The Millennium Development Goals that were established in 2000 are set to expire in 2015. These eights goals aimed to improve the lives of the poor the world over through initiatives on reducing hunger and extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combatting HIV, malaria, and other diseases, promoting environmental sustainability, and establishing a global partnership on economic development.
A great deal of progress has been made on these issues. On the global level, the amount of people living in extreme poverty has been halved, over 2 billion people gained access to improved sources of drinking water, millions of lives have been saved in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis, the number of slums has declined drastically, and the ability of developing countries to access open markets and export their goods has increased drastically.
Yet, the MDGs have fallen short on reducing child mortality, maternal health, expanding education, empowering women, combatting HIV, environmental stability, and reducing inequality. Over a billion people are still living in poverty as well. This has made the formation of the post-2015 goals all the more important. And unlike the current MDGs, one issue that should be a focus of the next round is combatting corruption.
Corruption is alarmingly widespread. Globally, 1 in 4 people reported paying a bribe when interacting with a public institution from 2012-2013. This will make the achievements of further development goals much more difficult. Corruption hurts the health of developing nations, leading to both maternal and child deaths, it limits access to primary education, it produces market distortions that result in more inequality and poverty, and it worsens our ability to achieve gender equality and promote environmental stability. It also reduces foreign direct investment and capital inflows to developing countries, hindering their ability to grow their economies.
In fact, a 2004 study found that in Uganda, corruption results in only 13% of federal grants earmarked for schools ever reaching their intended recipients. Most of the money goes into the pockets of officials.
Given that large amounts of a country's budgets are earmarked for education, it is particularly prone to corruption. In Nigeria, at least $21 million intended for education was lost over two years, according to transparency.org. This corruption is made all the worse by the bribery that frequently takes place at the schools themselves. In many developing countries parents are charged exorbitant bribes to get their kids in schools. This corruption and bribery in education directly hampers the effort to make primary education universal.
Corruption is also rampant in the health sector. For countries that had 60% or more of their population pay a bribe, the maternal mortality rate per 100,000 births was 482. This is 8 to 9 times higher than the maternal mortality rate in countries where 30% or less of their population paid a bribe. It was estimated in 2006 that Cambodia loses more than 5% of its health budget to corruption before the funds could leave the central government. The poor in many countries are also targeted for bribes when they are trying to access free health services. Corruption often runs rampant in procurement, which distorts and raises the price of medical supplies.
Corruption severely and negatively impacts health and education outcomes. It is obvious that this has limited the achievement of the MDGs. As the UN's Open Working Group debates what to make the focuses of the post-2015 development agenda, they should include combatting corruption. By pushing governments, the aid sector, and the private sector to stamp down on corruption, they will promote better governance, improve the lives of the poor, and further economic development.