At the Millennium Summit in September 2000, 189 countries unanimously adopted the Millennium Declaration, pledging: We will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than one billion of them are currently subjected. The Declaration led to the articulation of eight specific Millennium Development Goals, to be achieved between 1990 and 2015:
- Halving extreme poverty and hunger
- Achieving universal primary education
- Achieving gender equality
- Reducing child mortality by two-thirds
- Reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters
- Reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases
- Ensuring environmental sustainability
- Creating a global partnership for development
The Millennium Development Goals have since been reaffirmed by world leaders at several occasions, including at the G8 Evian summit in 2003 and most recently at the 2005 World Summit. For the billion-plus people still living in extreme poverty, achieving the Goals is a life-or-death issue. Extreme poverty, or poverty that kills, deprives individuals of the means to stay alive in the face of hunger, disease, and environmental hazards.
When individuals suffer from extreme poverty and lack the meager income needed to cover even basic needs, a single episode of disease, a drought, or a pest that destroys a harvest can be the difference between life and death. If the world achieves the Millennium Development Goals, more than 500 million people will be lifted out of poverty. A further 250 million will no longer suffer from hunger. Thirty million children and two million mothers who might otherwise have been expected to die will be saved.