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European Commission - Fact Sheet

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – What has the EU achieved?

Brussels, 25 September 2015

In 2000 the Millennium Development Goals were agreed to reduce poverty and improve the lives of people in developing countries. They have delivered encouraging results.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – What has been achieved

15 years ago, the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, were put in place by the international community to reduce poverty and improve the lives of people in developing countries. The Millennium Declaration and the MDGs expire at the end of 2015.

They have delivered encouraging results. The European Union and its Member States, together the world’s largest donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA), have helped make a difference to the lives of millions. The EU has been committed to the Millennium Development Goals since their adoption in 2000 and has progressively adapted its development policy to help achieve them.

However, progress on the MDGs has been unequal around the world. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), builds on the MDGs and helps us to address new challenges.

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

More than 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990. The MDG targets of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and hunger have been met even ahead of schedule. Still, the world is far from eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. In 2015, an estimated 836 million people still live in extreme poverty and 795 million still suffer from hunger.

The EU is one of the biggest contributors to sustainable agriculture and food security for development. Worldwide, the EU supports more than 60 countries in their efforts to improve food and nutrition security and promote sustainable agriculture and food systems, alleviate hunger, support economic growth and ensure political stability.

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

The primary school enrolment rate in developing countries has reached an estimated 91 percent in 2015, up from 83% in 2000. The number of out-of-school children has fallen by almost half since 2000. At the same time, literacy rates for young people aged 15 to 24 increased from 83% in 1990 to projected 91% in 2015.

However, despite enormous progress during the past 15 years, achieving universal primary education will require renewed attention, just as the global community seeks to extend the scope to universal secondary education. 57 million primary-aged children, more than half of whom live in conflict-prone areas, are still not in school.

The EU supports governments in over 40 countries to provide quality education and learning opportunities for all. Half of these countries are fragile and affected by conflict. The EU also works with the Global Partnership for Education, UNICEF, UNESCO, multilateral and bilateral agencies, and the civil society to deliver on education.

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Much progress has been made towards women’s and girls’ equality in education, employment and political representation over the last two decades. However, many gaps remain, particularly in areas that were not addressed in the MDGs. Persistent, pervasive and in some cases unprecedented, violations of women’s rights occur on a daily basis.

EU programmes support women's political participation, as well as their improved economic and social status. This is done, for example, through facilitating women's contribution in peace- and state-building processes, and promoting equal inheritance and property rights for men and women. Gender is integrated into sector programmes, ranging from health and education to private sector development, food security and infrastructure.

Since 2004 the EU contribution has helped 300,000 new female students to enrol in secondary education. In addition over 18,000 female higher education students have taken part in EU mobility schemes such as Erasmus Mundus, which provides scholarships to students from developing countries to study in Europe.

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

There has been unprecedented progress in the reduction of deaths of children under five. The under-fives’ mortality rate has halved since 1990, from 90 to a projected 43 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015. Effective and affordable treatments, improved service delivery and political commitment have all contributed. However, progress has been insufficient to achieve the target of a two-thirds reduction in deaths of children under five by 2015 and there are still an estimated 16,000 child deaths a day.

EU support and external aid have helped to protect children against many of the major causes of child mortality, but pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria continue to be the main killers of under-fives and in 2013 caused about one-third of all under-five deaths. Globally nearly half of under-five deaths are attributable to under-nutrition.

The EU has worked closely with beneficiary countries and other development partners to address health system weaknesses, and has supported the health sectors of 39 developing countries, with child health as primary target. It also contributes through financial support to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis (GFATM), and to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and immunisations (GAVI).

Thanks to EU support, at least 20 million more children were vaccinated against measles between 2004 and 2014. In 2004-2012 the EU helped build or renovate more than 8,500 health facilities worldwide.

Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health

Significant progress has been made in efforts to reduce maternal deaths and ensure universal access to reproductive health, with the maternal mortality ratio being almost halved from 1990 to 2015. However, achievements fell short of the MDG target to reduce the ratio by three-quarters by 2015.

There are profound health disparities among groups that are vulnerable, because of their level of education, place of residence, economic status or age. In addition, country capacity needs to be strengthened to help reduce inequalities in both the availability and the quality of health-related data, as well as registration of births and deaths.

The EU supports governments in more than 30 countries to develop and implement national health policies and strategies, and strengthen health systems to improve access and uptake of life-saving maternal health services and reach universal access to quality and affordable reproductive and sexual health services and information.

Thanks to EU support, over 7.5 million births were attended by skilled health personnel between 2004 and 2012 and almost 17 million consultations on reproductive health took place.

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

New HIV infections fell by approximately 40% between 2000 and 2013, from an estimated 3.5 million cases to 2.1 million. Thanks to the expansion of antimalarial healthcare, over 6.2 million malaria deaths have been averted between 2000 and 2015, primarily of children under five years of age in sub-Saharan Africa. Tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis and treatment saved an estimated 37 million lives from 2000 to 2013.

However, the Ebola crisis has revealed the vulnerability of countries that lack basic health services and the capacity for early detection, comprehensive reporting and a rapid response system for public health outbreaks.

The EU provides substantial financial resources to fight diseases through country programmes, via the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and through research programmes such as the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership.

Thanks to EU support 22.6 million insecticide-treated bed nets were distributed between 2000 and 2014. In addition, 570,000 people with advanced HIV infection have received antiretroviral combination therapy over the same period.

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Global targets on access to improved water supplies and reduced numbers of people living in slums have been achieved before the deadline, but the loss of environmental resources and biodiversity has not been halted. The MDG drinking water target coverage was met in 2010, five years ahead of schedule.

But much remains to be done: 748 million people – mostly the poor and marginalised – still lack access to an improved drinking water source; nearly half of them are in sub-Saharan Africa. On sanitation, coverage of improved sanitation increased from 49% in 1990 to 64% in 2012. But more than one-third of the global population – some 2.5 billion people – still do not have access to sanitation facilities.

Additional efforts are needed and therefore, environmental sustainability is a core pillar of the post-2015 development agenda, particularly given the acute environmental challenges the world is facing, such as climate change, food and water insecurity, and natural disasters.

The EU supports partner countries to promote the sustainable management of natural resources, particularly land, forest, coastal zones and fisheries to protect ecosystems and to combat desertification. In 2007, the EU launched the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) in order to strengthen international cooperation on climate change, committing €316.5 million. The EU currently supports 51 programmes in 38 countries.

Since 2004, EU assistance has provided access to clean water for more than 74 million people and sanitation to over 27 million people.

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

The MDGs laid the ground for a true global partnership to deliver on the global goals. Official Development Assistance (ODA) from developed countries increased by 66% in real terms between 2000 and 2014. In 2014, 79% of imports from developing to developed countries were admitted duty free. At the same time developing countries’ access to markets has increased.

The Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa set out an ambitious and comprehensive range of measures, along with the Means of Implementation in the 2030 Agenda for financing sustainable development, ensuring policy coherence, promoting good governance and national level actions and renewed efforts to mobilise innovation, science and technology for sustainable development.

The EU continues to be the biggest donor in the world, collectively providing more Official Development Assistance (ODA) than all other donors combined (€58.2 billion in 2014). It is committed to achieving the UN target of mobilising a level of ODA that represents 0.7% of the Gross National Income (GNI) within the time frame of the 2030 Agenda.

For more information:

Press release: European Commission welcomes new 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development

Factsheet on the SDGs and the post-2015 development agenda

Brochure on the EU's contribution to the Millennium Development Goals (key results from European Commission programmes):





Infograph on the EU's contribution to the MDGs (in English):

Infograph on the EU's contribution to the MDGs (in French):

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:


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