Kapuscinski Lecture in Stockholm – Jan Vandemoortele on Millennium Goals, 22.02.2011
STOCKHOLM, Sweden– 11 February, 2011 – Jan Vandemoortele, co-architect of the Millennium Development Goals and former UN senior manager, delivered a lecture "If not the Millennium Development Goals, then what?” at the Swedish Institute of International Relations. Date: 22.02.2011.
Jan Vandemoortele has served with the United Nations for 30 years and was the co-architect of the Millennium Development Goals. The event is part of the "Kapuscinski Lectures" initiative of the European Commission, the United Nations Development Programme. Experts from around the world deliver lectures on development and development cooperation at universities and think-tanks across the European Union. The series “Kapuscinski Lectures”, and named after Ryszard Kapuscinski, a Polish reporter and writer who covered developing countries.
„It is most unlikely that the world will achieve the MDGs by 2015. Even if they were achieved, the world would still face the daunting task of addressing exceedingly high levels of human deprivation beyond 2015. In this regard, a target-driven approach will continue to prove useful. Global targets can be drivers of change. The question is not whether to abandon global targets but rather how to improve the MDG architecture and how to adjust them to the priorities beyond 2015” – said Jan Vandemoortele ahead of the lecture.
Twitter updates from the lecture:
UNDP_Europe_CIS UNDP Europe and CIS
Jan V: have a group of people, led by South, ready to challenge world leaders and conventional wisdom to propose new goalsUNDP_Europe_CIS UNDP Europe and CIS
Jan V: MDG 2010 review summit: if there have 124 commitments in the document you have problem with development prioritiesUNDP_Europe_CIS UNDP Europe and CIS
Jan V: Africa is not missing the targets, we are missing the point. Africa cannot and will not reach MDGs for the world.UNDP_Europe_CIS UNDP Europe and CIS
Jan V: common misconception: “limited progress on development goals is because Africa is lagging”. Statistics do not confirm thatUNDP_Europe_CIS UNDP Europe and CIS
Jan V: The world now is better off than in 1990. But we’re seriously behind when it comes to reaching development targets by 2015UNDP_Europe_CIS UNDP Europe and CIS
Jan V: MDGs were designed as global, not local; no one single strategy guarantees development successUNDP_Europe_CIS UNDP Europe and CIS
Vandemoortele: millennium goal: reduce kids’ under 5 mortality rate – the best single indicator for developmentUNDP_Europe_CIS UNDP Europe and CIS
Vandemoortele: MDGs saved 2000 millennium declaration from disappearance from public debate day after adoptionUNDP_Europe_CIS UNDP Europe and CIS
Vandemoortele: millennium goals (mdgs) are NOT indifferentUNDP_Europe_CIS UNDP Europe and CIS
"Biggest problem of rich countries: indifference to Third World" (Kapuscinski)UNDP_Europe_CIS UNDP Europe and CIS
Abstract of the lecture "If not the Millennium Development Goals, then what ?"
The lecture started by reviewing the good, the bad and the ugly that has happened since the Millennium Development Goals came into being some ten years ago; including how they have been sanitised and misappropriated so that the poverty debate became dolarised and the MDG discourse was kept within a donor-centric ambit. As a result, the global debate has been dominated by the implicit formula: faster economic growth + more foreign aid + better governance = MDGs.
The lecture debunked the claim that Africa’s performance is worse than that of the other regions. The oft-repeated statement is that Africa ismissing the targets but that statement is missing the point. Africa will not, cannot, and must not meet the MDGs for the world to meet them. The lecture discussed the merit of a target-driven approach to development and will highlight some of the caveats and pitfalls that need to be avoided in formulating the post-2015 framework. By way of conclusion, it offered a concrete proposal for the process of redesigning the MDGs and for conducting global summits.
