Between 2000 and 2015, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) remained the overarching development framework that governed the international development community. Many countries incorporated the MDGs into their development plans and implemented specific projects intended to achieve various development targets. After a decade and half of commitment to the MDGs, the framework is widely considered a success. For instance, according to the United Nations (2015a), the number of people living in extreme poverty has declined by more than half, reducing from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015. With regards to education, the average primary school enrolment rates across develop- ing countries have increased from 83 percent in 2000 to 91 percent in
2015, while the number of out-of-school children of school-going age fell from an estimated 100 million in 2000 to about 57 million in 2015. Substantial progress has been made regarding gender equality, however, gender gaps in areas of opportunities, economic and political empowerment and other areas of wellbeing persist in many developed and developing countries (Klasen, 2018). For instance, while many more girls are now enrolled in school and the percentage of women with vulnerable jobs as a share of total female employment has declined, female parliamentary representation has not seen much increase. Gender gaps in wages persist as well. Child mortality and maternal mortality rates have declined by more than half and about half, respectively. However, children from the poorest households are more likely to suffer from malnutrition. Mortality rates are also about twice as high for these children compared to those from the wealthiest households. Improvements in access to improving water sources do not extend to the majority of people has been uneven. Specifically, the recorded achievements have also been accompanied by uneven shortfalls across many countries and areas. With the introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), perhaps the most important questions on the minds of most policymakers pertain to what factors contributed to the MDGs progress, and what is likely to explain the uneven progress across countries. Answering these questions is important for assessing the ongoing progress of the SDGs and identify- ing key policy areas to focus on. This book presents a collection of chapters that examine various dimensions of the MDGs and development goals in general. It provides insights that are relevant to understanding the factors that influence development.
The new overarching international development framework may not be successful or present the best opportunities for the desired global change without a better understanding of factors that contributed the most or the least to the attainment of the MDGs. The chapters presented in this book provide discussions and insights into understanding these factors better. They represent a collection of scholarship that addresses some of the important questions in international development that have remained unanswered. They adopt a wide range of research methods to provide insight into what works, and what does not, in promoting the stipulated development goals.