Millennium Development Goals

Fathom, 2013

Millenium Development Goals


Our Millennium Development Goals project had its genesis in earlier work — a piece we produced for the Guardian and later wrote about — that focused on the United Nations’ goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds. The interactive highlights both the progress and setbacks made in the pursuit thus far, and identifies the cost of getting back on track for 2015.

Reducing Child Mortality is actually the fourth of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015, and diving into just one of the indicators sparked our curiosity in the whole set. The UN produces an extensive report on MDG progress each year, but there is no high level summary to quickly explain how we’re doing across all goals.  We challenged ourselves to change that.

Millennium Development Goals

We designed a standalone website to illustrate how we’re doing as a whole. The eight primary goals are broken out into 18 component indicators, and mapped on a scale from Reversed Progress, No Progress, On Target, and Goal Attained. Clicking on the circles reveals additional details about the corresponding goal, where progress has been made globally, and which nations or regions need assistance to move forward.

Millennium Development Goals

The UN created the MDGs to test the use of data-driven indicators in the service of humanitarian goals. There is danger in oversimplifying the challenges that global researchers faced in producing this type of data in a usable form. Our site includes a matrix showing every data point that was used, and how it was collected — gathered directly by the UN, reported by local governments, or projected by statisticians — to make the full details of the data available, and serve as a reminder that global data is messy.

In the thirteen years since the MDGs were introduced, there have been some stunning successes: the number of people living in extreme poverty has halved; the percentage of people with access to clean drinking water has grown to almost 90%; and there have been sharp drops in malaria and tuberculosis mortality worldwide. Unfortunately there have also been indicators where progress has stagnated or even reversed itself, as in the case of child mortality. As the UN works to define the next generation of goals, dubbed the Sustainable Development Goals, efforts to visualize and understand this type of global data will become increasingly important.