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ABSTRACT

This article gives an insider's view of the origin of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the aim of which was two-fold: to rescue the Millennium Declaration from oblivion and to expand the development narrative beyond economic growth. The former has been successful, but not the latter. Since its establishment, the MDG agenda has been permeated with the idolatry of literalism and sanitized to fit the conventional development paradigm. Statistics have been abused to fabricate evidence of success. The great paradox is that poverty is increasingly regarded as a multi-dimensional phenomenon whilst its quantification remains essentially one-dimensional, which reinforces a money-metric perspective of the MDGs. The agenda has been cut back to a standard set of macroeconomic, sectoral or institutional reforms of a technical nature. However, the MDG agenda implies fundamental transformations in society, which are invariably driven by domestic politics and local actors. The world is off track, not because of insufficient economic growth but mostly because people in the bottom quintiles have benefited disproportionately little from national progress. As long as the world continues to turn a blind eye to the growing inequities within countries, the MDGs will be mission impossible. For the remaining period, their meaning is best described as ‘Minding Development Gaps’.