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How Bill Gates stopped worrying and learned to love the MDGs

GN_MDG_Child_Chart_04.2Bill Gates was not thrilled about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they were launched in 2005. The goals were meant to set tangible targets for the world and individual countries to achieve by 2015. Though he eventually came around to love them. Bill and Melinda now sing their praises far and wide.

“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it happened, but over time Melinda and I moved from cautious optimists to full-throated fans. I think the MDGs are the best idea for focusing the world on fighting global poverty that I’ve ever seen,” blogs Gates.

The Gates’ love for the MDGs boils down to three reasons:

  1. There are concrete measurable goals.
  2. The MDGs dominated the global agenda.
  3. They prove that ending poverty is not as complex as some say it is.

He says that the impact of the MDGs may be hard to determine outright, but are responsible for some of the biggest gains against poverty.

“Without the goals, it’s unlikely the world would have focused as much as it did on malaria, HIV/AIDS, maternal mortality, or childhood diseases,” he writes.

As the world’s leaders gather in New York City for the UN General Assembly and the surrounding events, what follows the MDGs will be discussed (after Syria, of course). Gates says he will focus on four qualities that the Post-2015 goals need.

  1. Focused on extreme poverty
  2. Measurable
  3. Actionable
  4. Built on a consensus

Point four will be most difficult solely because it will start by defining who gets to be a part of that consensus. Efforts are underway to ask the poor what they think and a UN High-Level panel issued its recommendations earlier this year. We will find out some more details as to how it might progress, it if is possible to cut through the Syria issue, by the end of next week.


The story, complete with plenty of infographics, is recounted in a the re-booted Gates Notes blog. It also includes this video from economist Charles Kenny of the Center for Global Development. He explains why things are actually getting better around the world and is optimistic about what can be achieved.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]