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Tag: Theme: Institutional Reform


ASAP to launch new project on international institutional reform goals in the post-MDG framework

One of the  areas of agreement that have already emerged through the Global Poverty Consensus Report dialogue process is that the post-MDG framework should include goals for reforming the structure of international institutions.

In response, ASAP is launching a new set of projects aimed at promoting the accountability agenda in the post-MDG framework by developing and advocating concrete and feasible goal that:

  • Focus on state agents rather than aid recipients.
  • Have outcomes that are defined in terms of changes to the structure of institutionalized practices and rules on the global level.
  • Promote those institutional reforms that would have the most significant positive effect on human rights fulfillment and poverty alleviation globally.
  • Are grounded in a \”do not harm\” principle, that is, are aimed at ensuring that these practices and rules to not contribute to the persistence or exacerbation of global poverty.

We identify six main areas in which institutional reform goals could have a major impact on human rights fulfillment and poverty alleviation:

  • Illicit financial flows
  • Labor standards
  • Trade protectionism
  • Resource and borrowing privileges
  • Intellectual property law
  • Environmental degradation

Over the next year, in tandem with the UNDP\’s consultation process, ASAP will execute a series of impact projects focusing on illicit financial flows and at least one more of these six issues. Each project will aim to:

  • Produce a research-based policy paper articulating and arguing for a set of politically feasible development goals.
  • Build a broad coalition of academics, CSOs and corporations supporting them.
  • Present and promote them in the upcoming UNDP thematic consultations on the post-MDG framework.

ASAP will carry out each of these projects in collaboration with partner organizations that have relevant expertise and resources.

Parallel to executing these projects, ASAP will continue to develop the Global Poverty Consensus Report (GPCR). The GPCR project aims to build an inclusive consensus among academics from different disciplines, approaches and world-regions on global poverty alleviation and articulating it in a way that is accessible to policy makers and suitable for framing and directly feeding into the MDG replacement process.

For more information contact Gilad Tanay at


GPCR to publish 50 interviews with leading experts on the post-MDG: previews available

Over the last months we have been interviewing leading experts from different disciplines, approaches and places on their views on what should replace the MDGs.

In the next November these interviews will be published together with an analysis of what they reflect on the state of agreement and disagreement among experts on what should replace the MDGs.


GPCR project to be presented at the ASAP Launch Conference in Toronto

This October, ASAP will be hosting a three day conference at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. The conference will mark the launch of ASAP Canada and take place from October 25-27.

As part of this conference we will hold a 3-hour session on the Global Poverty Consensus Report. In this session we will present the first results of the GPCR process and discuss how to mobilize academic resources in time to impact the process leading to the formulation of the post-MDG framework.

Participants include Sakiko Fukuda-Parr (New School), Thomas Pogge (Yale), Stephen Lewis (Ryerson) and Gilad Tanay (Yale).

To register, contact Mitu Sengupta at


Number Games: India’s Declining Poverty Figures Based on Flawed Estimation method; Accurate Figures Show 75 Percent in Poverty

In this featured article, Utsa Patnaik, Professor of Economics (Retired) at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, argues that the Indian government massively undercounts the poor because the consumption standard against which poverty is measured has itself been allowed to fall over time. If the original definition of poverty line is used then three-quarters of India’s population today are poor. China also would see a dramatic increase, and the World Bank’s global poverty numbers would be revised far upward.


CROP and ASAP join forces on the GPCR project

We are happy to announce that ASAP and the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP) have agreed to launch a collaborative effort to jointly execute the GPCR project over the next years. CROP is a program of the International Social Science Council (ISSC), hosted by the University of Bergen.


GPCR Highlighted in ASAP\’s Anniversary Conference at Yale

On  April 7th, ASAP hosted a symposium bringing together academics and practitioners to discuss the future of poverty alleviation after the expiration of the MDGs. Among those who participated in the discussion were:

  • Branko Milanovic – Lead Economist, World Bank Research group; Visiting Professor, School for Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
  • Gustav Ranis – leading development economist and the Frank Altschul Professor Emeritus of International Economics at Yale University
  • Varun Gauri – Senior Economist in the Development Research Group (Public Services Team) at the World Bank
  • Thomas Pogge – Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs, Yale University and Research Director, Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature, University of Oslo
  • Philip Alston – John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law, New York University
  • Hugh Evans – CEO of the Global Poverty Project

