Millennium Development Goals - Debate Surrounding The MDGs

Debate Surrounding The MDGs

Drawbacks of the MDGs include the lack of analytical power and justification behind the chosen objectives. The MDGs leave out important ideals, such as the lack of strong objectives and indicators for equality, which is considered by many scholars to be a major flaw of the MDGs due to the disparities of progress towards poverty reduction between groups within nations. The MDGs also lack a focus on local participation and empowerment (excluding women’s empowerment) . The MDGs also lack an emphasis on sustainability, making their future after 2015 questionable. Thus, while the MDGs are a tool for tracking progress toward basic poverty reduction and provide a very basic policy road map to achieving these goals, they do not capture all elements needed to achieve the ideals set out in the Millennium Declaration.

Researchers also point out some important gaps in the MDGs. For example, agriculture was not specifically mentioned in the MDGs even though a major portion of world's poor are rural farmers. Again, MDG 2 focuses on primary education and emphasizes on enrollment and completion. In some countries, it has led to increase in primary education enrollment at the expense of learning achievement level. In some cases, it has also negatively affected secondary and post secondary education, which have important implication on economic growth.

Another criticism of the MDGs is the difficulty or lack of measurements for some of the goals. Amir Attaran, an Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Law, Population Health, and Global Development Policy at University of Ottawa, argues that goals related to maternal mortality, malaria, and tuberculosis are in practice impossible to measure and that current UN estimates do not have scientific validity or are missing. Household surveys are often used by the UN organisations to estimate data for the health MDGs. These surveys have been argued to be poor measurements of the data they are trying to collect, and many different organisations have redundant surveys, which waste limited resources. Furthermore, countries with the highest levels of maternal mortality, malaria, and tuberculosis often have the least amount of reliable data collection. Attaran argues that without accurate measures of past and current data for the health related MDGs, it is impossible to determine if progress has been made toward the goals, leaving the MDGs as little more than a rhetorical call to arms.

Proponents for the MDGs argue that while some goals are difficult to measure, that there is still validity in setting goals as they provide a political and operational framework to achieving the goals. They also assert that non-health related MDGs are often well measured, and it is wrong to assume that all MDGs are doomed to fail due to lack of data. It is further argued that for difficult to measure goals, best practices have be identified and their implication is measurable as well as their positive effects on progress. With an increase in the quantity and quality of healthcare systems in developing countries, more data will be collected, as well as more progress made. Lastly the MDGs bring attention to measurements of wellbeing beyond income, and this attention alone helps bring funding to achieving these goals.

The MDGs are also argued to help the human development by providing a measurement of human development that is not based solely on income, prioritizing interventions, establishing obtainable objectives with operationalized measurements of progress (though the data needed to measure progress is difficult to obtain), and increasing the developed world’s involvement in worldwide poverty reduction. The measurement of human development in the MDGs goes beyond income, and even just basic health and education, to include gender and reproductive rights, environmental sustainability and spread of technology. Prioritizing interventions helps developing countries with limited resources make decisions about where to allocate their resources through which public policies. The MDGs also strengthen the commitment of developed countries to helping developing countries, and encourage the flow of aid and information sharing. The joint responsibility of developing and developed nations for achieving the MDGs increases the likelihood of their success, which is reinforced by their 189-country support (the MDGs are the most broadly supported poverty reduction targets ever set by the world).

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