the Peacebuilding Commission (resolution 60/180) and the Human Rights Council (resolution 60/251). ..., the General Assembly decided to dedicate a specific meeting focused on development, including an assessment of progress over the previous year, at each session of the General Assembly during the debate on the follow-up to the Millennium Declaration and the 2005 World Summit Outcome; and requested the Secretary-General to report on progress made in the implementation of the development outcome of the 2005 World Summit in the framework of the comprehensive report on the follow-up to the Millennium Declaration and the 2005 World Summit Outcome (resolution 60/265).



Notes by the Secretary-General transmitting:

United Nations



In the Sustainable Development Goals for 2016-30, world leaders have agreed Target 16.10:

"Ensure public access to information

and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements".

They also agreed to provide quality education.

Are young people taught enough about agreed human rights, government commitments to the species and human progress, enough
 that they have a "quality education"?

They are in fact being misled on both government pledges, and progress – including by "The World's Largest Lesson

How can people "address" the "challenges that face the world" if the are told a lot of rubbish about poverty, safe water, and government pledges?






Cambridge International Examinations board misleads, for 2017-19:

The baseline of 1990 is nothing to do with the Millennium Summit.   

The idea that its 15-year pledges are "known as the Millennium Development Goals" repeats propaganda understating the actual promises.

It has occurred to me – what do the people who know about the falsehoods but promote or allow them, think about their own children being deceived?

"Two years ago at the UN millennium summit, world leaders set themselves the task of halving global poverty over the next 15 years"

The Guardian




Why do UK school examination boards mislead on safe water,

when even the Guardian
 and the BBC have sometimes been right - the UN claims of progress are not based on safety?

Also, the belief of the vast majority of academics, teachers and others seems to be that the "MDG" target for halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe water said something about 1990.   It doesn't.


Is it true that before 2015 the emphasis was on "developing" countries' action?

Leaders at the 2005 World Summit said:


The Millennium pledge was to halve the proportion of people suffering from hunger. 

Was it "almost met" as people have been led to believe?

The headline UN claims do not even attempt to estimate numbers "suffering from hunger" but those with chronic, severe lack of calories – fewer people.  

Clearly, you do not have to have a chronic or severe problem to suffer from it.

The FAO has used another indicator, "prevalence of food inadequacy".   It does not attempt to estimate numbers "suffering from hunger" either, since it is also only on lack of calories.  

But since it is on a higher level of calories than for a "sedentary lifestyle", at least it seems more relevant than the headline MDG or SDG numbers.

We might think "inadequate food" is more relevant to the pledge about "suffering from hunger".

(Like many concepts used for statistics - and in the case of "suffering from hunger" not used in these calorie-based estimates - the notion of precise numbers "suffering from" has no objective basis.)

The FAO are well aware that their numbers are not reliable, though they are not exactly clear about this in what they say, in view of how the information is likely to be used. 

But in case it is of interest, here is a chart:

The numbers are from FAO's February 2016 set of indicators:

Can you see the "almost halving" since the start date for the Millennium pledge of 2000?  

The FAO claims that the pledge's start date was the easier baseline of 1990.

But that is just the same rubbish they said about the World Food Summit pledge of 1996.  

If a politician or civil servant says something big, even if it seems everyone else accepts it, you might want to look it up.


In some ways, has government honesty got worse?

On 9 October 2017, UN member states discussed "implementation" of goals agreed at major United Nations conferences and summits – as usual.

Governments have agreed to work for transparency
 and accountability;  to promote democracy and provide quality education.

Instead, the "quality education" includes widespread falsehood about progress in the species, and world leaders' pledges.

A basic requirement of democracy is that citizens know about government pledges and results.  It is being subverted.  

The UK, for example, spends hundreds of millions of pounds on research.  It misleads on its own promises.  The UK Government has misled on the state of knowledge about what are undeniably important aspects of the progress of humans.   Academics have spread misleading information about UK promises to the poor.

In 2015, world leaders adopted an agenda for the next 15 years.  But at the same time they avoided a large part of the official agenda: to follow up their existing promises. 

In the Summit declaration, and in their speeches, instead of "transparency", they misled the public on those pledges.

The authorities claim to work on a "data revolution
" but they, along with many academics, "think tanks", journalists and charities, repeat propaganda with no basis in the research or UN resolutions.

It is a human rights
 scandal, defrauding billions of people of access to information and of "genuine political participation".   It is not hard to see the risk to sensible decision-making, or informed elections of governments.

I believe the basic picture is obvious from the official documents.

The honesty gap is a huge flaw in political culture and the "development agenda".  In money terms, and relative to sums spent on other things, correcting misleading information costs very little to put right.


Is the official story that governments have been making global goals more ambitious, actually true?


The agreed UN development agenda for the 21st century was never simply the "MDGs" or the "SDGs".  

It is, as the General Assembly has repeatedly stated, all the relevant documents and commitments from the various conferences and summits. 