Backgrounder: Successors to the MDGs

Knut-Eric Joslin

A Summary Report by Knut-Eric Joslin

The next two years will be a formative period for potential successors to the Millennium Development Goals, and a significant policy dialogue has already begun. Given differences in the degree of elaboration, the diversity of orientations, and the multifaceted nature of the proposals, a key question is how to structure discussion and comparison of possible MDG-successors. The contribution of this report is therefore the identification of a set of questions that articulate key contrasts between the proposals. Specifically, this report suggests that proposals can be compared along eight dimensions:

  1. the scope of the proposal
  2. the goal structure
  3. the level at which goals are defined
  4. orientation to issues beyond material deprivation
  5. whether the proposal is motivated by a particular theory of change or development
  6. orientation to the issue of inequality
  7. the role of aid
  8. the nature of global partnership

The report also comments on elements of the policy process. It concludes with a brief summary of leading proposals.

0. Introduction

2015 is the target date for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As this date approaches, attention is increasingly directed to the possible successors to this framework. Most commentators view the next few years as a critical opportunity to revise and improve international efforts in poverty relief and development. A prevailing concern is that failure to effectively mobilize resources around a specific proposal or approach will handicap or even stall progress on the amelioration of poverty. For many, the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit demonstrated the challenges of international negotiation in a period of shifting economic influence, financial turmoil, and the uncertain long-term prospects for employment and growth.

i. Purpose

This report reviews current thinking on the MDG-successor process and MDG-successor proposals. Its major contribution is a set of key dimensions around which thinking about the successor proposals might be organized. These dimensions are meant to provide an analytic framework by which elements of multi-faceted proposals can be productively compared. Specifically, an initial set of eight elements is suggested:

  1. the scope of the proposal
  2. the goal structure
  3. the level at which goals are defined
  4. orientation to issues beyond material deprivation
  5. whether the proposal is motivated by a particular theory of change or development
  6. orientation to the issue of inequality
  7. the role of aid
  8. the nature of global partnership
ii. Structure

Part one of this report provides background, describing three types of \”inputs\” in the MDG successor policy process: i. Sectoral assessments, ii. framework assessments, and iii. theoretical orientations. Part two of the report focuses on the MDG successor policy process. It reviews the normative and positive perspectives on the process and concludes with a summary of recommendations by policy experts about how to make the process successful. Part three addresses the content of possible policy frameworks and how these frameworks might be compared. The report concludes with a brief list of leading proposals.

iii. Challenges and Caveats
  1. Literature Review and Selection Bias: The literature reviewed for this report is comprised of a large number of academic articles and reports collected from electronic databases and the web pages of NGOs and international organizations. This report may, however, be criticized for a \”selection bias.\” The individuals and organizations who are participating in the discussion around the MDGs are presumably also the ones who believe that some type of international action on poverty and development is necessary and desirable.
  2. Structure of the Report: This report divides the discussion of the MDG successors into two parts. The first focuses on process while the second focuses on the content. It should be noted, however, that this is an imperfect separation given that the process is the content for a number of the proposals.
  3. Language: Three issues of language seem relevant to comment on: The first is the use of the term \”MDG successors\” to denote the set of possible polices or frameworks focused on poverty and/or development that will be agreed for the period after 2015. This term seems more inclusive and less cumbersome than a number of the alternatives such as MDG+, extended MDGs, MDGs 2.0, post-MDGs, or post-2015 framework. Second, although potentially pertinent to the debate, no attempt is made to reconcile different authors’ uses of terms such as sustainability and development. Third, this report uses the term \”proposal\” in an inclusive fashion.
  4. Disclaimer: This brief report attempts to organize thinking around a diverse range of topics related to the possible MDG successors. This poses a variety of challenges, not least of which is the error of omission. Rendering the richness and complexity of the debate is also a demanding task. If this report oversimplifies or misrepresents, then this reflects the lack of sophistication of the author.

