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In which John examines the progress of the UN's Millennium Development Goals over the last 15 years and looks ahead to the Global Goals. Can we live in a world where extreme poverty and undernourishment are rare? Are we closer to gender equality? How have infant mortality rates and maternal mortality rates changed in the last 25 years? And how will we ensure that the astonishing progress since 1990 continues?

Learn more about the Global Goals:
Thanks to Gates Notes for letting me borrow bits of their excellent videos on the MDGs:
Undernourishment graphs from Max Rosen, 'Hunger and Undernourishment' - Our World in Data:

And thanks to Rosianna for designing the charts and graphics in this video:

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Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday.  I had oral surgery yesterday, so I'm in a lot of pain, but I'm also on a lot of pain medication, so I apologize if I slur my words or if blood dribbles out of the corner of my mouth or whatever.

But anyway, Hank, today's video is like the Buddhist path to enlightenment: it comes to you in eight parts.

So Hank, later this week there's gonna be this big meeting in New York City, in which 193 world leaders will agree to some global goals for humans to achieve by 2030.  A while back, a similar meeting happened at which world leaders agreed to the Millennium Development Goals: eight goals to change the history of the world forever.  And surprisingly enough, it sort of worked.

So Hank, today I'm going to look back at those eight goals, and then maybe on Friday you can look forward to the new ones for us.

Okay, Goal Number One: Between 1990 and 2015, cut in half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and suffering from 
hunger.  That doesn't seem possible to do in 25 years, except that WE DID IT!  YES, PEOPLE.

So in 1990, about 1.9 billion people lived on the equivalent of less than $1.25 per day.  Now, even after adjusting for inflation etc., that number is more than a billion people smaller.  Most of this is due to huge decreases in poverty in China and South Asia and South America, but the rate of poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa has also fallen since 1990.  As for hunger, we're probably going to miss that goal of reducing it by 50 percent, but just barely.  In 1990, 23 percent of people in the developing world were undernourished.  Today, it's under 13 percent.

Goal Number Two: Achieve Universal Primary Education.  They weren't messing around with these goals, Hank.  Well, we're not quite there, but again, the progress is really impressive.  Primary school enrollment in the developing world is over 90 percent, and in the last 25 years the global literacy rate among young people has increased from 83 percent to 91 percent.

Goal Number Three: Gender Equality.  Okay, so speaking of kids in schools, in South Asia in 1990 there were 75 girls in school for every 100 boys, and today there are 103 girls in school for every 100 boys.  Step it up, boys!

Worldwide, women now make up 41 percent of the non-agricultural workforce.  In 1990, it was just 35 percent.  And there are more women working in universities and serving in parliaments.  That said, there are still massive disparities between men and women, so I hope that's a big focus for the new round of global goals.

Okay, Goal Number Four: Reduce the childhood mortality rate by 66 percent between 1990 and 2015.  So as you can see in this video I stole from the Gates Foundation (sorry Bill and Melinda), a lot of kids died before the age of five around the world in 1990, but in the last 25 years, the childhood mortality rate has dropped dramatically.  Just to cite one example, measles vaccinations have prevented about 15 million child deaths in the last 25 years.  Unfortunately we're going to miss that 66 percent target reduction, but even so, global childhood mortality has dropped by more than half since 1990.

Goal Number Five: Reduce the maternal mortality rate by 75 percent.  As you can see in this Gates Foundation chart (cool videos in the dooblydoo, by the way), there was very little progress on this front until 2005, and then when worldwide investment in maternal health increased, maternal mortality decreased dramatically.

Goal Number Six: Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and the incidence of malaria.  This has been a huge success.  Again, the HIV death rate began to decline when investment in HIV prevention and treatment began to increase.  And we see the same thing with malaria, where global deaths have decreased about 20 percent since 2000.

Goal Number Seven: Ensure environmental sustainability.  Let's not pretend that this has gone well.

Goal Number Eight: "Develop a global partnership for development."  Hank, I'm going to level with you.  I don't know the meaning of a sentence that seeks to develop a development. 

Overall, though, Hank, this has been a really good 25 years for humans.  You are much less likely to be poor or hungry or illiterate than you were in 1990.  If you're a girl you're more likely to go to school, and if you're a mother you're less likely to die during childbirth, or to have to bury one of your kids.  And the Millennium Development Goals had a lot to do with this.  Now they certainly weren't the only factor, but the attention and investment that resulted from the MDGs made a huge difference.  And that's why it's so important for all of us to pay attention to the new goals.

Hank, there are young people watching this video who may be among the first humans to see a world where extreme poverty and hunger are rare.  

Hank, I hope we can learn more about what the plan is to get humans to that place when I see you on Friday.