Every human should be provided with basis facilities such as food, health, education which are very essential for survival. But with increasing population, poverty rate and hunger, it was not possible for all people across the globe to receive all these basic facilities. Therefore in 2000 international community came up with Millennium development goals (MDGs) to reduce extreme poverty, to eliminate hunger, promote gender equality within 15 years. But as all these goals were not fulfilled entirely, so later on in 2015, global community again came up together in form of Sustainable development goals (SDGs) to strengthen goals as already set up by MDGs and it brought certain new goals for the development of energy, infrastructure, and industry etc. Both MDGs and SDGs played a vital role in making better life for poor people throughout the world.

KEYWORDS: Millennium development goals, Sustainable development goals, Poverty, Development, Covid-19.


Agenda of development at international level has been always headed by United Nation and various agencies of UN from the time of their foundation. Till 1990, the efforts were fragmented and carried on by different agencies at various world summit and conferences to deal with economic, environmental, and social perspective of development.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) merged these different development agendas of UNDP, UNEP, WHO, UNICEF, UNESCO and various other development organizations. Later on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide strength to these agendas and also strengthen the equity, non-discrimination and human rights.

MDGs provided for a notable and more efficient manner of universal mobilization to accomplish a number of vital social concerns at international level such as poverty, gender inequality, disease, environmental degradation, hunger etc. SDGs came as successor development instrument to MDGs. Main task for ensuring environmental sustainability was already there in list of MDGs, which became more apparent with the arrival of new SDGs. SDGs aim to address shortcomings of MDGs, therefore it include broader agenda which effectively provide with challenges of 21st century.

This paper will focus on journey from Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals in evaluative manner and effect of Covid-19 pandemic over it.


This whole story began in early 1990s, when number of world conferences was held on global challenges with backing of UN. Some of these had good influence on expansion of transnational laws and progress of policy formation such as Declaration on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) and the Vienna Declaration of the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993. The World Summit for Social Development also known as Copenhagen declaration 1995 was considered to be most influential on MDGs as it identified various commitments to deal with eradicating poverty, promote employment social integration, employment, etc. On 8 September 2000, leaders from around 189 countries came together at UN headquarter New York to take on UN Millennium declaration which aim to establish global partnership of all countries to reduce life-threatening poverty, and to make better lives of world’s poorest people and therefore set out eight goals which are known as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were agreed and signed by all these UN members to try to achieve by the end of 2015. MDG fund contributed to achieve these MDGs. The first seven goals were dedicated to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality , improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and eighth goal was to develop a global partnership for development”.

There was large use of resources for MDGs related activities all over the globe and all nations took regular assessment of progress. Some major events related to this was World Summit of 2005, which reiterated obligations to this Millennium Declaration; the high-level event of 2008 in UN New York, which call to make rapid growth to achieve these MDGs; the MDGs Summit of 2010, which lead to adopt Global Action Plan and the announced number of initiatives to combat poverty, disease and the hunger and the UN special event in 2013 to follow up on MDG-related efforts . Apart from these global events, many regional events took places in member countries to evaluate the progress of these goals and take further steps.


The Millennium Development Goals created novel and pioneering partnerships, stimulated opinion of people, presented the massive significance of setting determined aims. MDGs restructured decision-making in all member countries by laying people and their instant needs at the front position. It assisted to pick out around one billion plus people from thrilling poverty, to fight against starvation, to facilitate large number of girls than ever before to join school, and to safeguard planet. Yet there remain some differences and the development was not like everywhere.

The success and efficiency of MDGs have always been topic of debate. Supporters claim is that MDGs has organized an exceptional universal drive against extreme poverty, as it reduce it by more than 50% across all over the globe. Before enactment of MDGs, there were several operations with somewhere similar aims such as removing poverty and enhancing literacy but they had not been perceived as rational series of goals at the international level.

On the other hand, its opponents argue that progress on objects set out by MDGs is not balanced, as many countries choose to involve with some and not all MDGs. This lead to the statements like MDGs only applied to global south countries. At the end some critics considered MDGs as platform imposed by developed countries on developing ones.

Now coming to data released by United Nation in form of report which state that with proper targeted interventions, effective strategies, and sufficient resources, even poorest country had made exceptional progress, also this report has acknowledge irregular achievement and underperformance in some areas.

As the data per goal are mentioned here:

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme power and hunger– Extreme poverty reduced considerably between 1990 and 2015 as nearly 50% population in world was living on less than $1.25 per day in 1990, this came down to 14% in 2015. It came down from 1.9 billion to 836 million, more than half. And undernourished population reduces to half from 23.3% to 12.9% between this time periods.

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education- There is approx. half reduction in figure of primary school children who were out of school throughout the globe to 57 million from about 100 million between period of 2000 to 2015. Also there is some growth in literacy rate of youth (age of 15 to 24 years) all over the globe from 83% in 1990 to 91% in 2015.