I. Background

The post-2015 agenda is well underway and a sense of urgency is building. Key questions that need to be addressed include: How should the process be organized? What are the goals or objectives of the MDG successors? What elements should MDG successor policies include? And what types of policies are realistic? A number of actors have responded to these questions. Their answers are informed by a combination of empirical assessments and theoretical perspectives. Some of assessments and orientations are highlighted below.

i. Sectoral Assessments of Progress

Although there is still some time before the final tallying of results, the contours of success and failure with respect to each of the MDG’s sectoral goals are already fairly well defined (See Hulme and Scott 2010; Waage et al. 2010; UN 2011; and Melamed 2012). Most of these evaluations conclude that while there has been progress during the past decade, this progress has been uneven across geographic areas, populations, and indicators. With respect to specific goals, progress on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and HIV/AIDS are on track, while those on maternal and child health and the environment will likely not be achieved. Similarly with respect to regions, East-Asia has made substantial progress—and has accounted for the bulk of progress on MDG1—while Africa has demonstrated less progress (while admitting that these assertions are contingent on the choice of metrics).

Causal Contribution of the MDG Framework: Assessing the causal impact of the MDG framework on achievement of the MDG goals is an extremely challenging methodological proposition. Disentangling the true contribution from aggregated figures has not been a fruitful approach. In an attempt to tease out the role that the MDGs have played, researchers have therefore examined the relationship between the MDGs and (i) attention to specific issues, (2) the allocation of resources to these areas (Manning 2009; Fukuda-Parr 2008). In general, there seems to be agreement that the MDG framework has galvanized attention around particular issues (Manning 2007; Watkins 2008; Van der Hoeven et al. 2011; Sumner and Tiwari 2009). Kenny and Sumner cite an analysis of the Commitment to Development Index as evidence of a positive trend (both including and excluding the contribution to this index from foreign aid). However, with respect to the funding priorities the evidence is mixed. Fukuda-Parr (2008) has examined the policy statements of donors and 22 PRSPs and found that while the MDGs appear to have generated increased emphasis on certain areas such as economic growth, they have not had a meaningful impact of resources directed to other areas such as maternal mortality and child survival

ii. Assessment of the Overall Framework

With respect to assessments of the overall MDG framework, there are a range of standard endorsements and criticisms that are, in the words of Darrow (2012), at this point \”well rehearsed.\”

(1) Endorsements

The strengths of the MDGs framework are generally identified as:

  • Brevity, Clarity, and Parsimony: The MDGs are associated with a parsimonious set of concise and clear goals. Among other benefits, this makes the MDG debate accessible to the general public. An illustration of the universal appeal of the goals is the number of countries that have introduced an additional \”MDG9\” to address additional or new issues of poverty (Sumner and Tiwari 2009, 838).
  • Non-prescriptive: The MDGs are outcome goals and do not prescribe particular means by which the goals are to be reached. Proponents of this approach argue that this opens for local solutions, avoids a the need for demanding and potentially intractable debates about desirable methods (Vandenmoortele 2012).
  • Increased Aid: The introduction of the MDGs has led to increased aid flows—even if overall levels of financial support have been lower than agreed commitments.
  • Multidimensional nature of poverty: The MDGs incorporate a significant breadth of goals and thus recognize the multidimensional nature of poverty. The extent to which practice has moved beyond a single characterization of poverty is, however, a subject of debate.

(2) Criticisms

Despite the positive elements of the MDGs, there is a truly extensive range of criticisms:

  • Process: A foremost criticism of the original MDGs is that they emerged from a technocratic process that did not engage with main constituencies such as the poor and the international financial institutions (IFIs). The problems related to ownership and participation are often attributed to the weakness of the process by which the MDG were created.
  • Misinterpretation and Misuse: In practice the MDGs have been misused and misinterpreted. One criticism is that the goals have been inappropriately translated to the national level:
    • Indeed, the MDGs are often misinterpreted as targets that need to be achieved by all countries. It is incorrect to state that a country is off track to meet the MDGs because the global targets are set for the world as a whole. The World Summit for Children of 1990 was very clear about the distinction between global and national targets. It stated, \”[t]hese goals will first need to be adapted to the specific realities of each country. […] Such adaptation of the goals is of crucial importance to ensure their technical validity, logistical feasibility, financial affordability and to secure political commitment and broad public support for their achievement\” (UNICEF, 1990) (Vandenmoortele 2012, 3).

    Another criticism is that because the MDGs focus on a limited set of areas, they may inappropriately direct attention to issues that are less important in a particular context.

  • Measurement: A range of measurement issues compromise the integrity of a system oriented around a set of quantified goals. Problems include non accurate measures (Gore 2010; Hulme 2009); inappropriate starting points and measurement of progress (Easterly 2007; Jahan 2010); arbitrary and inappropriate definition of poverty (Pritchett 2003; Reddy and Pogge 2008); and failure to produce disaggregated data (Jahan 2010). Kenny and Sumner also point out that it information on progress on certain indicators will not be known until 2017/2019 (2011, 9).
  • Structural Criticisms: The MDG goals are relatively narrowly defined. On the one hand, specialization and a concerted effort in a particular area may be beneficial to making real progress. On the other hand, this structure tends to \”fail to realize efficiencies and synergies arising from the potential links between goals and their fragmentation [results] in lost opportunities to improve development outcomes\” (Waage et al. 2010). Waage et al. go on to present a matrix showing the interrelationships between education, health, poverty and hunger, and gender inequality (2010, 1000). A number of analysts have performed similar exercises with respect to other goals: Kim et al. (2011) shows the interdependencies between AIDS and other MDGs; Urban (2010) describes the relation between climate change and MDGs 1-7; Cometto (2009) performs a similar analysis for health.
  • Poverty vs. Development: The MDGs, with their focus on material deprivation, may be considered \”reductionist\” because they deflect attention from the complex challenges of economic development (Fukuda-Parr 2011). Similarly, the MDG paradigm may be criticized for being un-ambitious because it does not propagate a vision of development.
  • Inequality, Inequity, and Exclusion: While overall progress on a number of indicators is positive, this disguises issues of inequality, inequity, and exclusions. In addition, human rights criticism have emphasized that issues such as discrimination need to be dealt with specifically.
  • Omissions: A range of issues such as employment, commodity policy, social security etc are neglected by the existing framework.
  • Global Partnership: The nature of \”global partnership\” is central to the MDG debate. It subsumes a range of criticism around the issues of governance, accountability, obligations, and linkages between North and South.
iii. Theoretical Orientations

The sectoral and overall assessments are constructed in relation to the MDG process itself. There are, however, a number of theories and bodies of knowledge that are influential to the MDG dialogue, but that have scope beyond the MDG process. Three that have direct relevance are (1) technical/scientific theories of environmental sustainability, (2) theoretical/empirical beliefs about economic development (and, especially the poverty elasticity of growth), and (3) theoretical/philosophical perspectives on the nature of well-being. All three have implications for how to address poverty and could or already are the basis for proposals: Both Martens (2010) and van der Hoeven (2011) suggest that \”alternative\” indices of well-being could form the basis for proposals; Munasinghe (2011) has promoted a set of \”Millenium Consumption Goals\”; and commentators such as Gore (2007; 2010) have endorsed a \”productive capacities\” paradigm that is predicated on the theories that link structural change and economic growth.

II. The Policy Process

A prominent strand of criticism of the MDGs relates to the process by which they were developed. Lack of participation of the both the poor and the international financial institutions (IFIs) in the formulation of the MDGs can partially explain weaknesses of this framework. Substantial debate has therefore focused on the process by which MDG successors might be legitimized and strengthened. A number of substantive efforts around consensus-building have also been initiated. The richest of these is described in a workshop report from 2011 (Quick and Burall 2011) and in the Beyond 2015 project. Despite the substantial disagreements about the nature of an ideal policy, there is recognition that the feasibility of various solutions depends critically on dialogue and organization. Many commentators acknowledge the trade-offs between debate and discussion, and the need for mobilization and advocacy around desired policies or strategies. For example, Quick and Burall point out that “a number of the key questions that were identified during the workshop rest on difficult trade-offs between competing purposes. For example, engaging citizens in general in the process may help to reinvigorate the development movement in general, but could jeopardise the purpose of ensuring that the voices of the very poorest are strongly represented (Quick and Burall 2011, 11).

i. Policy Principles

(1) Leadership

The majority of commentators seem to operate with the assumption that the UN will lead the post-2015 process and that this is the most appropriate leadership body. In those few analyses that explicitly address the role of UN leadership, almost all seem to come down in favor of a UN led process (Beyond 2015; CGAP 2011; Carin and Bates-Eamer 2012):

Civil society actors, think tanks and UN agencies are all agreed that the UN will be the central organisation in the process. They underline that it will be up to the Secretary-General and his office to oversee the process and make the final proposal to member states. This is based on both idealism and realities; addressing both sides, a commentator at the CIGI/Red Cross seminar stated that in terms of legitimacy the exercise must be embedded in the UN and added that the UN’s central role is important because it is impossible to overemphasise the UN\’s capacity for jealousy (Nowlan et al. 2011, 8).

The prevailing argument seems to be that the UN is the most representative international body and therefore in the best position. Beyond 2015 puts this forcefully: \”the UN is the only legitimate and representative global governance structure and must lead the process.\”

Endorsing the leadership of the UN should not, however, preclude the organization of parallel efforts. For example, in a recent workshop focused on how to involve the poor, there seems to have been agreement that while the UN should promote participation and facilitate consultation, there also needs to be a parallel organizing effort outside of the UN process in which the poor can articulate their position in the process (Quick and Burall 2011).

With respect to specific tasks for the UN, Vandemoortele (2012) identifies four: Convening national review, promoting participation, aggregate outcomes, and gatekeeper for new targets. While the first two are self-explanatory, the last two are more particular. With respect to \”aggregating outcomes,\” Vandenmoortele suggests that is will be important for the UN to manage an independent panel that can assess proposals based on merit. With respect to \”gatekeeper for new targets\”, Vandemoortele believes that it is crucial for the UN to preserve the MDGs as a limited set of quantifiable targets that are easy to understand; a task of the UN will therefore be to prevent the addition of too many new goals and to preserve their character.

The UNDP-led Post-MDG Agenda: Regardless of the normative merits of a UN led process vis-a-vis other processes and other parallel efforts, the structure of an UNDP-led post-MDG agenda appears to be in place. This will consist of (1) a global conversation, (2) national and regional consultations, and (3) thematic consultations in the areas of inequality, health, education, growth and employment, environmental sustainability, governance, conflict and fragility, population dynamics, and hunger (Pollard and Fischler 2012).

The UN System Task Force is also in the process of producing six background reports due to be released on May 20, 2012. These six reports will cover the following areas:

  1. Assessment of MDGs (critically evaluating the MDGs)
  2. Emerging development challenges (how the world has changed since the 2000s etc)
  3. Assessment of proposals and processes (who is currently doing what)
  4. Assessment of ongoing processes; area specific targets. (What deadlines are out there already; how post-MDG planning should relate to Rio+20 etc)
  5. Redefining a global partnership for development (how a new framework can be broadened and who it should include)
  6. Assessment of possible formats for post-MDGs (Pollard and Fischler 2012, 7).

A high-level panel on \”post-MDGs\” will also be announced at Rio+20 or shortly thereafter (Pollard and Fischler 2012, 8). This body will include representatives from civil society and a \”special coordinator\” who is a woman from the \”South\” (Pollard and Fischler 2012, 8).

(2) Participation

A large number of analysts and organizations have demanded a participative process that is open and inclusive, and that is constructed around norms of consultation and consensus-building (Quick and Burall 2011; Van der Hoeven et al. 2011; Vandenmoortele 2012)[1]. In particular, ensuring that the poor are active participants is seen by many as an integral to the process.

There was broad consensus that there were multiple purposes for running processes to engage poor people in the formulation of the post-2015 framework. These were to:

  • make a more effective framework
  • influence the political process
  • ensure voices of the very poorest are strongly represented
  • ensure people are engaged at the local level (this is not just a \’UN thing\’)
  • influence the content and make it relevant
  • run a global citizen engagement to address distinctly global issues
  • reinvigorate the development agenda, raise awareness and inspire the non-poor
  • ensure a stronger connection between representatives and the poor (Quick and Burall 2011, 5)

In a similar vein, Allison (2007) emphasizes the participation by civil society is a precondition for national rather than simply governmental ownership.

Quick and Burall also suggests the need for an \”umbrella mechanism for initiatives engaging the poor in the development of a post-2015 framework\” (2011, ). The intent of this project would be facilitate and stimulate participate by the poor, as well as to increase their impact on the project by situating individual voices in part of a larger movement.

(3) Agreement

While there is widespread support for an inclusive process, there has been less theorizing about how this process will lead to an agreement. Pollard and Fischler (2012) are, for example, optimistic about the chances of having wide participation, but question whether the process will reach a coherent outcome because there will be need for \”tough decisions\” about what initiatives to support.

With respect to goals, Hulme and Scott (2010) insist that future goals should be set at the national level, ideally as part of a democratic process and not set globally.

(4) Indicators

Carin and Bates-Eamer outline a set of principles by which sets of indicators should be developed:

  • Indicators should be easy to understand for non-specialists
  • Measure outputs rather than inputs
  • Favor broad, summative indicators that reflect whole sector outcomes
  • Anticipate potential behaviour changes
  • Prefer direct measures
  • Beware of process indicators that do not assess effectiveness
  • Provide disaggregation (Carin and Bates-Eamer 2012, 4)
ii. Possible Policy Scenarios

In terms of positive rather than normative theorizing around the policy process, a number of analysts have speculated about possible policy scenarios or trajectories (Pollard and Fischler 2012; Nowlan et al 2011; Melamed 2012). Most see the difference between success and failure as predicated on the extent of political will.

Pollard and Fischler (2012) envision three possible scenarios that are distinguished in terms of the (i) breadth of participation and (ii) the degree of focus of the agreement: The first possibility they identify is a “last minute rush” in which many actors enter the process relatively late in the process, exacerbating difficulties in negotiation and thereby sapping momentum from the project. The second is an open and inclusive process that nevertheless is ineffective because no clear leadership is empowered to make tough decisions; the project ends up being a lowest common denominator “all things to all people” initiative. Pollard and Fischler see the third “bell curve” option as ideal policy trajectory: This scenario begins with wide consultation but through extensive dialogue and compromise the set of policies is narrowed and a coherent forceful policy is put in place. Of these three scenarios, Pollard and Fischler see the second is the most likely to occur[2].

Employing a different analytic framework, Nowlan et al. (2011) suggest that the possible policy outcomes will be primarily influenced by (1) the effectiveness of international cooperation, and (2) the economic outlook. Of these two, Nowlan et al. (2011) seem to view the cooperation dimension as more important. Although they suggest that an “ambitious” agenda will depend on both a high degree of cooperation and a positive economic outlook, they also consider that even “If the economy is not strong but countries are willing to explore new innovations to help support development, then the MDGs may be truly interesting and experimental” (Nowlan et al. 2011, 6).

A final set of five policy scenarios is offered by Melamed: (1) The UN finds its voice, (2) the OECD and IFIs take charge, (3) the emerging economies in pole position, (4) a civil society groundswell, and (5) a failure of the process as a consequence of financial crisis and lack of political leadership — \”the dampest squib\” (2012, 47). With respect to each of these scenarios, Melamed considers the degree of influence by civil society and low income countries, as well as the overall likelihood of each.  In her opinion the two most likely scenarios (2) and (5).

iii. Ensuring an effective policy process

A third type of commentary focuses on how to ensure that the policy process is as effective as possible.  Although this process has a multi-year schedule, commentators recognize the urgency of fostering a dialogue on MDG successors as early as possible (Quick and Burall 2011). As Nowlan et al. (2011) point out, negotiation of the initial MDGs was carried out over a much more protracted period and seemed to involve less complex issues and less pronounced trade-offs. Pollard and Fischler emphasize the need to put in place incentives to submit proposals early and to that the process have strong financial.

In terms of the characteristics of successful proposals, Melamed (2012) argues that successful proposals will be characterized by (i) clear goals, (ii) strong monitoring frameworks, and (iii) norm setting. For Nowlan et al. (2011) policy success will depend on policy coherence (especially with respect to incorporating IFIs support) and buy-in among the South and the new \”power brokers\” (G20, China, South Korea, Indonesia etc) as two major priorities. Pollard and Fischler believe that a focused, forceful outcome depends crucially on a deadline, compromise, and courageous political leadership empowered to make tough decisions.

Finally, there is recognition that the MDG successor process would be strengthened by extensive public support and famous champions:

Develop a broad social movement to facilitate a change in perspective. Participants also discussed the need to take this opportunity to create a shift in the way that development is perceived by both policy makers and the public at large, and that a broader social movement is required to achieve this. This movement should be driven by vision rather than goals and be focused on sparking energy and action (Quick and Burall 2011, ).

III. MDG Successors Frameworks

Part three of this report attempts to organize thinking about the content of possible MDG successor frameworks. It begins by considering the range of policy possibilities and goes on to present eight analytic dimensions by policy possibilities might be analyzed. Then in the final section leading proposals are identified.

i. Policy Possibilities

The range of MDG successor proposals ranges from a continuation of the existing MDGs to a radical revision of the nature of global cooperation with respect to development. Modest proposals aim to incorporate lessons learned, but preserve the key elements of the existing MDGs. They argue that a set of simple, clear outcome goals represents the best instrument for advocacy and for coordinating action among diverse actors. At the radical end of the spectrum are those who believe that the logic of the MDG process is fundamentally flawed. These proposals insist on the need for a radically different type of cooperation to address issues of poverty and development.

