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Costs and benefits

The costs and benefits of achieving the Millennium Development Goals
Expanding the financial envelope to achieve the Goals
The benefits: the case for a decade of bold ambition

The benefits: the case for a decade of bold ambition


The Millennium Development Goals lay out a challenging and achievable vision for dramatically reducing poverty in all its forms, with tremendous benefits for the entire world. We noted at the outset of this Overview that if the Goals are achieved, more than 500 million people will be lifted out of poverty and millions of lives will be saved, with a great proportion of the improvements experienced in Africa. Millions of children will be given an opportunity to attend primary school if the Goals are met. Other benefits are quantified in the simple extrapolations presented in table 9 . Not captured in such a table is the reversed environmental degradation brought about by the Goals, or the hundreds of millions more women and girls who will lead their lives in freedom, with more security and more opportunity, if the Goals are achieved. Behind these achievements are the lives and hopes of people with new opportunities to end the burden of grinding poverty.

But the Millennium Development Goals are only a mid-station to ending absolute poverty. Even if the Goals are achieved in every country, extreme poverty will remain a major issue requiring ongoing attention. Although a scale-up in high-quality development assistance will allow many countries to graduate from the need for large-scale external budget support, the poorest countries will still require ongoing support equal to 10–20 percent of their GDP to -graduate from external assistance sometime after 2015—likely by 2025 ( map 8 ). Until then, and to eventually make development assistance obsolete, sustained aid will be crucial. To that end, high-income countries will need to maintain support at close to 0.7 percent of their GNI for some period beyond 2015 ( table 10 ). By 2015 extreme poverty can be cut by half. By 2025 extreme poverty can be substantially eliminated.

In laying out tangible targets, the Goals make explicit the most obvious costs of inaction in terms of lives and opportunities lost. They also form a centerpiece for the world's security agenda. As the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change and many others have noted, human development and environmental management are intricately linked to peace and security. Only by reducing poverty and improving -environmental management over the coming decades can a rise in the number of conflicts and state failures be averted. If the Goals are not met, millions will die who would otherwise live. Countries that would be stable will descend into conflict. And the environment will continue to be degraded. The risks and benefits will be shared across the entire world, so genuine international leadership and responsibility will need joint action on both development and security policy. As mentioned earlier, in line with the High-Level -Panel's recommendation, developed countries aspiring to permanent seats on the UN Security Council, for example, should be prepared to fulfill the commitment to 0.7 percent of GNP in ODA by 2015 as part of their leadership responsibilities.

Table 9: The benefits of meeting the Millennium Development Goals, by region

Table 10: Estimated official development assistance flows and gaps of Development Assistance Committee members based on existing commitments

Fortunately, the costs of achieving the Goals are entirely affordable and well within the promises of 0.7 percent made at Monterrey and Johannesburg. The required doubling of annual official development assistance to $135 billion in 2006, rising to $195 billion by 2015, pales beside the wealth of high-income countries—and the world's military budget of $900 billion a year. Indeed, the increased development assistance will make up only half a percent of rich countries' combined income.

Of course money alone will not be sufficient to meet the Goals, but increased investments need to accompany institutional reform, good policies, and increased efforts to improve the accountability of governments. Unless more financial assistance is available effectively, low-income countries and their development partners will not be able to have serious and honest discussions about the reforms and investments required to meet the Goals. For countries where such reforms and good policies are in place, high-income countries should, in the spirit of the Monterrey Consensus, make good on their -commitment to increasing ODA for them to work toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

At stake is the credibility and functioning of the international system. Without a breakthrough in 2005, if poor countries that have met their Monterrey commitments are not effectively supported in pursuing an MDG-oriented- strategy, the already dwindling faith in international commitments to reduce poverty will likely vanish. In that case, the Goals will not be met and the trust in rich countries' sincerity to support well governed countries in need of external assistance will be deeply, if not fatally, damaged. If we do not act now, the world will live without goals.

To ensure success, in 2005 the world must start building capacity, improving policies, and delivering the investments needed to meet the Millennium Development Goals. This effort will need to be sustained at the global, national, and local level over the next 10 years. And only by acting now can long-term environmental challenges, such as climate change and fisheries depletion, be contained before they inflict irreparable harm on the poor countries able to protect themselves the least.

Urgent action is needed if we are to usher in a decade of bold ambition to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Developing countries need to make every effort to mobilize around the Goals. Rich countries need to ask themselves if they should be more concerned, as many of them are today, with pointing fingers at the responsibilities of poor countries than with meeting their own commitments. In 2005 the world needs desperately to follow through on its commitments, taking quick practical steps at scale before the Goals become impossible to achieve. If we fail to invest now, it will be a very long way to the next Millennium Summit in the year 3000.

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Related Information
Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals
"Investing in Development brings together the core recommendations of the UN Millennium Project. By outlining practical investment strategies and approaches to financing them, the report presents an operational framework that will allow even the poorest countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015."
For a full list of statements of support
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