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Born equal: How reducing inequality could give our children a better future

For more than half a century many people in the development sector have fought to alleviate the most extreme poverty and deprivation. The efforts of multilateral and bilateral donors as well as nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) have been focused on helping the world’s poorest people toaccess the basic goods and services for survival – food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, and education.

One of the highlights of the fight against poverty took place in 2000 at the Millennium Summit, when world leaders laid the foundations for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This eight-goal framework is aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality and promoting gender equality and women empowerment, among other goals, by 2015. Described as “the world’s biggest promise”, the MDGs are “a global agreement to reduce poverty at historically unprecedented rates through collaborative global action.” They are largely a story of success. As a result of the MDGs, during the last decade the world witnessed unprecedented progress. Millions of children were able to go to school for the first time, and many were given a chance at life.

Between 1990 and 2012, for the first time since global poverty trends started to be monitored, the number of people in extreme poverty fell from almost 2 billion people to less than 1.3 billion people.3 If preliminary data is confirmed, the world may have met the first of the MDGs – namely, to halve the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day – ahead of the 2015 deadline. We are faced with a unique, historical opportunity: we can eradicate absolute poverty and the worst forms of deprivation within a generation. Child mortality is also falling. In 2011 under-five mortality stood at 6.9 million – down from 12 million in 1990. Although we are only half way to reaching the child mortality goal, the rate of progress to reduce under-five child child deaths more than doubled in the 2000s.