J D Sachs, J W McArthur

This year marks a pivotal moment in international efforts to fight extreme poverty. During the United Nations (UN) Millennium Summit in 2000, 147 heads of state gathered and adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, panel 1) to address extreme poverty in its many dimensions—income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion—while promoting education, gender equality, and environmental sustainability, with quantitative targets set for the year 2015. The UN committed to reviewing progress towards the goals in 2005, recognising that by this time only a decade would be left to fulfil the MDGs.

We are now at the 5-year juncture with a stark realisation: many of the poorest regions of the world, most notably in sub-Saharan Africa, are far off-track to achieve the goals. Yet the MDGs are still achievable. The lives of hundreds of millions of people could be dramatically improved and millions could be saved every year, but only if the world takes bold steps in 2005. This essay is the first in a series summarising key conclusions of the UN Millennium Project, a 3-year independent advisory effort initiated by UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan to identify practical steps to achieve the MDGs in every country, especially in those currently far off-course in progress. The project was housed in and supported by the UN Development Programme.
The project established 10 task forces to identify strategies and means of implementation to achieve each MDG target, and each task force has produced a detailed report (panel 2). The task force coordinators also worked together to synthesise their findings into an overall integrated strategy.1 Additionally, the project has worked in several countries with government, international agencies, and civil society, to support detailed on-the-ground analyses of strategies and financing needs to achieve the MDGs. On Jan 17, the UN Millennium Project delivered its reports to the UN Secretary-General.

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