Other Assembly resolutions and agreements such as those on human rights
 are also clearly part of the agreed agenda.


United Nations Development Agenda
Development for All:  Goals, commitments and strategies agreed at the United Nations World conferences and summits since 1990
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Note: It might be argued that the agenda included, and includes, pre-1990 agreements on human rights and other matters.


"Major Conferences and Summits













  • 10 Year Review of the Barbados Programme of Action.


  • International Ministerial Conference of Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries.
  • Phase One of World Summit on the Information Society.



  • Third UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries.
  • Special Session of the General Assembly for and Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Habitat Agenda.
  • Special Session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS.




  • Second UN Conference on Human Settlement (HABITAT II).
  • World Food Summit.



  • International Conference on Population and Development.
  • Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Development States.


  • World Conference on Human Rights.


  • United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.
  • International Conference on Nutrition.


  • World Summit for Children.
  • World Conference on Education for all.
  • Second UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries.

Note:  The list for some reason omits previous major conferences.


Apart from large-scale brainwashing, why do these books not describe the actual global commitments and agenda, in the Millennium Declaration and other conference and summit outcomes, including human rights for all, which already existed before the SDGs?


Suppose you made a statement about poverty.

And it is based on what some other people said, without you having a solid idea of why they said it.

Are you doing social science, or journalism?

Or, if you are called a social scientist or journalist, are you failing to carry out your basic functions?



If you would not make the statement about yourself in the same position

- or would not if you took an easy step to discover the truth about the method –

then that is clearly not journalism.  


It is not reporting facts, and it is not reporting coherent opinion.

Nor is it social science.

Nor is it, if you are a politician,

", or
"good governance
or a meaningful part of "accountability
or a
"data revolution

It is something else.

Information poverty

is poverty,


causes poverty

This document is about, among other things,

"information inequality

the evidence for some government commitments

the evidence for some aspects of human progress, and

how billions of people are being misled by claims that rob them of political power –

a fundamental element in, and arguably in perpetuating, the failure of resources to give people opportunities:  what people call "poverty".










Not just broken promises.

Untruths that promises were kept.

Untruths about the promises.




2008: UK Government gives an impression liable to mislead by understating its Millennium pledges.



apart from propaganda,

do people talk about "Millennium Development Goals"
which UN resolutions in 2000 and 2001 did not specifically mention,

rather than what governments actually promised

in the conferences and summits,
and in UN General Assembly resolutions?



If you would not apply the method to yourself
in the same circumstances,

then a claim about poverty or inequality

is clearly not "scientific" but incoherent.

It is hypocritical, discriminatory, misleading. 

If you are in a position of responsibility
and make the stupid statement
when people may take it as implying something significant about policies to help the poor, or progress reports,

then it is anti-democratic, and anti-human rights


Would it be wise or stupid to say this?

"I know that
someone in another country
is better off now
some other people say so,
and I don't know
how they decided". 

If you do not know what the method is,
then making the statement
about even a single other person
would make no sense.

But for some reason people seem quite happy to tell the public, or their students, how many poor or extremely poor people there are in the world, or how the supposed number has changed, without apparently having much of a clue what their statement is based on.

What might be some reasons for this strange behaviour?

Is not making the statement
about large numbers of people



given that such statements can start or prolong good or bad polices,

potentially dangerous?



Who said this?

Absolute poverty is
a condition characterized by
deprivation of
basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and

117 Heads of State and Government,

in a 1995 summit document

constantly reaffirmed by states and leaders ever since.


Is it not a denial of human rights

for countries to misrepresent the number of lives they promised to save, and other pledges?

Is it not a denial of human rights

for countries to talk about goals,
and not the rights they agreed?


Harmful myths and a way forward

Some common ideas about UN pledges have no support in the UN resolutions.

The truth of what is in those documents is important to understanding what the Sustainable Development Goals
 are, and to understanding what it has meant when leaders made promises.

The truth of what is in the documents is also important for understanding some ways in which  governments mislead the public. 

If they have told us falsehoods about their pledges and progress in the human species, what else is not true?

I suggest it is time for a revision of what "governance
" means in practice.  

- and the same for "transparency
", "accountability" and "participation".

Accurate information on pledges and progress from governments and academics would seem essential for democracy. 


There is a disturbing tendency among not only the public, but also academics, charity specialists, journalists and others

to simply accept what those in authority say – in their simplest and most misleading versions -  about what their commitments are, or about progress on them.

The reality is far more interesting.     

People sometimes say,


"What was the effect of the MDGs?".

When we consider that nations keep reaffirming pledges in the Millennium Declaration and elsewhere,

we might think that this is possible:

that the easier, wrongly-named "Millennium Development Goal" targets proposed in 2001

(which nations did not accept then but instead reaffirmed the more ambitious pledges of 2000)

made progress slower.



What are the Global Goals?

In September 2015, UN member states' leaders agreed Sustainable Development Goals

But they already had sustainable development goals.  These included goals in agreements of 1992, 2002 and 2012.

