The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are arguably the most well known global frameworks in recent years. As the SDGs have only come into effect in the past year, it is easier to assess the MDGs as a global framework in both its successes and its failures.
In his work, “The MDGs after 2015: Some Reflections on the Possibilities”, Deepak Nayyar provides critical reflection on the MDGs. While many works related to the MDGs focus on the problems of what did or didn’t happen with the goals, Nayyar takes a more optimistic approach that evaluates the past and presents ideas for how to move forward. Like many others, he makes the common point that the MDGs were too vague. However, unlike others, goes further to explain that the vagueness of the goals was not really the problem and that it was actually the way the MDGs were supposed to function: as general global themes. Instead, he explains, the problems came from the vagueness of implementation methods and the lack of reference to initial starting points. While Nayyar’s review is thorough, a brief summary of his recommendations for the future is as follows:
- There needs to be recognition of national differences and flexibility that acknowledges and allows for these differences.
- Inequalities must be recognized and included in assessing future data and other evaluation outputs.
- There needs to be stronger emphasis on the means of implementation instead of simply focusing on the ends.
In reference to our class discussions, a principle example of problems with current global frameworks, namely the MDGs, is their lack of inclusive measures. While global leaders are taking moves towards inclusive agendas, it is happening at too slow a pace. For example, persons with disabilities (PWDs) were not once referenced in the MDGs and did not even come up in published documents until the 2010 MDG Progress Report. This came FOUR years later after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The SDGs mark a step forward from the MDGs as they make 11 explicit references to PWDs, but considering that there are 17 goals and 169 targets, it would seem that there is even more room for inclusion.
To quote Nayyar, “people are not just beneficiaries of development. They are the ones that can empower the people to facilitate the implementation of policies and goals” (14). While more and more global frameworks are taking steps to address criticisms of vagueness and exclusionary/non-inclusive language, there remains a need to give a voice to those who are currently unheard before we can truly regard global frameworks as successes.