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women– Number of school going girls has been increase much more than it was before 2000 and developing regions has attained the object of eliminating gender disparity in all sector of education. In Southern Asia, 103 primary school going girls were there over every 100 boys by the end of 2015, which was only 74 in 1990. Now around 41% of paid worker outside agricultural segment are women, which rise from 35% in 1990. Women have received parliamentary participation in about 90% countries of total 174 countries.

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality– Mortality rate of children under the age of 5 year has dropped from 90 deaths to 43 deaths over every 1000 children from 1990 to 2015 as number of such death reduced from 12.7 million to 6 million all over the world. Number of measles cases reduced to 67% between the period of 2000 and 2013.

Goal 5: Improve maternal health– Number of maternal death globally reduced from 330 to 210 per 100000 live births between 2000 to 2015. Since 1990, this ration decreased by 45% globally and major reduction occurred after 2000.

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases– HIV infection decline to 40% between 2000 to 2013 lead to 2.1 million from 3.5 million. In June, 2014 around 13.6 million HIV affected people were able to receive ART therapy, which was just 8 lakh during the year of 2003. ART stopped around 7.6 million people to die from AIDS between 1995 and 2013.

Goal 7: Ensure Environmental sustainability– Substances which are depleting ozone are being wipe out since 1990. By 2015, 90% population of world is using better-quality drinking water, which was earlier available to only 76% in 1990. 147 countries have achieved the target of drinking water, 95 have attained the target of sanitization and around 77 have attained both these targets. Urban population breathing in slums declined to 29.7% in 2014 from 39.4% in 2000.

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development– Official development assistance from developed countries improved by 66% from 2000 to 2014. About 79% of import was duty free in 2014, which was only 65% in 2000. The number of mobile subscription increase tremendously from 738 million in 2000 to over 7 billion in 2015.


After going through these figures and analyzing these data, it seems that though these goals are satisfied to some extent and progress was there due collective efforts of all member states, yet the entire work is not completed. Some business of MDGs remained unfinished. Though some of the MDGs were accomplished before 2015, yet some other remains to be achieved.

Now talking about poverty and hunger, still hunger is nonstop affecting the growth of 160 million children per year. In 2014, developing region’s children from poor households were expected to be out of school four times more in comparison to those of rich families. About 800 million people are doing jobs where they earn less than US $2 per day.

Coming to environmental degradation, about 40% of world’s degraded land belongs to area with highest poverty rate. Around 135 million people may be displaces by 2045 because of desertification. Demand of food is estimated to increase around 50% by 2030.

Therefore to comply with these goals in more proper manner and to achieve them completely, there is urgent requirement to continue it in new era. Therefore Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted.


In September 2015, all members of United Nation came together to adopt Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as successor of MDGs which after 15 years of operation completed its time span in 2015. Talking about MGDs, they focused mostly on social aspects while some important development areas like infrastructure and energy were not there. SDGs identified the challenges which we are confronting in development, focused more on essential factors of sustainable development and not only on determinable outcomes. The SDGs have espoused an all-inclusive attitude, primarily considering challenges encountered by all countries and encouraging the collaboration of both private and public sectors in fulfillment of these goals. The SDGs are made up of 17 goals and about 169:

1) No poverty, 2) Zero hunger, 3) Good health and well-being, 4) Quality education, 5) Gender equality, 6) Clean water and sanitation, 7) Affordable and clean energy, 8) Decent work and economic growth, 9) Industry, innovation, and infrastructure, 10) Reduce inequality, 11) Sustainable cities and communities, 12) Responsible consumption and production, 13) Climate action, 14) Life under water, 15) Life on land, 16) Peace, justice, and strong institutions, and 17) Partnership for the goals.”

These SDGs can be allocated in 3 different groups: 1) Extended version of MDGs that are in form of first seven SDGs; 2) inclusiveness such as infrastructure, industrialization etc. which are there in SDGs no. 8,9,10; 3) sustainability and urbanization which are there in remaining seven goals: sustainable cities and societies, life beneath water “consumption and production; climate action; resources and environment; peace and justice; and the means of implementation and global partnership for it.”

These SDGs got advantage of the teachings learned from MDGs. They further take up the uncompleted work of MDGs for stability and to continue the motion created during dealing with extra challenges of urbanization, all-inclusiveness and solidification worldwide corporation by taking altogether CSOs and private entities. SDGs show continualness and association of MDGs while preparing these further sustainable by establishing strong environmental goals.


UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) released SDG report 2019, which provide that there is progress in many areas but it also state that there are some monumental challenges which are hindrance to this progress. This report provides that if the present rate continues, then around 6% of total population of world will continue to live under extreme poverty by 2030. Half of global population still lacks essential heath service and women are still facing structural disadvantage and discrimination all over the world. As per this report utmost crucial area for action is climate change, as its impact will be terrible and irretrievable as natural environment is worsening at alarming rate. Now around 9 out of 10 residents of urban areas are getting polluted air to breath.

According to this report focus should be “financing; sustainable and inclusive economy; more effective institutions; resilience; local actions; harnessing science, technology and innovation; with an increased focus on digital transformation and better use of data.”

