A fresh look at the MDGs
Taylor & Francis Online, 2011
With the deadline drawing closer, many question whether the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) can be met. Some even question their relevance, especially given the financial crisis. The global scorecard shows that half of the road has been covered so far but it has taken three quarters of the time. Thus, are the MDGs a noble but unrealistic aspiration? Not quite. After some false dawns and missed opportunities, it is natural for some to dismiss the MDGs as targets that are ‘easily set but never met’. However, it would be too early and too pessimistic to consider the MDGs as ‘mission impossible’. After exposing the two most pervasive misconceptions about the MDGs, the paper shows that addressing the growing disparities within countries offers the best hope for achieving the MDGs. It shows that only one out of eight countries with recent data in Asia – Indonesia – managed to achieve pro-poor progress in reducing infant and child mortality. Six others witnessed an increase in disparity – especially the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia. A little equity and a touch of imagination can yield spectacular outcomes for human well-being. A revisit of the conventional wisdom regarding the MDGs is overdue. Diminishing its intellectual capture on development thinking will serve the MDGs well.

Copyright United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs