In 1990, 1.9 billion people were living in extreme poverty and hunger. At the turn of the millennium their plight was brought to the forefront of the international agenda, spurring a global effort to eradicate poverty and hunger with a set of target based goals. At the Millennium Summit, representatives from all 189 United Nations (UN) member states committed to achieving the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) focusing on the key components that affect the poorest worldwide. This Millennium Declaration set targeted interventions in place committed to combat the various factors that contribute to the cycle of poverty including halving the spread of HIV/Aids to providing universal primary education that will remove the barriers currently limiting their autonomy.

“The MDGs have greatly contributed to this progress and have taught us how governments, business and civil society can work together to achieve transformational breakthroughs”

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

With the MDGs nearing their completion deadline of September 2015, the UN Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development was held this June to analyse how the MDGs have performed. Arguably the most ambitious and “the most successful anti-poverty movement in history” the goals have achieved significant progress with ‘the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015’. The statistics speak for themselves, however they are not without their failings, inequality is still rife and many of the world’s poorest regions have not made progress, the successes are very much regionally based and whilst some areas are noticeably benefitting from the goals, many are still falling far behind.

With the UN meeting to discuss the successes, acknowledge the shortcomings and establish what needs to be done moving forward, it is essential to look at and evaluate the successes of the MDGs, which focused on empowering people through education, combatting key diseases such as HIV/Aids, malaria and TB, improving healthcare, maternal health and reducing child mortality rates, improving human rights, removing gender inequality, developing global partnerships, environmental protection and climate change, where the shortcomings are and what this means for the future and the creation of the new ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) that will be the focus moving forward.

“The emerging post-2015 development agenda, including the set of Sustainable Development Goals, strives to build on our successes and put all countries, together, firmly on track towards a more prosperous, sustainable and equitable world"

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

Sustainable development is an interesting and exciting move forward, in particular with the role of businesses providing a fundamental part in the process. Social responsibility has become an integral part of any major company and is a positive message both in the developed and developing world. Aid agencies across the globe are looking to move away from purely direct aid where possible, to empowering people to provide them with the necessary tools to make their own livelihoods that are sustainable.

COINS Foundation are the proud supporters and partners of both PEAS (Promoting Equality in African Schools) which focuses on gender equality and enabling children to reach their full potential and Habitat for Humanity, an international organisation that focusses on eradicating poverty by providing affordable housing and microfinance loans. Both organisations look at removing the barriers that poverty creates that prevent people from achieving their full potential. For a number of years COINS Foundation has made substantial contributions to combatting poverty, not only through funding to direct aid charities but through supporting initiatives that empower and allow people to sustain themselves. The Cookie Bar, our social enterprise is a key contributor to supporting these initiatives with 100% of profits being reinvested into local and international initiatives, it proves that business can be a force for good, a message that is starting to really take off on an international level, with countries such as Vietnam, Bangladesh, South Korea, Ghana, Zimbabwe and further afield. Whilst this is still a fairly new initiative in many parts of the world that needs to be regulated properly like NGOs, it is an exciting development in global corporate and government responsibility.

The MDGs have proved that by empowering the world’s poorest, through providing the tools and basic human rights that are essential to poverty eradication, such as access to clean water, food, healthcare, education, equality, we are now on a far more sustainable path to a better future. Poverty, however is not the product of one factor, but the amalgamation of varying circumstances that can be a product of illness, environment and conflict that all contribute to the cyclic effect of poverty. The SDGs should therefore not allow us to become complacent but should be an exciting indication of what can be achieved if goals are set.