As per SDGs Progress Report 2020, there is continued uneven progress and therefore important areas where substantial improvement is necessary are “decreasing global poverty, declining rates of maternal and child mortality, access to electricity for more people, and the development of more national sustainable development policies and signing of international agreements for environmental protection.”


1) MDGs were formed by number of experts in UN headquarters while SDGs were drawn up afterward of proper and wide consultation which included around 70 OWGs, CSO, country consultations, thematic consultations, public participation by way of face to face meetings, virtual instrument and home to home assessment.

2) MDGs focused only on eight goals by setting 21 targets and there were 63 indicators, but SDGs make it to seventeen goals and target number increase to 169. According to an analysis made by experts during Copenhagen meeting, it suggest that if United Nation focus on top 19 targets, it can receive 20 to 40 dollars in social welfare per dollar spent, and distributing it over entire 169 targets would decrease this amount to around 10 dollars or even less than it. So to be smart about spending is better than expanding or magnifying the aid budget;

3) MDGs focused on developing countries by taking fund from most of developed nations, but it is not the case with SDGs as all nations irrespective of developed or developing are working towards SDGs.

4) There are several targets fixed for different kind of people such as 7 targets for PWD, 6 for people in vulnerable situations an 2 for non-discrimination. So human development, human rights are intensely embedded in SDGs. These things were not there in MDGs as it has only three health goals with four targets and fifteen indicators focusing on child mortality, mother mortality, and transmissible diseases.

5) Time period for MDGs was 25 years, although adopted in 2002 but baseline data use was of 1990 and few baselines were later on revised, but in case of SDGs, 2015 is the baseline and it can be revised if some recent data came;

6) SDGs have a vision of establishing effective and organized partnership with the private firms to attain sustainable development;

7) MDGs did not play any significant role for CSOs, but SDGs properly focused on this rights form the very beginning phase with substantial inclusion of CSOs.


A) The cost of SDGs seems to be very large from few SDGs that have been costed. A rough idea about cost of eliminating thrilling poverty is around 66 billion dollars per annum, whereas this budget for making better infrastructure (transport, water, agriculture, etc.) is about seven trillion dollars globally. An important conference in Addis Ababa (capital of Ethiopia) did not succeed in relaxing the apprehension that funds to achieve the expected level of these goals will not be sufficient. It involved rethinking of UN target on aid giving 0.7% of GNI which was set before 40 years. Multilateral banks committed 400 billion dollars.

B) Maintaining peace is very important factor for any kind of development. Any danger to the peace at global level and steadiness at international level is large challenge for developing as well as developed countries. A very new crisis in Syria which lead to homelessness of around 12 million people and ultimately making them refugees.

C) Measuring growth: Many of the targets of SDGs are not quantified. Indicators to assess the growth are not yet been recognized. Even by restricting 2 indicators per target will lead to requisite of 338 indicators for monitoring and reporting. “Having 169 targets is like having no targets at all.” This measurability will be subject to accessibility of data and ability to quantify them.

D) Accountability: In MDGs there was absence of this factor for many inputs at each and every level. So this is required to be dealt more carefully in case of SDGs.


Before this pandemic of Coronavirus (Covid-19), it was assumed that next 10 years seems to witness unique and unparalleled utilization of resources and determinations to make this world an improved place for us to live, specifically for people from underprivileged and marginalized groups. But as Covid-19 has affected millions of life all over the globe and economy of most of the nations has fallen down tremendously, now it seems very difficult to achieve all these MDGs in the same way as they were presumed to be achieved till 2030. Lack of fund, resources will be a big challenge before us to fulfill these goals in appropriate manner as the country like USA who use to provide large fund to UN is under huge loss due to this pandemic. So even after the whole globe came out of this pandemic, the bad impact over health and economy would continue to be there for some years and therefore every nation will be required to do most effective implementation of these goals so as to achieve them in proper and efficient manner.

The impacts of Covid-19 are hazarding the growth towards these goals. The least developed countries, land-locked developing countries, small island developing States, and countries in humanitarian or fragile situations are going to get most affected because of friable health systems, restricted social protection exposure, limited financial and other resources, vulnerability to shocks, and dependence on international trade.


MDGs facilitated organizing global community, CSOs, leaders, and many other departments to emphasis on accomplishing these time bound and noticeably goals. Though we are not able to attain all these goals in perfect manner yet entire community at large level has shown good and significant growth in live saving of people and providing better quality lives to millions of people in the country and outside the country at global level.

Talking about India, it has not been able to make that level of progress as required by its economic need and therefore it is necessary to do further. MDGs were somehow easy to understand, monitor, and implement but SDGs being more in numbers and with large numbers of targets are somewhere facing difficulty to implement and monitor in efficient way. This may be the result of enormous consultation course where each and every person wants to have their side included. Now funding for such a mission seems as a challenge. There is a requirement to enhance accountability at both national and global level.