For some reason, people, including world leaders, have said how the new "SDGs" are better than the so-called "Millennium" Development Goals (some of whose targets, despite the name, were put forward later than, and were easier than, what leaders agreed in the Millennium Declaration).


But this can mislead.


It is easier for governments if people think what they are doing is new and better than before.

Politicians in power like it if people think their policy is better than the last government's.

In reality, in 2015 governments were already committed to far more than the MDGs.


The MDGs basically relate to paragraph 19 of the Millennium Declaration.  

It has 31 paragraphs.

In several important ways, the MDG targets are easier and narrower than what leaders actually pledged in the Declaration - which was itself easier than some earlier goals and principles including "human rights" or "Health for All by the year 2000".

I don't know why people are so exclusively interested in the "Millennium" targets or the "SDGs".

You could say "they have been influential, because governments and their agencies publicised them".

But that would be to avoid holding politicians to account for the promises.  It is like saying to someone who owes you £10 but keeps telling people it is £5 which they have paid, "yes, you have fulfilled your promise".

In sustainable development, the Millennium Declaration is only part of what UN member states were already formally committed to and officially aiming at before 2015.





"The SDGs are a backward step, not only because

they distract from governments fulfilling their existing commitments as soon as possible after 2015,

but also because

they are hopes but previous summits made pledges."






If these things are not true,

what else is not true?


Would you say one person

- such as you - was better off if their



without looking at whether they


to spend more or less on

child care

accommodation away from home,




education, or


If you don't know
what a person needed for rent
, transport, medicine, water, and so on,

why would you just ask what they spent,
then say how much richer or poorer they became?

So why do people make these claims about hundreds of millions of people?

Can you think of any other problems
with saying a particular number of people have
"risen out of extreme poverty",

if the method is mostly based on asking a small sample of people  - many illiterate -  how much they spent in the last few weeks, and guessing at the value of what they grew, hunted, fished or foraged in the last few weeks?

Suppose a government – or a local council - made a 15-year plan, then later said it was a 25-year plan. 

Would you laugh?


In 2000 Tony Blair, as UK Prime Minister, promised with other leaders to meet targets in

15 years,

and to do other things including upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Later he wrongly claimed the agreement was the generally easier, narrower


"MDG" targets.

Civil servants proposed those to UN member states in 2001.  Adding progress in the 1990s makes targets easier to reach.  

Did countries agree the "MDGs" in 2001?  

No.  They responded on 14 December 2001 by instead reaffirming the pledges of September 2000. 

As a result, Mr Blair's claims here about global pledges and success are, if we go by the actual pledges and the actual official research, rubbish:

What is the factual basis for Mr Blair
's statement that "many" "Goals" "set out by the U.N. in the year 2000" were "substantially met"?

How many, exactly?

How many can you think of?


What is the reason for your answer?




Your tax pays for what is called social science. 

Is it humane?

Are we agreed that poverty (apart from poverty relative to others) is where your needs are more than your resources?

If not, what would you say it is?

Can you say it in one word?




Nearly all the world's governments have agreed the aim of "ending" the proportion of humans "living on under $1.90 a day" by 2030

(Or "reduce" it, if they are talking about the aim of the World Bank, whose governors have traditionally been mostly finance or development ministers.)

Here is just one part of how crazy that is.

The "extreme consumption poverty" is supposed to be where people lack the basics.

If you think about it, or even if you don't, it may be clear that "the basics" is vague. 

Even "basic" food is a subjective idea.  

How long is the food supposed to keep you alive?   A day?  A year?   Sixty years?   With what likelihood?   Is that with the assumption that no big crisis will happen from crop failure, flood, management of the economy, war, civil war, epidemics and so on?

But the idea is worse than that. 

It looks at what people say they spent, but not what they need.

No-one with any sense would agree to using that method for themselves or anyone they cared for, if they knew what it was.

" overarching question: What would Committee members want as the basis for policy decisions about themselves, if they were poor?"

Question to the UK House of Lords
 Economic Affairs Committee
Document published by the Committee

I originally described the above as "written evidence" because that is what such committees call documents sent for their inquiries, and verbal statements.

I changed it, because the committees call it "evidence" even if in reality people give opinions, without evidence – or make factual claims, without any or any good evidence.

I have been struck by how often academics writing about important matters – claims about progress in the species, or pledges by its political leaders – simply repeat what someone else has said, rather than what is true.  

The scale of factual claims without evidence, on matters clearly important for holding governments to account, has surprised me.

I have complained that the BBC has often broadcast factual claims without any support from evidence.

Instead of addressing the actual complaints, the answers from the BBC have been to an astonishing degree largely repeats of the same problem:   assertion – claims about what the relevant facts were about the world, what the complaints were, what the BBC had broadcast or published, what the complaints procedure was – without evidence and without any actual basis in fact.

