Goals, progress and optimism

Reading the news I find it quite difficult to work out whether we’re making progress as a species or not. Instinctively, I’m an optimist but sometimes that can be hard.

The UN Millennium Development Goals were an attempt to set goals and measurable targets around human development and then a programme of activities and funding to try and achieve them. I was involved in Jubilee 2000 at the time and I remember thinking that they were pretty ambitious for just 15 years in the future. Although the target date is actually later this year, we’ve actually achieved quite a few of them.

According to the Economist this week, the follow up process to set goals at the UN for 2030 is a complete mess. However that hasn’t stopped some people being optimistic about the future. Bill and Melinda Gates set up their Foundation in 2000, the same year as the MDGs were written. Looking ahead in their annual letter last week they outline their ‘big bet’ for the future:

The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. And their lives will improve more than anyone else’s.

I know there are many terrible things about the way the world works but I wouldn’t bet against them on that one.

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