Global frameworks represent grand challenges. The areas of focus that global frameworks such as WSIS+ 10 Outcome Document and the SDGs attempt to tackle are multidimensional, complex and far reaching issues that do not necessarily have a clear solution. Such technically complex societal problems can be addressed through a process of trial and error. If we take the example of the MDGS, we see how some of the Goals greatest strengths, were also its biggest sources of critique. With the expiration of the MDGs, the 15+ years of trial and error allowed for a series of improvements to be made. Deepak Nayyar reflects on many of these potential areas for improvement in “The MDGs after 2015: Some Reflections on the Possibilities.”
One of the most common critiques that Nayyar identifies of the MDGs is that the goals specify an outcome, but then they do not set out the process which would make it possible for countries to realize the objective. The lack of specificity in regards to means for achieving the goals stems from two issues. The UNDP recognizes that development is ‘characterized by specificities in time and in space,’ so outlining action items and coordinating due dates for 193 countries seems impractical. The lack of specifying processes for achieving the goals may also be linked to the acceptance that each country may have its own idea of what the appropriate strategy of development would most effectively achieve the objective. Had the UN consulted its 193 members in outlining processes for achieving the goals it is likely that a ‘political consensus on means would be exceedingly difficult if not impossible.’
Another critique suggests that the MDGs take a one size fits all approach to development, While the argument is a valid one, it takes the MDGs out of their stated context. The MDGS were meant ti be global norms, collective targets for the world as a whole, and countries were meant to contextualize the MDGs in terms of initial conditions and national priorities.There is a misunderstanding because global MDG targets are often used as a scale for assessing the performance of different regions or specific countries. In this context of course one could argue that targets may be set too high for some developing countries and too low for developed countries.
Although there may not be a consensus on how to carry out a global development agenda, the MDGs are important in that they have imparted a focus to concerns about poverty and deprivation, as well as ‘galvanized support for the idea that it is imperative to improve the living conditions of such people in a stipulated time horizon.’ These initial frameworks have laid the groundwork for addressing the grand challenge of international development.