The MDGs have rescued the Millennium Declaration from oblivion. They continue to galvanise and energize a diverse set of stakeholders in the fight against human deprivation. Indifference is not a charge that can be laid against the MDGs. Yet they have been criticised from several angles; including for presenting a reductionist view of development; for focusing too narrowly on social sectors; for leading to fragmentation and vertical silos; for being excessively focused on quantification; and for omitting fundamental objectives such as human rights, social protection, democracy and good governance.
Much of the criticism laid against the MDGs stem from the erroneous view that they substitute for human rights instruments and for sectoral development frameworks. Instead, they were meant to complement them. The MDGs are good servants but bad masters. At the same time, the MDGs should not be oversold. A balanced view is to appreciate their virtues and to recognise their limitations without either deifying or demonising them.
It is essential to have a clear and a common understanding of the MDGs. Three main characteristics were clarified during the lecture. First that they represent a political statement of what is feasible at the global level. They are not to be seen as aspirational, as lofty pledges, or as a normative statement of what is desirable in an ideal world. Second that they are not an exhaustive list of desirable outcomes. In order to be concise, the list can only be illustrative. Finally that they represent ends or ultimate aims; they do not indicate the means by which to achieve them.
A parallel was drawn between two leaders in the 17th century – the Mughal Shah Jahan in India and Queen Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden and Finland – to illustrate that development is always specific to the space and era in which it unfolds. Development must be seen as a process of collective self-discovery – in rich and poor countries alike. Those who claim that the MDGs should spell out the strategy for reaching the targets merely want to de-politicise the development process by reducing it to a series of standard interventions of a technocratic nature. Policy, however, is always embedded in politics. The MDGs require fundamental transformations in society that prioritise the wellbeing of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people – i.e. ethnic minorities, low-caste children and women, slum dwellers, subsistence farmers, and households in the bottom wealth quintiles.
It is most unlikely that the world will achieve the MDGs by 2015. Even if they were achieved, the world would still face the daunting task of addressing exceedingly high levels of human deprivation beyond 2015. In this regard, a target-driven approach will continue to prove useful. Global targets can be drivers of change. The question is not whether to abandon global targets but rather how to improve the MDG architecture and how to adjust them to the priorities beyond 2015.
A perfect set of global targets should express the many dimensions of human wellbeing yet include a limited number of targets. It should address the complexity of development yet exploit the charm of simplicity. It should embody agreed principles yet allow for quantitative monitoring. It should reflect global priorities and universal standards yet be tailored to the domestic situation and local challenges. It should specify the destination yet spell out the journey for getting there. Composing such an ideal set is more than challenging because it has to combine comprehensiveness with conciseness; complexity with simplicity; principles with measurability; universality with country-specificity, ends with means. This is a tall order for any task; it is practically impossible when it comes to setting targets that require universal acceptance and a political consensus among governments and world leaders.
Any revision of the MDGs will face several pitfalls and challenges. The lecture reviewed several of them, namely (i) to formulate them more clearly as global targets and in ways that are more even-handed for all categories of countries, (ii) to focus on their measurability and not on their perfectibility, (iii) to focus on ends and not on the means, (iv) to capture the equity dimension in terms of equality of opportunity for development, (v) to include interim targets, and (vi) to take a different approach to global summitry to make them better fit for purpose.
In order to yield an optimal outcome, Jan Vademoortele suggested to task a Peer & Partner Group to generate a set of options and proposals regarding the post-2015 framework. Over the next 2-3 years, the proposed group would consult widely to collect ideas and suggestions from a wide range of stakeholders on how to re-design the MDGs. In 2013, when the UN General Assembly will hold the next global event on the MDGs, the group would table its views and suggestions. These would serve as an informed basis for the political discussions and negotiations among member states so they can adopt a new set by 2015. Beyond 2013, the Peer & Partner Group would serve as the global custodian of the global targets. Without a strong and high-calibre custodian of the MDGs, global summitry will continue to punch below its weight.
Venue: Utrikespolitiska Institutet, Sverigesalen, Drottning Kristinas väg 37, Stockholm
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