What's Wrong with the Millennium Development Goals?

September 12, 2005

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have become the yardstick by which international development efforts are judged. Together, they represent the world’s targets for dramatically reducing extreme poverty by 2015 while promoting gender equality, education, health and environmental sustainability. Can they be reached? CGD Research Fellows Michael Clemens and Todd Moss argue that that the answer is an emphatic “no” and that this perceived failure could have far-reaching negative consequences. They first analyze the economic growth rates of today’s developing countries and compare them to the rates that would be needed to reach the MDGs. They conclude that to meet the MDGs, developing countries would have to grow extremely rapidly, out-performing even the historical rates of progress of the rich countries today. From their conclusions:“The vast majority of developing countries will miss most of the MDG targets in 2015. Nearly all African countries will miss most of them. But this will not be a sign that poor countries have failed, or that aid has been a waste. Nor will it primarily be because donors did not spend the right amount of money. At the same time, many of the world’s poorest countries will in all likelihood make great progress in improving the quality of life of their people—and aid will almost certainly have played a part. It would be a shame if the MDGs, in trying to make the case that the world can and should help the world’s poor, wound up undermining the cause by over-reaching on the targets and over-selling on the efficacy of aid.”

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