Back to the strange method of making claims about poverty (or inequality):

Let us consider the position of someone, perhaps a university professor, who knows what the above method in "economics" is for claiming particular levels of progress on "extreme poverty".

Or someone who knows what the method is for the traditional large-scale studies by economists recommending policies for the poorest people.

I do not understand why those people would discuss the results as if they are on "poverty" or "benefits to the poor".   

The idea fails the most obvious, basic and ethical test of social science – whether it is based on the reality of people's lives.  

Why is that not taught in the first week of school courses?

How is it that you can get a PhD in economics, or a job telling people about poverty levels, if you do not look at the most basic elements in your field?

Is it not obvious that you would not blindly say you were better off with a new job, without looking at whether you needed to pay more for transport, child care
, or anything else?


Is it not obvious that if you are going to make claims about millions of people, you have to make sure they would make sense?

Is it not obvious that in order to make sense, and meet minimal ethical standards for research on other sentient creatures, they would have to apply to one person or a small number of people, who you cared great deal about?

You can look at this as a scientific failing, or a moral failing.

I suggest it is clearly both.

If people know needs are not considered, why do they make claims about poverty?

If people do not know the method, why do they make claims about poverty?

On the reporting of official global poverty claims

From complaint to the UK Press Complaints Commission
 about the Economist,
29 August 2013.

"...a  rule without which social science cannot possibly be adequate:

that the method is one which they would use on themselves in a similar position.

Otherwise, it runs a strong risk of being inhumane.

But that would imply that the journalists would gauge their own prosperity or poverty by looking at their spending without considering

the prices they faced,


how much food they and their children needed
, or

whether the water they bought was safe, or

whether they needed to pay rent
 or for transport to work, or

whether they lived on their own, or

how many people in the household shared food and fuel, or

whether their assets
 or debts rose or fell.

That is the macroeconomic method which was used."

That passage was in a footnote to the third point below:

"The Commission might conclude that one or more of the following statements are true, and/or are true of similar output from the newspaper. ...

The following are examples of problems...repeated across items in the newspaper's output:

1. The claims to show trends in consumption adequacy across time and different levels of "growth" misled, since

the newspaper does not have prices for clean water.

2. The newspaper misled in presenting statistics on people alive at different times as showing aggregate outcomes for people.

[Footnote reads:  "This kind of statistic cannot on its own provide information on consumption adequacy, not least because the method counts the poor as having done worse if the poorest survive longer."]

3. The newspaper's use of social science failed what might be called the humanity test
 or the love test, since it is implausible that the journalists would apply the methods of inferring lack or economic gains to, or to set targets or policy for, people dear to them.  ..."



I suggest it is not difficult to see from the evidence  that politicians, academics and journalists have said things which are untrue, which obstruct democracy by giving a false idea of progress, government commitments and the merits or otherwise of policies.

A second, perhaps deeper problem may be revealed by reactions to the truth.   I am referring to matters where their existing output has clearly hampered the ability of the public to hold governments to account, by misleading people about pledges or progress, or both.

These responses have in my experience too often included, instead of upholding the standards they have promised the public,

- repeating the same falsehoods after they or their organisations have been correctly and clearly informed;

- in addition misleading the public about the information they have now formally, and verifiably, been given. 




What kind of mental sickness

causes people to make claims

about other people's


based on the idea that

if they spend more they must end up richer,

with no thought for

whether their needs went up or down?

What exactly

are nations committed to

or aiming at

through the Sustainable Development Goals listed in 2015,

which they were not committed to
or aiming at already

by human rights
 agreements, the development agenda agreed at UN conferences and summits which world leaders reaffirmed in 2005 and 2010, and other resolutions and documents?

Can you think what might explain this?

"Let us
resolve...To halve...

the proportion...

(currently 22 per cent)

whose income is less than one dollar a day"

UN Secretary-General, Millennium Report

"The world has reduced extreme poverty by half...

in developing regions...

to 22 per cent

by 2010"

United Nations MDG Report






the right to adequate food

has been a

legally binding human right in international law

for more than 35 years"

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations







Apparently, some economists continue to confuse "the rise in the average" with "the average rise".  

In reality they cannot know how much "incomes increase" for the poorest, or in a country, without looking at how many people survived the period.  Unless mortality rates are stable and uniform, the concept of an "average rise" is incoherent. 

As I explained to heads of university departments and other senior experts beginning in 2000, if the poorest die, the average rises.

These authors look at different populations at different times, then claim to know about average rises for the same people.

A further error was displayed when I told people about the problem.   I was told "we need better data" or "we need to do research that is better than the World Bank's". 

It is the responsibility of the scientist, not the sceptic, to show why they are justified, if they are, in inferring from one trend to another.    The economist's traditional error of treating populations as if no-one is born or dies, merely assuming there is no problem, is not justified simply by convention – which might amount to the position that it is a sensible choice to ignore the mistake, because they keep making it.  

"Incomes in the poorest two quintiles on average increase at the same rate as overall average incomes."



