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Missing the Millennium Development Goals

Social Change

The goals were made deliberately modest. Even more ‘realistic’ targets were then set for each goal. The start date was fixed at 1990, the finish date 2015 – a period of 25 years in all – so projections for the future would relate to established trends. Just 10 of the 25 years now remain.

How the targets were to be met was left unclear. A ‘global partnership for development’ was to be ‘developed’. A UN Conference on Financing for Development in March 2002 pledged few new resources – fewer still have been delivered. The focus was to be on aid, rather than ‘innovative’ measures (such as a ‘Tobin’ tax on currency speculation) or any change to the mechanisms of debt and trade.

In 2003 the UNDP Human Development Report made an assessment of progress. It painted a bleak picture, from which the comments below are derived. On current trends sub-Saharan Africa is going backwards. In the world as a whole (including rich countries), the target on hunger is unlikely to be reached until after 2040; on child mortality until nearly 2050; on primary education until after 2090.

All the projections rely on current economic growth rates in India and China, which are likely to prove unsustainable. Overall, the best-performing region is Latin America where, since the overthrow of military dictatorships, neoliberal economic orthodoxy has been most hotly contested.

Disrespect for the lives of many millions of people is, however, set to continue for generations to come – if not indefinitely. Many of the trends are adverse and cast into doubt the whole ‘development’ project itself.

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