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Few indicators have been as lauded, or as reviled, as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Almost from the moment the eight international objectives, complete with 21 targets, were established in the year 2000 following the United Nations Millennium Summit, they have engendered impassioned opinion.

Supporters assert that the MDGs — which have been signed by all 193 UN member states and about two dozen international bodies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund — have improved social and economic conditions worldwide. The MDGs, boosters say, are a blueprint for a healthier world, have helped to reduce poverty...

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