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Millennium Development Goals

The fight against global poverty and inequality

The Australian Government is committed to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—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 threatened by disease and the lack of available health care, and protecting the environment. These are achievable commitments to improve the wellbeing of the world's poorest people.

The MDGs underpin Australian aid.

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

Australia has helped countries to make progress against the MDGs. In Papua New Guinea, in 2012 Australia has supported immunisation for over 500,000 children for measles and polio and over 1.2 million women for tetanus. In Afghanistan in 2012 Australian support has helped 39 per cent of births to be attended by skilled attendants, compared to 24 per cent in 2007; and contributed to a three‐fold increase in the proportion of functioning primary health care facilities with skilled female health workers. In Indonesia, more than 2000 new junior secondary schools have been built or renovated creating places for 330,000 more children between 2006 and 2011. In Sub-Saharan Africa Australian assistance has provided over one million people with access to safe water and 850,000 people with access to basic sanitation.

Around the world hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. In fact the poverty reduction target was met five years ahead of schedule. Life expectancy is improving. Each year five million more children are surviving beyond their fifth birthday, and there have been important steps in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

However not all of the Millennium Development Goals are on track. There have been setbacks caused by factors such as the global recession, high food and fuel prices and natural disasters. Progress has also been uneven within and between countries.

Key facts on the MDGs

Significant progress since 1990

  • 700 million fewer people living in extreme poverty
  • 5.1 million more children under-five survive each year
  • 8 million people now receive HIV/AIDS treatment.

Formidable challenges ahead

  • 1 billion people in extreme poverty
  • 57 million children not in school
  • 6.9 million children under-five die each year, around 19,000 deaths every day
  • 287,000 women die from treatable complications of pregnancy and birth
  • Over 34 million people living with HIV and 1.7 million people die from AIDS-related causes each year
  • Half of the developing world lacks sanitation.

Beyond 2015

Fulfilling the MDGs is both important and achievable. 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 will also persist in child and maternal health. While gains have been made in child survival, a significant proportion of child deaths still occur in the newborn period – especially in the first day and month of life.
  • Climate change will continue to loom large as a threat to long-term development globally.

As the MDG target date of 2015 draws near, the international community is working to design a new global development framework for the post-2015 period. Australia is actively participating in these international processes.

More information


Last reviewed: 21 November, 2013