3 August 2000

...What strikes me is that in policy debates people look at "reducing poverty" without looking at how many people die in the interim.  

This seems to me the worst flaw in simple economic analysis (Deininger, Dollar) - if the poorest die, the income figures look better.



The official MDG list, reproduced by the World Bank, the UK Government, and many other sources, falsely states that its targets are

“from the Millennium Declaration”.

In fact several highly-publicised "MDG" targets are easier than what leaders actually pledged in 2000.

In any case, UN member states' commitments and targets for 2015 went beyond the "MDGs" and beyond the Millennium pledges.  

Concentrating on the heavily-publicised "MDG" targets appears to be a fundamental error by many academics, school examination boards and commentators.



Partial Contents

Note: Text in quotation marks is headlines, not always exact quotations.  

2018: "World's Largest Lesson" continues to push propaganda to children. 14

The inhumane idea that if you are forced to spend more, you rise out of poverty. 38

Did charities forget about the global commitments the UN was supposed to review?. 53

In some ways, has government honesty got worse?. 64

Billions deceived on government pledges?. 140

Introduction. 145

Notes. 150

Medical men need education on nutrition:  League of Nations (1936) 166

"Protective foods":  1946 article mentions "forgotten" but "important" 1937 report for the League of Nations  170

End of extreme poverty and war "attainable in our generation": US President Roosevelt, 1941. 171

Global goals of US and UK:  We will work for fair trade.    We desire economic progress and social security for all humans.    All nations must abandon force.   Disarmament: We will help all practicable steps.   (1941) 172

End hunger and malnutrition:   Possible through full employment and ending exploitation   (44 allies' Conference on Food and Agriculture, 1943) 176

Goal will be met:   All humans will have opportunity for peace, wages adequate for their needs, and freedom of association and thought.    The world must deal with trade barriers   (Roosevelt, 1943) 178

Goal of adequate food for all can be met.  "Full employment in all countries";  "the absence of exploitation".  (Declaration of 44 allied nations, Conference on Food and Agriculture, 1943) 181

Leave no-one behind.  Human rights and fundamental freedoms for all are among purposes of the UN:  The UN Charter (1945) 184

Over 40 nations "will report" nutrition progress.  The FAO "shall promote the conservation of natural resources".  Constitution of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (1945) 185

FAO is "dedicated to soil conservation" (1945). 204

Leave no-one behind.  All humans have rights to:  adequate standard of living;   information; social security; housing;   security if disabled; and medical care.    All children have the right to equal social protection;   free and freeing education, and a social order conducive to these rights    (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948) 207

FAO technical advice should be "through the culture of the local people' and  in accordance with their 'accustomed ways and institutions' " (1949) 213

Freedom from Hunger Campaign, 1960 onwards. 217

End hunger:  To fail while knowing how would disgrace "this generation".  No battle on earth or space is more important (John F. Kennedy, 1963) 220

End malnutrition, act on inequality:    "We...pledge and resolve to take up the challenge of eliminating hunger and malnutrition as a primary task of this generation".    Nations urge action on inequality.   In spite of twenty years of effort since 1943, "hunger, malnutrition and poverty still afflict more than half of mankind".  Ending hunger should be in development framework for the "most effective use of human and natural resources".   Balanced economic and social development are necessary.   (World Food Congress, 1963) 224

"Education shall enable all to participate effectively in a free society":   International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) 233

Right to life shall be protected by law.  Right to opinions without interference.  Freedom to receive information.  Each State "undertakes" to "ensure" rights for all.  Each State commits to "adopt such legislative or other measures as may be necessary" for the rights in the Covenant.  Each State commits that any person whose rights or freedoms in the Covenant are violated "shall have an effective remedy".    International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) 236

Leave no-one behind: "for all human beings a life consonant with freedom and dignity and conducive to physical, mental, social and spiritual welfare."  International Conference on Human Rights   (Tehran, 1968) 239

Full employment. Social justice. Integrated development.  Environment.  A primary task is to eliminate evils including inequality and exploitation.  "Social progress and economic growth require recognition of the common interest of all nations in the...conservation... of areas of the environment... beyond ... national jurisdiction".  "Social progress and development shall aim at the continuous raising of the material and spiritual standards of living of all members of society".  "Main goals" include "The protection and improvement of the human environment."    Declaration on Social Progress and Development (1969) 240

"All-out attack" on hunger and poverty.    "Above all, agrarian reform".     Situation "intolerable".   Arms spending "insane".    Fair trade.    We urge action on threat of contamination and destruction of the environment.  Economic growth geared to the basic needs of the people.  Food and development are "too important for experts":    Second World Food Congress (1970) 247

Environment:  UN General Assembly resolutions of 1972. 258

Equality.  UN member states "solemnly proclaim determination to work urgently" for a New International Economic Order based on equity "which shall correct inequalities"; "eliminate the widening gap between the developed and the developing countries"; "banish the prevailing disparities"; prosperity for all.   Fair trade.  Regulation of transnational corporations on the basis of full national sovereignty.  Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order (1974) 259

