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The Millennium Development Goals: the fight against global poverty and inequality

The Australian Government is committed to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals—agreed targets set by the world's nations to reduce poverty by 2015.

These include halving extreme poverty, getting all children into school, closing the gap on gender inequality, saving lives lost to disease and the lack of available health care, and protecting the environment. These are achievable commitments to improve the well-being of the world's poorest people.

Simple drawing of a bowl of steaming food, representing MDG1

Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty

  • Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day
  • Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people
  • Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
Simple drawing of a pencil, representing MDG2

Achieve universal primary education

  • Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling
Simple drawing of the symbol for women, a circle with a cross at the base, representing MDG3

Promote gender equality and empower women

  • Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015
Simple drawing of a child's teddy bear, representing MDG4

Reduce child mortality

  • Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate
Simple drawing of a pregnant woman, representing MDG5

Improve maternal health

  • Reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio
  • Achieve universal access to reproductive health
Simple drawing of a bottle of medicine with cross, representing MDG6

Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

  • Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
  • Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it
  • Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases
Simple drawing of a plant with leaves or petals, representing MDG7

Ensure environmental sustainability

  • Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources
  • Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss
  • Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation
  • Have achieved by 2020 a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers
Simple drawing of a group of people, representing MDG8

Develop a global partnership for development

  • Address the special needs of least developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing states
  • Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system
  • Deal comprehensively with developing countries’ debt
  • In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries
  • In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications

Progress towards the MDGs

There has been significant progress, but significant challenges remain.

Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are home to three-quarters of the world's poor. These regions are struggling to get children into school and save lives.

East Asia has experienced the most rapid poverty reduction—driven by rapid and sustained growth, notably in China. Pockets of extreme poverty persist throughout this region.

The Pacific region is lagging. More than 3 million people are living in extreme poverty and as many as one million children are not in school. Poverty is concentrated in Kiribati, PNG, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.

Key facts on the MDGs:

  • Significant progress since 1990:
    • 280 million fewer people living in extreme poverty
    • 40 million more children in school
    • 3 million more children survive each year
    • 2 million people now receive HIV/AIDS treatment
  • Formidable challenges ahead:
    • 1 billion people in extreme poverty
    • 75 million children not in school
    • 10 million children die each year
    • 550,000 women die from treatable complications of pregnancy and birth
    • Over 33 million people infected with HIV/AIDS, 2 million die each year
    • Half of the developing world lacks sanitation.

Source: Global Monitoring Report 2008 [external link]

Global partnership on development

Rich countries, including Australia, have pledged to provide more and better development assistance and fairer trade to help countries that are committed to poverty reduction and sustainable development.

According to the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC) [external link], there has been a steady increase in aid in the last decade.

  • Rich countries' development assistance to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) has more than doubled between 2000 to 2006, but the ODA-to-GNI ratio—a measure of aid effort—was lower than in 1990 and programmable aid has fallen.
  • Global aid is also getting better. It is more flexible and aligned to national priorities; more selective-responsive to needs and quality of policies and institutions.

While multilateral trade negotiations have not yet delivered tangible results, market access for developing countries has improved slightly.

Australia is doubling the aid program

AusAID is the Australian Government's lead agency in the global fight to eradicate extreme poverty. In the face of substantial challenges, not least in the Asia-Pacific region, the Australian Government is intensifying efforts to achieve the MDGs. As one of the larger donor countries in the region, Australia has a special responsibility to assist developing countries in the Asia Pacific region to achieve the MDGs.

The Call to Action aims to galvanise widespread support, momentum and concrete action for the MDGs.

  • Prime Minister Rudd has committed to increasing Australia's aid to 0.5% of Gross National Income (GNI) by 2015. More and better assistance will be provided to lagging regions—including a re-engagement in Africa and an elevated engagement in the Pacific.
  • Australia will strengthen its development assistance activities to get children into primary school in East Asia and the Pacific.
  • Australia has joined the International Health Partnership, to help build sustainable health systems in developing countries and accelerate progress to meet the health MDGs.

(For details of other aid activities see About the Australian Aid Program)


Essential to increasing Australia's development assistance to implement the MDGs is improving the effectiveness of Australia's aid program.

Beyond 2015 there will be more to do

Fulfilling the MDGs is both important and achievable, and it would still leave a large agenda. Reducing by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger would be a remarkable achievement, but millions of people would continue to live in poverty.

  • It is estimated that more than 600 million people would still be living in extreme poverty, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
  • While many more children would be in school, there will still be huge gaps in the quality of education and challenges in access to early learning and secondary education opportunities. Gaps would also persist in child and maternal health.
  • Climate change will continue to loom large as a threat to long-term development globally.

The Australian Government is both intensifying efforts to support achievement of the MDGs, and planning for the post-2015 challenges.

Community Call to Action—Pilot

In April 2008 Prime Minister Rudd announced Australia’s endorsement of the MDG Call to Action. This declaration and action agenda is a global initiative that encourages donors to engage broadly in their communities and calls them to action to reduce poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in collaboration with the private sector and civil society.

The Community Call to Action is a new pilot Australian Government initiative to raise awareness of the MDGs. The Community Call to Action Fund ($1.5 million) will provide grants to community organisations, peak bodies and small business to help raise Australian public awareness and support for international development through their member networks.



Last reviewed: 24 February, 2010

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