New MDGs? (Millenium Development Goals)

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New MDGs? (Millenium Development Goals)

by Dan Smith


The UN High Level Panel report has a universal focus (USAID, under a CC License)

The High Level Panel (HLP) of the UN has produced a report on development after 2015. The UN must agree on something to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September 2015. The report has made people start discussing this.

The report focuses on a universal agenda. It is about development of and for all countries, not just low income countries. And it includes peace.

Five changes & twelve goals

To support the new agenda, the HLP has five changes:

1. ‘Exclude no one’ – end all extreme poverty

2. ‘Sustainable development at the centre’

3. ‘Change economies for jobs and inclusive growth’

4. ‘Build peace and open, honest institutions for everyone’

5. ‘Make a new global partnership’

The HLP has given more details with twelve ‘example’ goals, broken down into 54 ‘example’ targets.

The twelve goals are:

1. End poverty (extreme poverty – people living on less than $1.25 a day)

2. Give girls and women more power and make genders equal

3. Provide good education for life

4. Make sure lives are healthy

5. Make sure food is secure and good nutrition

6. Give all people access to clean water

7. Create sustainable energy

8. Create jobs, sustainable ways of living and balanced growth

9. Manage natural resources sustainably

10. Make sure governments and institutions and good

11. Make sure societies are stable and peaceful

12. Create a global enabling environment and make long-term finance possible

There will be a lot of discussion about if they have included everything. But by focusing on the big problems, the HLP has made people talk about general development, not just aid, and the technical details of aid projects.

$1.25 a day

But we need much more discussion. The report says we need to end ‘extreme poverty’ by 2030. That would be a great achievement. But a poverty line is strange. The $1.25 a day level is the average poverty line of the 15 poorest countries in the world calculated in 2005 (for comparison, the US poverty line is $63 a day).

Today about 2.6 billion people live on less than $2 a day. So we need to be careful: we could achieve the goal by bringing everyone to a little above the $1.25 line. But the number of people living on less than $2 a day would stay almost the same. This seems to me to be the main problem for working on poverty in the next few years. The HLP’s answer is to work towards ‘balanced economic growth.’ I don’t think I remember what that is: in Britain, after three years of coalition government led by one of the HLP’s co-chairs, we have 1.1 per cent economic growth and an increase in youth unemployment from 20 to 22 per cent.

If the HLP has said what the aim is, they must now discuss how to get there and what things have to change so that we can get there.

Peace and security

The four targets for the peace goal bring together the what and the how:

1. Reduce violent deaths and end all violence against children

2. Make sure everyone has access to justice and that it is independent and fair

3. Stop the external factors that lead to conflict

4. Make security forces, police and the law more capable and accountable

The HLP’s work on building peace looks more at the formal than the informal institutions. It is more about authority (and what makes authority accountable and responsible) than social interaction.

The HLP’s theory of peace does not include dialogue, understanding other people, bringing people together and getting them to work together. We know we need this from experience. As more people discuss the HLP report, we need to protect what is good about it – especially its political focus and its universalism – and also make parts of it stronger.

As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see: