Sakiko Fukuda-Parr: After 2015: Keep the MDGs but add a goal for reducing inequality

Development Policy02 Jul 2009Sakiko Fukuda-Parr

One major point to emerge from the day of free-flowing and wide-ranging discussions at Brussels was the need for a new paradigm. As Frans reports, ‘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.’ MDGs have become a part of rather than a challenge to the neoliberal paradigm built around the Washington Consensus economic strategy. Does that mean we should dump the MDGs to challenge that strategy? Definitely not – but one more goal needs to be added, the goal of reducing inequality within and between countries.

The MDGs are a set of outcome indicators that define the ends of international development, leaving open questions of means. So they have become embedded in the mainstream consensus narrative where the purpose of development is defined as eradicating human poverty, PRSPs as the national strategy document, IMF-PRGF and HIPC as the essential financing modalities, ownership and mutual accountability as the key principles of partnership and Washington Consensus policies as the priority policy agenda and analytical framework. The MDGs have added social investment to this priority to that agenda.

We need a new paradigm not because we disagree with poverty – human poverty – as the essential end of development, but because we want to challenge the strategic means. As Andrew Fischer points out, poverty is a consistent part of the neo-liberal analytical framework. Inequality, on the other hand, has more potential to challenge it, particularly in the current political context. The financial crisis has brought new intolerance to extremes of wealth coexisting with extremes of poverty. Inequality has risen sharply over the last decade of rapid economic growth. Inequality is now a part of a narrative of what is wrong with the world, especially the rich world and not just the developing countries.

As I pointed out in Brussels, MDGs have made a huge contribution to establishing the norm of ending human poverty as an ethical imperative of global citizenship. We need to add the goal of reducing inequality because inequality and poverty are inextricably intertwined.

Watch Sakiko Fukuda-Parr interviewed in Brussels (from Euforic BlipTv)