Adequate nutrition for all is in world's power.    More equitable distribution of food is "fundamental responsibility of governments".  Fair trade.     Fair economic order.    "The eradication of hunger is a common objective...especially of the developed countries".  "Every endeavour to prevent wastage of food".  About 460 million people are chronically malnourished.  "To assure...conservation of natural resources....which might be utilized...for food production, all countries must collaborate in order to facilitate the preservation of the environment"  In decisions on farm support, "developed countries should take into account, as far as possible, the interest of the food-exporting developing countries".  World Food Conference,  Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition (1974) 262

Polluting other countries without consent is forbidden.    "In the exploitation of natural resources shared by two or more countries, each State must co-operate on the basis of a system of information and prior consultations in order to achieve optimum use of such resources without causing damage to the legitimate interest of others."  "The environmental policies of all States should enhance and not adversely affect the present and future development potential of developing countries."   "Transnational corporations shall not intervene in the internal affairs of a host State."  Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States (1974) 273

All States shall take measures to protect people from misuse of new technology hampering their human rights.   All States shall make laws to prevent the use of new science and technology to harm human rights, fundamental freedoms, or the dignity of the human person.  Declaration on the Use of Scientific and Technological Progress in the Interests of Peace and for the Benefit of Mankind (1975) 277

Goal: Health for all by 2000 should be a main target of governments.  Existing inequality in health is unacceptable.  Priority to those most in need.  Conference reaffirmed the right to physical and mental health.    (International Conference on Primary Health Care. Declaration of Alma-Ata, 1978) 279

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979. 284

Ultimate aim is "improvement of the conditions of all".   By 1990: "The reduction and elimination of poverty and a fair distribution of the benefits of development are primary objectives for the international community during the Decade."    By 1990: Immunisation for all children.   "All countries...will ensure immunization against major infectious diseases for all children as early as possible during the Decade."  By 1990: Safe water and adequate sanitation for all.   By 2000: Adequate nutrition for all.  "Hunger and malnutrition must be eliminated as soon as possible and certainly by the end of this century".   By 2000: Jobs for all.    By 2000: Health for all.    By 2000: Primary school for all or nearly all.   "...the provision of universal education on the broadest possible scale,  the eradication or considerable reduction of illiteracy, and  the closest possible realization of universal primary enrolment by the year 2000  remain major goals of all countries during the Decade."  (International Development Strategy for the Third United Nations Development Decade , 1980) 304

"Habitats shall be safeguarded" to preserve survival of all life forms.    "Optimal sustainable productivity" in use of natural resources.    "Conservation of nature is an integral part of social and economic development".  World Charter for Nature (1982) 316

"Development... aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals"   "States... shall ensure...equality of opportunity for all... and the fair distribution of income"   Declaration on the Right to Development (1986) 323

By 2000: "Adequate shelter for all".   Main focus should be on improving the situation of the disadvantaged and the poor.    Sustainable development: "shelter and urban development must be reconcilable with a sustainable management of the environment".  Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000 (1988) 332

"Countries may wish" to set education goals for 2000:  Care and activities for disadvantaged children.  By 2000, completion of primary education for all.  By 2000, adult illiteracy half its 1990 level.  Significantly reduce literacy gender gap.  Other life skills.  World Declaration on Education For All: Meeting Basic Learning Needs; World Conference on Education for All (Jomtien, 1990) 334

"Economic and social progress requires that growth be broadly based, offering equal opportunities to all people, both women and men, to participate fully in economic, social and political activities."  "Developed countries have the main responsibility" on pollution.    Declaration on International Economic Co-operation, in particular the Revitalization of Economic Growth and Development of the Developing Countries (1990) 336

"States shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child."   Children have the "guaranteed" right to life and the right to information.  Convention on Rights of the Child (1989, entered into force 1990) 338

Seven "major goals" suggested for 1990-2000 after "extensive consultation" with NGOs and others include:    By 2000: Promoting safe water, sanitation and access to basic education for all humans.  By 2000: Halve child malnutrition (not just hunger).    By 2000: 80% of children to complete primary education.  By 2000: Halve adult illiteracy, especially among women.  "We are prepared to make available the resources to meet these commitments"   "Legal" standards in the Convention on Rights of the Child "guarantee" rights.  "We will work to promote earliest possible implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child"  "Programmes to encourage information about children's rights should be launched world-wide"   (World Summit for Children, 1990) 341

Six goals for 1991-2000 "must be met".  "We pledge ourselves individually and collectively to undertake the measures necessary to implement the Strategy.  "environmentally sustainable development" and to "respond to social needs".    "Rights, justice and equity are essential"  "Environment is a priority".  Declaration on International Economic Cooperation (1990), Strategy for the Fourth United Nations Development Decade  350

