Politics and policy

Design of millennium development goals faulted by experts

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Queuing for relief food. Photo/FILE

Queuing for relief food. Photo/FILE 

By Victor Juma

Posted  Tuesday, June 29   2010 at  00:00
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Millennium development goals (MDGs) are giving policy makers sleepless nights, considering that the 2015 deadline is a around the corner.

Ten years since they were arrived at, the United Nations General Assembly is planning a progress review in two months.

Delegates at the meeting will, among other things, contend with the fact that some goals will not be achieved in entirety, according to data from UNDP released in 2009.

This is supported by the fact that 100 per cent achievement is the ideal, a challenging goal, taking into account factors that run against the grain.

However, new studies are casting doubt on the credibility of the goals.

The Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, has consistently been rated as the laggard, whose progress is said to be “insufficient to reach the target if prevailing trends continue.”

Should the world be chasing the goals in the first place?

The questions emerging in the quest for a more developed world packaged as MDGs imply that the goals are a sideshow since each country has unique socio-economic and political settings.

Africa has been cited as the major loser in the drive, frequently painted as a failure in donor circles, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the UN.

Though the MDGs are a product of wide consultations, including governments of third world countries, critics cite the futility of indiscriminate setting of arbitrary, blanket, and inflexible standards to be achieved by poor countries in specific time frames.

The eight goals include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, ensuring universal primary education, and reducing child mortality.

Critics single out reducing poverty by half by 2015.

Reduce poverty

Economics professor at New York University, William Easterly, says in a research paper that choices made in defining success or failure as achieving numerical targets for MDGs made their attainment “less likely in Africa than in other regions even when its progress was in line with or above historical or contemporary experience of other regions.”

Citing statements from the IMF, WB, and UN, Prof Easterly says the view that Africa will miss all the MDGs has the effect of making African successes look like failures.

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