Global Issues

Do we need more worldwide development goals? Some surprisingly upbeat stats

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Jamie Drummond speaks at TEDGlobal

When it comes to setting grand worldwide goals for development, it’s easy to imagine global leaders in suits, wheeling and dealing in the backrooms of a UN summit, without actually accomplishing much. But Jamie Drummond — the executive director of ONE, which fights poverty and disease by supporting smart policies — says that when world leaders assembled to endorse the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, they did a surprisingly good job. The basic deal: developing countries promised to halve extreme poverty, hunger and deaths from disease by 2015, while more-developed nations promised to increase smart aid and trade reform. In 2010, the first TEDxChange took a look at these goals and where we stand.

As 2015 nears, the conversation is starting again. And as Drummond explains in an impassioned TEDTalk, he doesn’t want to see development goals for 2030 created using the same “late-20th-century, top-down, elitist, closed process.”

Drummond imagines worldwide polling — through cell phone surveys, reality TV show formats and online games — to get input on whether the next set of goals should stay focused on hunger and disease or should be expanded to include education, gender equality, education, sustainability and other issues.

What will make people around the globe want to get involved? Perhaps seeing some of these stats on progress toward the Millennium Development Goals since 2000. Find them after the jump. And spoiler alert: they are much more encouraging than you think.

  • Nearly 4 million Africans have started taking life-saving antiretroviral treatment for AIDS. Back in 2002, only about 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa had access to these treatments, which keep HIV from being a death sentence. Today, more than 5 million take these medications. [UNAIDS Global Report, 2011]
  • An estimated 200,000 new HIV infections in children have been averted. Thanks to the increased use of antiretrovirals in pregnant women. []
  • Measles, polio, guinea worm disease and tuberculosis are all on the steep decline. Around the globe, measles deaths have dropped by 78%. Since 1991, the number of cases of polio around the world have plummeted 99%. That same year, there were a half million cases of guinea worm disease, while, in 2008, there were just 3,000 (in fact, guinea worm is tipped to be the first parasitic disease to be completely eradicated). In 2007, there were 1.8 million deaths from tuberculosis. Two years later, the number dipped to 1.3 million. All these diseases appear to be on the way out. []
  • The number of malaria deaths has been halved worldwide. Deaths from this disease have dropped from 1 million a year to fewer than 655,000. Why? An effort to distribute antimalarial mosquito nets to 500 million people is estimated to have saved 200,000 lives per year. [World Health Organization Malaria Report, 2011]
  • Overall, in the past 10 years, a staggering 5.4 million child deaths were prevented. Thanks to the wide distribution of vaccines, it’s estimated that 5,000 fewer kids are dying every day. [GAVI Alliance, UNICEF Levels & Trends, 2011]
  • 46.5 million more children have started going to school. Between the years of 1999 and 2008, a huge increase was made in the number of kids receiving an education in Africa. [UNESCO, 2011]
  • 87% of people in the world have enough food to eat. It’s far from perfect, but it is certainly up from 76% of the population in the 1970s. Similarly, in 1982, more than 50% of people worldwide survived on less than $1.25 a day. In 2009, the number dropped to just above 20%. []

For more encouraging statistics on global development, head to the website Living Proof.