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The EU and the Millennium Development Goals

The EU joined world leaders in the pledge to eradicate poverty and save millions of lives spelled out in eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be achieved by 2015. This global partnership has come a long way since its adoption in 2000. The UN Millennium Goals Report 2011 confirms significant progress on a number of goals. The Commission is making a major contribution to the process. The key results from the EU programmes are now summarized in the brochure "EU Contribution to the Millenium Development Goals " – available in all languages via the EU Bookshop.

The goal of reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to drinking water has already been achieved, and preliminary World Bank estimates for 2010 indicate that the poverty rate has fallen to under half of its 1990 value. Deaths from malaria and HIV infections are on the decline, while the availability of anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS treatment has massively increased. Significant steps towards achieving universal primary education have also been made.

Much more remains to be done, as progress is uneven among countries and regions and some targets are still off-track. The Commission remains firmly committed to helping to ensure that the MDGs are met by 2015 and is providing targeted funding to deliver on this commitment.

In 2013, the United Nations will carry out a further review of progress towards the MDGs and will start to look towards a development framework post-2015. In 2012, the EU is working to develop its contribution to this international process. To this end, a public consultation will take place in summer 2012.

Cross-cutting initiatives

The Commission has adopted a number of broad measures to speed up progress towards the attainment of the goals and refocus its strategy where necessary. These include:

  • The MDG Initiative. Launched in 2010 at the MDG Summit in New York, it focuses on the most off-track targets. Additional support is provided to 36 countries for tackling hunger, child mortality, maternal health and access to water.
  • The MDG Contract. This innovative funding mechanism provides an enhanced form of General Budget Support with outcome indicators linked to education, health and other MDG-relevant sectors.
  • The MDG Action Plan. Ahead of the UN MDG Summit in September 2010, the Commission renewed its commitment by adopting an ambitious 12-point action plan to increase the impact of its contribution.
  • The Agenda for Change (2011), the EU's flagship new development policy, was designed to improve the way the EU delivers development assistance in order to increase its impact on poverty and hence speed up progress towards the MDGs.

Key results goal by goal

Goal 1: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger

Efforts to end poverty and hunger are at the heart of the Commission’s efforts to support developing countries. The preliminary figures published by the World Bank indicating that the poverty rate had fallen to under half of its 1990 value by 2010 show that these efforts are starting to pay off.

Key Commission achievements in this field include:

  • the provision of seeds and tools, direct cash transfers and food to 24 million people living in extreme poverty between 2002 and 2009;
  • the creation of the EU Food Facility in 2008, which made available €1 billion over three years to improve agricultural productivity and food supply.

More on Commission action to fight hunger

Goal 2: achieving universal primary education

More than 9 million children have been enrolled in primary education and more than 720 000 primary school teachers have received training (2004-2009). The Commission’s action is a driving force behind these figures, supporting education in over 100 countries. Activities in this field include building schools, training teachers and building capacities for improved education policies.

More on Commission action to improve access to education

Goal 3: promoting gender equality

The Commission incorporates gender issues into all aspects of development programmes. Actions include support for gender equality legislation and government strategy, education as well as combating domestic violence, female genital mutilation and trafficking. The Commission supported the enrolment of around 85 000 female students in secondary education in 10 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa between 2005 and 2010. The EU also saves thousands of girls from female genital mutilation/cutting and child marriage.

More on Commission action to improve women’s rights

Goal 4: reducing child mortality

The Commission works to deliver essential health services through funding programmes, policy dialogue and financial contributions to international health initiatives. It has contributed to immunisation against measles for more than 5 million children between 2005 and 2010. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation to which the Commission contributed prevented 5.4 million premature deaths through its vaccination programme.

Goal 5: improving maternal health

The Commission contributes to improving maternal health by helping countries to strengthen their health policies and systems and to include quality family planning and reproductive health services. It also cooperates with governments, NGOs and UN agencies to strengthen the rights of women to make informed choices.
Its support resulted in more than 10 million consultations on reproductive health and more than 4 million births attended by health personnel since 2004.

Goal 6: combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases

Through its contribution to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Commission has provided antiretroviral combination therapy to 750 000 people with HIV infection and given access for 7.7 million people to insecticide-treated nets since 2002, thereby preventing malaria from spreading.

In addition to the contribution to the Fund, it provides bilateral and regional support to strengthen health systems in developing countries.

More on Commission action to improve health conditions

Goal 7: ensuring environmental sustainability

The goal of increasing the number of people with access to drinking water has been achieved ahead of time.
Commission water and sanitation programmes, amounting to almost €400 million per year, help to build infrastructure for drinking and waste water systems and provide basic sanitation and hygiene. These efforts are bearing fruit: more than 31 million people were connected to drinking water and 9 million to sanitation facilities between 2004 and 2010.

Since 1990, more than 2 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources thanks to the joint effort of international and national partners.

More on Commission action to protect the environment

Goal 8: developing a global partnership

To foster the global links that can bring about the attainment of all MDGs, the Commission is working as an individual donor, at EU level and internationally to improve aid effectiveness. The Aid for Trade agenda, designed to help developing countries export, provides €2 billion of trade-related assistance annually.
Conflict prevention, management and resolution also play a key role in boosting development. The EU’s African Peace Facility was allocated a total of €300 million for the period 2009-11.

More on Commission action to improve aid effectiveness


The EU joined world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 with the aim “to free fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanising condition of extreme poverty”. Leaders of 189 countries committed their nations to a new global partnership focused on eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to reduce extreme poverty with a deadline of 2015, by setting out a series of time-bound targets.

The EU is the world’s largest aid donor, providing more than half of all development aid. The Commission alone accounts for 13% of total aid flows through programmes promoting the MDGs and supporting sectors crucial for development.

Fact sheets

Fact sheet MDG – Water and Sanitation pdf - 130 KB [130 KB] français (fr)

Fact sheet MDG - Hunger pdf - 333 KB [333 KB] français (fr)

Fact sheet MDG - Health pdf - 249 KB [249 KB] français (fr)

Key documents


Related links

Last update: 03/02/2014 | Top