In September 2000, heads of state and government from 189 countries gathered in New York for, at that time, the largest ever summit of the United Nations. They adopted the Millennium Declaration which sets out a four-point list of the most important political challenges for the twenty-first century:
Taking these major challenges as a basis, a working group made up of representatives of the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) derived the following eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs):
For each goal, specific subsidiary targets were defined and time-frames specified for achieving them. Some of these efforts were a resounding success; for instance, the target of halving, from 1990 to 2015, the number of people worldwide whose income is less than 1,25 US dollar per day. This target was actually achieved in 2010.
Other targets, however, proved impossible to implement. The reasons for this failure were many and varied. Some were simply too ambitious. In other cases, the practicalities of implementation on the ground rendered the goals and targets unattainable. The process itself was not without problems: critics have pointed out that development funding which the Group of Eight (G8) major industrialized nations had contributed to funds managed by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank were often allocated to purposes for which it was not intended, despite originally being earmarked for activities in pursuit of the MDGs.