Humans are "entitled" to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.  "The right to development must be equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations."  "Environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process"   "At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes."    "States shall enact effective environmental legislation"   End poverty: All States will co-operate on ending poverty, to reduce inequality in living standards.  Environment: Precautionary approach will be widely used.    "The special situation and needs of developing countries, particularly the least developed and those most environmentally vulnerable, shall be given special priority."    States will develop "polluter pays" law.    "Indigenous and local communities have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices."  "Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible."  (Rio Declaration, United Nations Conference on Environment and Development or Earth Summit, 1992, at same time as the Conference adopted Agenda 21) 354

The three Rio Conventions - on Biodiversity, Climate Change and Desertification. 362

Leave no-one behind?  Goals for industrialised countries.  Agenda 21:  "All countries should take immediate measures to provide shelter to their homeless poor".  "Holistic view of development": integration of environment and development; prosperity; empowerment.  By 2000, health for all.  This is an overall strategy. By 2000, shelter for all. By 2000, "Each country should ensure that more than 50 per cent of its youth, gender balanced, have access to appropriate secondary education or equivalent educational or vocational training programmes by increasing participation and access rates on an annual basis."   By 2000, many suggested or agreed health and environment goals.  By 2025, "adequate environmental infrastructure in all settlements". By 2025, "full coverage in water-supply". By 2025, "dispose of all ...wastes" within environmental guidelines. By 2025, "all urban populations" to have "adequate waste services". By 2025, "sanitation in all rural areas."  Freshwater targets for 2025.  "Political commitment at the highest level".  "The broadest public participation encouraged".  [! - Governments have betrayed the public, through false official information on pledges and progress.]  Special attention to unsustainable consumption.  Special attention to vulnerable groups.  Priority: health service coverage for groups in greatest need.   Rio Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit), 1992. 364

Goals for 1992-2000:   159 governments pledge all efforts to end famine, nutrition-related disease caused by disaster, and iodine and vitamin A deficiencies by 2000.    Adequate food is a right of every person.    There is enough food for all.  Unequal access is the main problem.    Two billion lack micronutrients.    Rich country citizens are dying from overeating and unbalanced diets.   We must ensure that the poor participate in decisions.    Committed to just and environmentally safe world.    We are determined to have national nutrition plans by 1994.  [FAO say governments had researched vulnerable groups.]    (International Conference on Nutrition, World Declaration on Nutrition, 1992) 395

Goals for 2000:    End famine and major nutritional diseases.    Fourth United Nations Development Decade  409

"States are duty-bound, as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and in other international human rights instruments, to ensure that education is aimed at strengthening the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms"  The universal and inalienable right to development, as established in the Declaration on the Right to Development, must be implemented.   All learning institutions should include the subjects of human rights, humanitarian law, democracy and the rule of law  (World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, 1993).  The UN Decade for Human Rights Education was 1995-2004.     But UK schools and universities, like governments and the UN, seem to breach human rights by misrepresenting or distracting from global pledges, and misdescribing research on progress. 411

Equality in health.    By 2000: Primary health care for all, including reproductive health care.  By 2005: Gender equality in primary and secondary education.      By 2015: Life expectancy above 75 years in each country; 70 in countries with highest mortality.  Efforts for longer, healthier lives for all should emphasise health equality for male/female and social classes.  By 2015: End inequality of child survival between socio-economic groups in countries.   By 2015:  Infant mortality rate below 3.5% and under-5 mortality rate below 4.5%, in all countries.  By 2015:  Maternal mortality under 60 per 100,000 for countries with intermediate mortality levels and 75 for those with highest mortality.   Disparities between social groups should be narrowed.  International Conference on Population And Development (Cairo, 1994) 416

117 Heads of State or Government give "well-being for all and social development the highest priority" and reiterate goals for 2000 and 2015.    Governments "should implement commitments" including "By the year 2000, attainment by all peoples of the world of a level of health that will permit them to lead a socially and economically productive life, and to this end, ensuring primary health care for all"  Nations will aim to reduce overall inequality.  Nations will provide legal frameworks including gender equality, full respect for all human rights, transparent and accountable governance, and the end of discrimination.  Will create an enabling economic environment aimed at promoting more equitable access for all to income, resources and social services.  International goals must have the rights of the poor and excluded as overriding priority.  Nations reaffirm the right to information, especially to help the poor.  Poverty includes unsafe environments and lack of information.  Governments will urgently make plans with a date for eradicating absolute poverty in each country.  "It is our task to address ...underlying and structural causes" of poverty, unemployment and social exclusion.   (World Summit for Social Development, 1995) 421

1995 World Summit for Social Development Plan of Action:    "B. A favourable national and international political and legal environment 432

14. To ensure that the political framework supports the objectives of social development, the following actions are essential: 432

(a) Ensuring that governmental institutions and agencies responsible for the planning and implementation of social policies have the status, resources and information necessary to give high priority to social development in policy-making; 432

