UN's Millenium Development Goals

The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were agreed on by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000 and set targets to:

  • to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;

  • to achieve universal primary education;

  • to promote gender equality and empower women;

  • to reduce child mortality;

  • to improve maternal health;

  • to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;

  • to ensure environmental sustainability; and

  • to develop a global partnership for development.

15 years after they were created they reached their expiration date and the UN created the Sustainable Development Goals to focus their attention on over the next 15 years.

Meet the sustainable development goals

From the Millennium Development Goals progress has been made across the board, from combatting poverty, to improving education and health, and reducing hunger, but there is still a long way to go.

Shockingly, surveys found that in September 2015 only 4% of the UK public had heard of the MDGs. These international agreements have the potential to change the lives of millions of the world's poorest. It's important to know about them and the set of 17 goals that the UN will be focusing on for the next 15 years: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What they mean in practice

Five Talents UK works in East Africa to promote goals 1, 5, 8, and 16; we believe that public understanding of these big-picture development goals is of the greatest importance. In order to make informed decisions about how you can support the goals, you need to know what they are.

This page focuses largely on the goals themselves, but you can follow these links to find out more about how the Five Talents hybrid microfinance model is pitched at long-term development, how we work via a community of Tanzanian and Kenyan partners, or to meet some of our members.

Alternatively, read our latest Impact Report to find out how we think about long-term change. 

The sustainable development goals (SDGS):

17 Steps to a better world

  1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

  2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

  3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

  4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

  5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

  6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

  7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

  8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

  9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

  10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

  11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

  12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

  13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

  14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

  15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

  16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

  17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

It's a powerful set of goals, and one that builds upon the successes and setbacks of the Millennium Development Goals. And it's not just academic! At Five Talents UK, we're focused on goals 1, 5, 8, and 16. If you're interested in the practical application of these goals, feel free to read about how our model is designed to promote sustainable development or even how you can get involved!

Source:    UN Tribune

Source: UN Tribune

Five Talents and the SDGS

At Five Talents we are delighted to see that the SDGs narrow the broad aims of the MDGs, add a greater level of specificity, and include points which focus on gender inequality and the root causes of poverty.

For obvious reasons we are particularly keen on points 1, 5, 8 and 16 each of which tackle the issues which we spend our time combatting. Below you'll find a more detailed breakdown of what these three goals mean in practice and how they relate to Five Talents' work.

Who created the goals? 

The Millennium Development Goals were famously created in a closed environment. Because this was a point of criticism, the SDGs were created with the help of the largest consultation programme the UN has ever undertaken; citizens, civil society, academia, the private sector, and local and regional governments all provided input. 

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

In 1990, 47% of the world lived on less than $1.25 per day. The MDGs set out to reduce this proportion to 23.5% (and actually ended up achieving 22% in 2010). The SDGs take this goal to the logical conclusion by aiming to reduce the percentage of people living in extreme poverty to zero by 2030. The UN recognises that without access to financial services, many are unable to increase their incomes at all. Access to economic services such as microfinance is therefore included within a clause of this goal.

Five Talents believes that an increased income is vital, not as a goal in itself, but to give people dignity and choice in how they support themselves. For many in our programmes, this may be as simple as being able to invest in their child’s education, build a well to access safe water or visit the doctor when they are sick. In Kenya, for example, over the past ten years our donors have allowed thousands of rural entrepreneurs to pool savings of nearly £2.9m. In communities living below the poverty line, this represents a significant safety net.


5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

The inclusion of a point relating to gender equality in the SDGs has been widely welcomed by the development community. By 2030, the UN hopes to have eliminated all discrimination, violence, and all 'harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilations'. 

The vast majority of our clients in Uganda, Tanzania, DR Congo and Kenya (and, indeed, internationally, across all of the Five Talents projects) are female. 

Once a woman earns an income, her decision-making power at home and in the wider community increases. This means she is no longer forced to depend on her husband and her children are more likely to go to school and to receive nutritious and regular meals. 

In some areas where Five Talents works there are particular issues facing women such as female genital mutilation or gender-based violence. Here our partners work closely with the whole community to teach about the positive role women can play and to teach women about their rights.

8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

One clause of this goal contains a reference to the need for 'formalisation and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises including through access to financial services'. Five Talents is keenly aware of the need for development at this end of the enterprise scale. We also understand the important role that access to basic financial services play.

Our microfinance strategy is a powerful tool in the struggle for sustained and sustainable economic growth. Using country-specific social impact surveys, we ensure that we are targeting the most needy and excluded within communities.

Some of those that we work with have been dependent on food aid for many years - reliant on these handouts but with no hope of feeding their own families. We pride ourselves in being a ‘compassionate banker’ and providing our East African members with a hand up, not a handout. Changing mindsets and showing communities that they can use the skills, trust and small pockets of money they already have to increase their incomes is a big part of our work.  

Iringa Trust Group member , 2016

Iringa Trust Group member, 2016

16. Promote peaceful & inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Several of the sub-clauses within point 16 align directly with Five Talents' operating philosophy, namely ensuring 'responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels,' developing institutions of good 'governance' and promoting 'non-discriminatory…policies for sustainable development'.

Our partners ensure these principles are put into practice through the owner-managed Trust Groups which form the basic building blocks of all our programmes. This is particularly critical when dealing with marginalised communities which have traditionally lacked empowerment, are dependant on aid, and have little or no history of democratic leadership. 

A new trust group in the rural parish of Katama, gathers in the shade an awning to vote on its constitution. Some of the attendees walked 25km to get to this meeting

OK - Now I know About the SDGs, What Next?

>  Find out more about our strategy, and how we use a unique programme of savings and credit based microfinance combined with financial tech infrastructure.

>  Whether you're an individual, company, or a church, you can help us move towards the SDGs.