MDGs after 2015

Development Policy25 Jun 2009Frans Bieckmann

On Tuesday I attended an interesting meeting about the future of the MDGs after 2015. Overseeing and having briefly thought over a daylong of interesting talks and debates at the High Level Policy Forum in Brussels I have distilled some red lines and general trends:- The MDGs have resulted in a globally internalized poverty discourse, and to a certain extent in policy rhetoric, but impact at the level of the live of the poor people themselves has not seriously been proved. Not enough research has been done to see what the impact has been of the MDGs. Although some of the indicators of some of the MDGs do show results, little is known about how these results have been reached. – Among the hundred plus attendants there was a general feeling that we need a new paradigm, or a new narrative, to guide worldwide development policies. However, the MDGs as such are not a paradigm, they are embedded into, and molded to fit into a specific paradigm. This development paradigm is essentially still the Washington Consensus, with a social or human face. A new guiding line for future global development would mean that the MDGs (seen as a set of indicators) would have to be adapted to this new narrative.- This point in time, with the world shaking because of several simultaneous crises, was broadly seen as THE moment for a new paradigm or narrative to take over the current neoliberal focus. Several elements of such a new narrative kept emerging during the conference (see below for more details). Essentially it is a combination of a much more global orientation – setting up new innovative global institutions – and at the same time a localization of development policies: it is in the life of the (poor) people concerned and according to their own perceptions that development policies have to be rooted: a bottom up approach instead of the current top down approach that characterizes traditional aid, including the MDGs.In this sense there was some overlap with the Civic Driven Change concept (see my last posting).

For more details about this, see my posting on the After 2015 conference blog.

Here a more personal remark: although I was enthusiastic about the depth of discussions and agreed with much of the views and insights that were presented both in the speeches, the debates and the papers, and in the blogs and comments on the Broker site, I simultaneously had a feeling of unease. It was the same feeling I often have in recent years, attending gatherings of the development community: as if we were maneuvering in a kind of parallel universe of ideals, without taking into account that outside something else was taking place. There were some remarks about power and political economy, but in general it seemed a kind of taboo, a reluctance to address those interests and processes that to my personal opinion have inhibited and will always inhibit development aid – old or new paradigm – to really help the poor. This ugly outside world did appear sometimes; it was for example used as an indeed very strong moral argument for aid by citing the hundredfold expenses for arms trade or for banks bailouts. But there was no real analysis of the power relations that direct today’s global processes, about how to fight all those other interests and power structures that keep things as they are.The good thing was that an essential element that kept coming up was the need to develop a much stronger bottom-up approach. Although it wasn’t mentioned, I saw potentially an overlap with the Civic Driven Change process.One last observation: there were people from all over the world, but most of the visitors were from the UK. There were some Germans, and some Nordics, but virtually no French, Italians or Spaniards, as far as I could see. And also the Dutch seemed to prefer looking inwards, instead of trying to build international coalitions.