Limitations of the MDGs

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), active from the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 to 2015, have been an important global framework for how state and nonstate actors address poverty reduction. The Goals successfully created a unifying framework to guide behavior around project premises, set norms and values, allow for an exchange and evaluation of best practices, start highly visible dialogue about new topics, etc.

One major limitation is access to the table of influence in the creation of the framework itself. If one does not understand the systems or cannot attend because of the financial burden, their ideas and values are automatically discluded from the conversation. Those able to attend and access Prep Coms must have the resources to be able to do so, so these resource disparities limit access to setting the agenda in a huge way. Before the major groups and other stakeholders framework, non-state actors had much less influence altogether.

Persons with disabilities are one group that was majorly left out of the MDG framework. By not including persons with disabilities, Kett, Lang, and Trani claim that the international community cannot achieve its goals of poverty reduction and human rights under the MDGs. There hasn’t been a lot of substantial research done on the subject, so the lack of information makes it hard to create inclusive policies and frameworks that really benefit the disability community. Janet Lord, a representative of the Landmine Survivors Network, indicates an example of doing this well was a recent decision to “give 12 seats on the Working Group that will formulate a negotiating text to NGO representatives”, which increases access to civil society and the agency of persons with disabilities as well as the outcome document of the 2013 HLPF meeting, which focuses on the lack of inclusion for persons with disabilities in the MDGs and how to correct for that going forwards.

Monitoring and implementation is another huge issue for the MDGs because the Goals are not legally binding. Rhetorical commitments and actual practices and implementation often have a huge disparity,  Caoimhe de Barra. A large part of this is because the MDGs set outcomes without elaborating on the process by which to get there. Deepak Nayyar highlights these limitations by discussing the multiplicity of objectives, particularly emphasized in the difficulty in contextualizing the Goals in different local and country settings.

Every framework has its limitations and its opportunities for success. By raising awareness of the MDG limitations, newer frameworks like the SDGs are able to correct for some of these failures by including 11 mentions of persons with disabilities. In the future, hopefully there will be an response to the increasing demand for accountability and access to the table.

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