By Courtney Doll
In 2002, members of the United Nations came together and developed a set of goals to aid the world’s poorest people and change the lives of those less privileged. These goals, separated in to 8 parts, are known as the Millennium Development Goals.
Before we can discuss the MDGs, their purpose and their downfalls, we must realize who they targeted. In Jacqueline Novogratz’s 2013 TED talk, she discussed the category of people considered in poverty. These people make between $1 and $3 a day. They are farmers, drivers, factory workers and domestics. And she believes they can and would make smart choices involving money and business if they were given the chance.
Jacqueline spoke about how sending money is not the way to end poverty. It is the first step in a process to help people get on their feet and start a business, to create infrastructure, and to help them build a community. Novogratz specifically asks how we can help Africans help themselves. She says Africans don’t want handouts, they want to be self-sustaining.
In an article about the MDGs, John McArthur explains the purpose of the goals. The goals are split into 8 parts: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, and forge global partnerships among different countries and actors. These goals had no specific budget and no countries were required to help.
Neo-liberalism hurt the effort to achieve a more self-sufficient Africa. Neo-liberalism focuses on the importance of the free market and involvement of the private sector and removing government interference to help developing countries. In the 1990’s, the World Bank and the IMF “encouraged developed and developing countries to scale back spending on public programs”. Africa suffered with rising poverty rates and child deaths and drops in life expectancy.
McArthur also speaks about two “players on the bench”, the United States and the World Bank. He says the United States “refused to directly engage with the MDGs in their early years”, which was a missed chance. He said the US could have highlighted its contributions to different global development efforts. McArthur also said the World Bank has not helped enough on the ground in poorer countries. He cites some of the people at the bank as saying they were worried countries won’t provide enough money for poorer countries to accomplish these MDGs.
In an article detailing how to help poor countries, Birdsall, Rodrik and Subramnian explain that this contribution of money is not the only factor that determines if MDGs will succeed. The authors state that development is mainly determined by the countries receiving the aid, not the countries giving it. Giving aid can work well, but only when recipient countries have the “capacity and leadership to spend the money wisely.” Countries can find it hard to achieve their goals when many donor countries are pursuing different objectives. The authors say the best way to make sure aid is used correctly is by giving the recipient countries room to use the money where they see fit and play a role in their own development. The receiving countries must take a stake in their own success and are likely to be more invested when they are given room to explore.
Progress cannot happen overnight, but countries pride themselves on the progress that has been made so far. Here is a chart from late 2012 on the progress the MDGs have made.