FE43DF93-13CD-493E-BEF2-A77A9E7D6926 Copenhagen Consensus Center Logo
Copenhagen Consensus Center


We hope to influence the deliberation of the post-2015 agenda along three major themes: prioritization of goals; inclusion of economic analysis; and better evidence for ‘zero goals’.

  1.  The UN's Open Working Group proposed 17 goals and 169 targets. The UN appointed High Level Panel provides 12 goals and 54 targets. And a tracker compiled by the North-South Institute shows that there have been almost 1400 targets suggested by 120 organisations up to September 2013. While this degree of international engagement is applauded, there is a risk of losing focus with this high number of proposals. Within this context, prioritization becomes more difficult – but even more necessary
  2. Very few of the proposed goals and their evidence-base are supported by economic analysis. We propose that the costs and benefits of different interventions should be included in determining which goals and targets should be pursued. The intuition is simple: when faced with lots of choice, we should chase the targets that will do the most good – and we only know which ones these are, if we have all the information.
  3. Many of the proposals support ‘zero goals’ – e.g. eradication of extreme poverty, universal access to education, and the end to hunger. These are noble aspirations and we should make efforts to achieve them, but unfortunately the evidence suggests these will be very hard to reach by 2030. For example, reports by the Brookings Institution, the Center for Global Development, and the World Bank show that reducing extreme poverty to zero by 2030 is unlikely. Unfortunately, a more reasonable estimate of extreme poor in 2030 is 4-8%.  For hunger, the FAO predicts a staggering 540 million hungry by 2030. In education, a recent UNESCO progress report on Education for All program predicts that the poorest girls in Sub-Saharan Africa will attain universal primary education only in 2086. In health, some are calling for an end to infant deaths – but a recent Lancet report shows that even with very smart interventions, the best outcome is for lower and middle income countries to reach the levels seen in the best performing middle income countries today.

Part of this project will be devoted to bringing better evidence to these discussions of zero goals, so that we know realistically, based on evidence, what we can achieve by 2030. We need to be wary of unrealistic aspirations and instead focus on the most effective goals. While such an approach might feel less rousing, it is moral, because it focuses on actually accomplishing the most good.