Editorial complaint to Financial Times

To: corrections@ft.com

20 December 2014

A blog post of 21 August and article of 27 August give examples of a misleading impression that at the Millennium Summit, UN member states committed themselves to development targets with a generally easier baseline than is in fact the case.  

The backdated 1990 baseline is in the Millennium Development Goal framework proposed in 2001.  However, it forms no part of General Assembly Resolution 55/2 of 2000, the MillenniumDeclaration.   World leaders committed to child and maternal mortality reductions from "current rates".   

The specific set of eight "Millennium Development Goals" and targets was proposed by the Secretary-General in September 2001.   In that year and subsequently, some "MDG" targets were proposed which were additional to the leaders' pledges in the 2000 resolution.  For some targets civil servants now proposed 1990 baselines - generally easier than from "current rates" and what was implied by the Secretary-General's recommendation document to the Summit and by a common-sense reading of the Declaration.   

The pledges of 2000 have not been revised or rescinded:  they were "reaffirmed" by the General Assembly in 2005.   

In relation to the specific statements in Financial Times items of August 2014, the MDGs' "baseline of 1990" formed no part of what was "adopted by UN members in 2000".  The MDG targets were not "agreed in 2000".  The symbolic nature of the date 2000 adds to the wrong impression that leaders were committed to the easier targets.

The Financial Times appears to have given a similar impression about the leaders' commitments over a period of many years.   I consider it appropriate for staff to search the archive to verify this.  I propose appropriate remedial action.   

Matt Berkley


21 August 2014
"The MDGs, adopted by UN members in 2000
 with a baseline in 1990
 and a target date of 2015, set eight goals including reductions in extreme poverty..." 

27 August 2014
"The previous targets, the Millennium Development Goals, were agreed in 2000 with objectives for 2015." 
[conflates MDG targets proposed in 2001 with the pledges]

17 April 2014
"When the UN in 2000 set a millennium development goal (MDG)
 of halving the percentage of humans living in extreme poverty by 2015, it sounded like just pompous verbiage. ...But despite economic crisis, the world hit that target five years early, says the World Bank." 
"The eight MDGs adopted in 2000..."

14 September 2014 
"Millennium Development Goals, which have shaped aid policy since 2000
and expire in 2015." 
[sic - seems to refer to the dated targets rather than the undated goals]

"The promises
 in question this week are the Millennium Development Goals"