...  15. It is essential for social development that all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development as an integral part of fundamental human rights, be promoted and protected through the following actions: 432

(a) Encouraging ratification of existing international human rights conventions that have not been ratified; and implementing the provisions of conventions and covenants that have been ratified; 432

(b) Reaffirming and promoting all human rights and fundamental freedoms, which are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, including the right to development, and striving to ensure that they are respected, protected and observed through appropriate legislation, dissemination of information, education and training and the provision of effective mechanisms and remedies for enforcement, inter alia, through the establishment or strengthening of national institutions responsible for monitoring and enforcement; 432

.... 432

16. An open political and economic system requires access by all to knowledge, education and information by: 432

(a) Strengthening the educational system at all levels, as well as other means of acquiring skills and knowledge, and ensuring universal access to basic education and lifelong educational opportunities, while removing economic and socio-cultural barriers to the exercise of the right to education; 432

(b) Raising public awareness and promoting gender-sensitivity education to eliminate all obstacles to full gender equality and equity; 432

(c) Enabling and encouraging access by all to a wide range of information and opinion on matters of general interest through the mass media and other means; 433

(d) Encouraging education systems and, to the extent consistent with freedom of expression, communication media to raise people's understanding and awareness of all aspects of social integration, including gender sensitivity, non-violence, tolerance and solidarity and respect for the diversity of cultures and interests, and to discourage the exhibition of pornography and the gratuitous depiction of explicit violence and cruelty in the media; 433

(e) Improving the reliability, validity, utility and public availability of statistical and other information on social development and gender issues, including the effective use of gender-disaggregated statistics collected at the national, regional and international levels, including through support to academic and research institutions.". 433

(j) By the year 2000, eradicating, eliminating or controlling major diseases constituting global health problems, in accordance with paragraph 6.12 of Agenda 21; 2/ 437

(k) Reducing the adult illiteracy rate - the appropriate age group to be determined in each country - to at least half its 1990 level,   with an emphasis on female literacy;   achieving universal access to quality education,   with particular priority being given to primary and technical education and job training, combating illiteracy, and eliminating gender disparities in access to, retention in and support for education; 437

(l) Providing, on a sustainable basis, access to safe drinking water in sufficient quantities, and proper sanitation for all; 437

(m) Improving the availability of affordable and adequate shelter for all, in accordance with the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000; 14/ 437

(n) Monitoring the implementation of those commitments at the highest appropriate level   and considering the possibility of expediting their implementation through the dissemination of sufficient and accurate statistical data and appropriate indicators.". 437

"Determined to advance the goals of equality, development and peace for all women"   "Determined to address the structural causes of poverty"  As soon as possible and no later than 2015, "Reproductive health care accessible to all"  By 2000, governments to implement human rights treaties;    Urgently implement Convention on Rights of the Child;    By 2000, clean water for all;    By 2000, halve child malnutrition with special attention to gender.   Fourth World Conference on Women.   Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) 440

Earliest possible achievement of sustainable world food security.  Goal for 2015: Reduce the number of undernourished people to half their present level.  "It is necessary to target those suffering most".    Corruption hinders the task.    Governments will "develop legislative processes that are most conducive to achieving sustainable food security for all".   We will promote equitable income distribution, and ensure politics, economics and society are designed for zero poverty and peace.    (Rome Declaration on Food Security, World Food Summit, 1996) 454

FAO began wrongly claiming, around the year 2000, that world leaders' 1996 hunger promise had an easier baseline.   Earlier FAO documents contradict FAO's later position, and so the basis of awards given by FAO in 2015 to some countries. 502

The Secretary-General's "Millennium Report"  (We the Peoples, March 2000) 526

Commitments on literacy, numeracy and life skills: Education for All.  By 2005: End gender gap in primary and secondary education.    By 2015: All children, especially the disadvantaged, to complete free, good-quality primary education.    By 2015: Gender equality in education.    By 2015: Adult literacy to be improved 50 per cent, especially for women.   Ongoing commitments: Equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults.     Ensuring excellence for all.  Focus on quality.  (Dakar Framework for Action adopted by the World Education Forum, April 2000) 534

UN, OECD, IMF and World Bank mislead that easier goals were agreed by 1990s conferences (International Development Goals, June 2000) 541

NGOs demand focus on rights and the 1995 Copenhagen commitments. 546

The poor are bad for "growth": Economists, governments and others recommend policies for the poor using statistics which look better if they die. 550

G8 "commit/to working/to…  Reduce the number of HIV/AIDS-infected young people by 25% by 2010…  Reduce TB deaths and prevalence of the disease by 50% by 2010 …  Reduce the burden of disease associated with malaria by 50% by 2010"   (June 2000) 553

The Millennium Declaration includes pledges which do not "expire":    Leaders pledge constant effort for "genuine participation by all citizens in politics";   to "ensure" public's right to information.    "We request the General Assembly to review regularly progress on these goals". 586

The MDG water base year is 2000 rather than 199