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Views from the Center


There’s more to this week’s UN General Assembly Meeting than Libya and Palestine, despite the focus of the popular media. The meeting’s extensive agenda includes issues of economic growth, poverty eradication, HIV prevention, and gender parity, which remain high priorities for the general assembly. These issues fall under the scope of the Millennium Development Goals, ambitious development targets which countries must reach by 2015.  With fewer than four years until the deadline, there are still no definitive answers to one burning question: “how have countries fared in achieving the MDG targets?”

Last year, a CGD working paper introduced the MDG Progress Index, which assigned scores to each country for their progress toward eight core MDG targets (poverty, hunger, education, gender, child & maternal mortality, HIV prevention, and water access.)  The subsequent web-tool presented the results to our audience in a user-friendly format.  This year, we’ve updated the Index with 2011 World Bank data, only to find that many country scores have undergone noticeable changes.  In a recent CGD brief, we outline the broad trends in country progress toward MDG targets between 2010 and 2011.  In addition, here are a few country-specific nuggets which might surprise our readers.

First the good news:

  • Despite being one of Africa’s poorest performers in 2010, Niger is now on track to achieve two indicators (poverty and hunger) and is nearly on track to achieve four others (gender, child mortality, maternal mortality, and water access.)
  • Mexico is on track to achieve 6 targets (compared with 4 in 2010).  Mexico saw improvements in poverty reduction and HIV/AIDS prevention.
  • Bangladesh improved to one of the top scores in South Asia, and is now on track to achieve 3 targets (gender, child mortality, and HIV), and nearly on pace to reach 3 others (poverty, hunger, and maternal mortality).

And the not-so-good news:

  • Last year, oft-heralded Botswana was one of the better performing countries in Africa, with a score of 3.5.  This year, Botswana scored just 2 on the index and was on track to achieve only one of the eight targets (gender parity.)
  • Cote d’Ivoire has gone from bad (1.5) to worst (0), and isn’t on track to achieve any MDG targets.

These changes are not without caveats.  The most recent revisions to the 2011 data are mired by the (expected) inconsistencies and data revisions to the 2010 World Development Indicators publication.  Check out the updated MDG Progress Index (complete with updated scorecards for all 140 low- and middle- income countries) and let us know what you think.

On Wednesday, USAID and DfID hosted an event at UNGA to highlight country success stories for each of the eight MDGs.  While these ‘success stories’ match up the scores in our MDG Progress Index, they focus on one particular indicator for one particular country.  Our Index provides a score analysis for all eight goals for each country, which illustrates a more comprehensive assessment of MDG progress rather than a ‘cherry-picking’ approach.  Furthermore, the trends we identify are applicable to both absolute progress over the 25 year period and the change in progress between 2010 and 2011.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.