How To Eliminate Extreme Poverty In 169 Not-So-Easy Steps : Goats and Soda The Millennium Development Goals, set in 2000, revolutionized the fight against poverty. Now the world is setting Sustainable Development Goals. But critics say there may be too many priorities.
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How To Eliminate Extreme Poverty In 169 Not-So-Easy Steps

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How To Eliminate Extreme Poverty In 169 Not-So-Easy Steps

How To Eliminate Extreme Poverty In 169 Not-So-Easy Steps

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Back in the year 2000, leaders from all over the world set this year as a deadline. They promised by 2015 to meet an ambitious set of goals to reduce poverty everywhere. Yesterday, we heard about the surprising success of these goals - an unprecedented number of people have been lifted out of extreme poverty. Now we're going to hear about the effort to come up with targets for the next 15 years. Here's NPR's Nurith Aizenman.

NURITH AIZENMAN, BYLINE: The new goals will have a new name. They're going to be called the Sustainable Development Goals. Not exactly splashy, but they could transform millions of lives. They also have a new deadline. Countries will aim to meet these targets by the year 2030. And the process for coming up with them, that's different, too. The original goals were pretty much written by a few top United Nations officials sitting in a room. Thomas Gass is an assistant secretary-general at the U.N. in charge of coordinating the process this time around.

THOMAS GASS: Oh, it's hugely different. This time it was a two-year process that involved all the member states that invited interest groups and civil society to come and provide their inputs, their comments.

AIZENMAN: And there have been a lot of comments. Mark Malloch-Brown, a former top U.N. official who helped write the original goals, says it's gotten a little out of control.

MARK MALLOCH-BROWN: We are victims of success of the original goals. They've so much driven decisions about funding by both governments and donors that, you know, everybody, whatever their issue, wants to make sure they're included.

AIZENMAN: The result - the current draft, which is expected to be adopted pretty much as is at the U.N. this fall, lists more than double the number of original goals and quadruple the number of sub-targets.

MALLOCH-BROWN: So the eight goals of the first time 'round are now replaced by 17 goals and 169 targets.

AIZENMAN: A lot of them expand on unfinished business in areas like reducing child and maternal mortality or fighting disease or boosting incomes. For instance, the original goals called for cutting in half the share of people living in extreme poverty, meaning they have to get by on less than $1.25 a day. Now the aim is to get that down to zero. But there are also a lot of new categories, things like promote sustainable tourism and provide universal access to green public spaces. Mark Suzman oversees global policy advocacy for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

MARK SUZMAN: All of them are incredibly important. There's not a single one of the 169 targets that you would look at and say that's a bad thing.

AIZENMAN: But Suzman worries that by prioritizing so many issues, you end up prioritizing none.

SUZMAN: You do risk a real dilution of focus and energy and resources. The worst-case scenario is we might actually see some regression in some key areas where we've had so much momentum.

AIZENMAN: But the U.N.'s Thomas Gass says the point is not just to update the original version of the goals - it's to usher in a whole new chapter in fighting poverty.

GASS: The strength of this new agenda is not its focus or its help to set priorities. The strength of this new agenda is that it can and must become a new social contract between governments and their people.

AIZENMAN: He says to really eliminate poverty you need more than just aid from rich countries. It's about poor countries taking the lead, bringing in private investment to expand their economies. And above all, it's about citizens expressing what they want and holding their governments to account. Nurith Aizenman, NPR News.

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