Global Strategic Frameworks such as the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals can be instrumental in the international community’s efforts to work towards solving some of the grand challenges that are faced by the developing world. However, it is important to recognize and learn from their limitations.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which ran from 2000 to 2015 posed a grand challenge to the international development community to solve the issues which were recognized as grand challenges. While the MDGs were successful in that they had clearly defined targets and indicators and were quantifiable and measurable, they had many shortcomings. The eight MDGs- to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; to achieve universal primary education; to promote gender equality and empower women; to reduce child mortality; to improve maternal health; to combat HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases; to ensure environmental sustainability; and to develop a global partnership for development- lacked specificity and attainable short-term goals. They were also marked by a Western bias and assumed that one size fits all when it comes to international development, which, as we have discussed throughout this course, could not be further from the truth. The MDGs failed to take varying cultural contexts into consideration as a result of this assumption. Finally, one of the most notable shortcomings of the MDGs, especially for the context of this course, was the lack of mention of persons with disabilities in any of the MDGs.
Though the MDGs had many limitations, this provided opportunities for the international community to improve upon them. This paved the way to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are set to run from 2015 until 2030. Some of the most prominent differences between the MDGs and the SDGs are that the SDGs contain 11 specific references to persons with disabilities, language on vulnerable populations, and a focus on sustainable development ‘for all.’ There are undoubtedly limitations that exist within the SDGs, though I do not think we will get a firm grasp on those until further into the Sustainable Development Agenda. I believe that it is most important to recognize that no global strategic framework is going to be perfect and solve all of the world’s most pressing challenges. However, they do provide opportunities for the international community to come together to work towards addressing these challenges.