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Ben Leo: Who Are the Millennium Development Goal Trailblazers?

8/24/10

Ben LeoWhich countries are leading the pack on achieving the Millennium Development Goals? My guest this week is CGD research fellow Ben Leo. In a new working paper, Ben lays out an index for measuring country-level progress towards the MDGs. His paper, the first to offer comparative country-level rankings of progress towards key MDG-related indicators, finds some surprising trailblazers. Who knew that Honduras would come out on top!?

As the UN prepares for the MDG Review Summit next month, the conventional wisdom is that the global progress has been adequate—mostly because of China’s huge size and rapid poverty reduction—but that Africa lags sadly behind. Ben says that this view is overly simplistic, if not just plain wrong. Africa accounts for four of the fifteen countries ranked as “trailblazers,” on track to reach at least half of the examined MDG indicators by the 2015 target year (they are: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, and Uganda). Notwithstanding that the MDGs are wildly over ambitious given historical rates of progress (see here and here), Ben finds that low-income countries have made as much progress as middle-income countries. And some countries that we might expect to see on the trailblazer list, such as Tanzania, have performed poorly.

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My thanks to Wren Elhai for his very able production assistance on the Wonkcast recording and for drafting this blog post.