A number of analysts have attempt to classify these MDG successors proposals (Martens 2010; Giffen and Pratt 2011; Nowlan et al. 2011; Melamed 2012). These classification systems are in essence organized by reference to the existing MDGs and the degree to which proposals resemble or deviate from this framework. The implicit assumption of these commentators appears to be that frameworks that resemble the one in place now will also be the most politically feasible. The MDG framework appears to enjoy an incumbency advantage insofar as the continuation of the existing policy is considered the most politically feasible.

(1) Existing Proposal Typologies

Giffen and Pratt (2011) suggest three different types of proposals. The first possibility is a refinement of the existing framework. They suggest that an \”MDG 2.0 framework\” could include revision of goals related to women and maternal health, incorporate a focus on fragile states, and introduce the use of \”non-mean\” indicators as changes.

The second possibility that Giffen and Pratt (2011) consider is a framework developed in a more inclusive process that includes elements of governance and accountability and/or could be organized around cross-cutting issues such as human rights, climate change, and environmental sustainability. A typical example of such a proposal would be that by Waage et al. 2010.

Giffen and Pratt describe the third possibility as a fundamentally new approach or paradigm, one which might \”consider poverty more broadly, as a feature of developed, middle income and poor countries, and are focusing on thematically based solutions to problems which may be seen as more systemic to all societies rather than just to the poorest countries\” (2010, 7). They suggest that alternative approaches might return to a focus on economic development, could be oriented to \’poverty issues\’ as global problems, with the need for global thinking regarding solutions, rather than seeing poverty as a national issue within individual countries.

Another typology is that proposed by Melamed (2012). Her typology consists of two axes: A content dimension and a framework dimension. These leads to three types of deviation from the existing framework: \”(i) Same terrain, new framework, (ii) new terrain, same framework, and (iii) new framework, new terrain\” (2012, ).

In certain respects similar to Melamed, Martens (2010) introduces a two part typology, distinguishing between the dimensions of goals and indicators: Retaining the goals but introducing new indicators; retaining goals but introducing new goals; defining new models and goals of well-being and social progress (Martens 2010, ).

A fourth classification system is that proposed by Nowlan et al. which considers a \”spectrum of approaches\” ranked from more \”status quo\” to \”revolutionary\”:

  • One World
  • Human-Rights Approach
  • Well-Being Approach
  • Disaggregated Goals
  • New Goals Added
  • Roll-Over deadline (9)

(2) Criticism of Existing Typologies

These typologies systems, although easy to understand, may be criticized because they obscure important differences between proposals. The groupings in Giffen and Pratt (2011) seem, for example, fairly arbitrary. Proposals are multifaceted and one or two dimensions is not sufficient for comparing them. In addition, the degree to which proposals are considered radical seems to vary strongly across various proposers. For instance, while some individuals seem to believe that human rights could be addressed with the addition or modification of goals, others seem to believe that a human rights approach would demand a fundamental revision of the structure of the MDG process.

ii. Questions as Analytic Dimensions

Instead of a classification system or typology, this report therefore focuses a set of key questions that address basic elements of MDG framework proposals. This strength of this approach is that it facilitates the comparison of multidimensional proposals along a range of dimensions.

(1) What is the scope of the proposal: collective problems or common problems?

A key distinguishing feature among the proposals is the scope the problems that they seek to address. Illustrative of the types of differences is the proposal from CAFOD, which describes the purpose a post-2015 framework in the following fashion:

The purpose of a post-2015 framework is to ensure that the issues of great significance to people living in poverty, and which collective international efforts have the most potential to deliver change, are goals at the centre of international policy which drive actual progress in the real world (Pollard and Fischler 2012, 19).

Crucially, the focus is on emphasis on \”shared\” rather than \”common\” problems: \”We suggest the focus should be on shared problems (i.e. where the causes and remedies are primarily to be found internationally) rather than common problems (which are found in many countries around the world but where the causes and remedies are primarily found at national level). We suggest that the value-add of an international agreement is greater for shared problems than common ones\” (Pollard and Fischler 2012, 4).

(2) What is the \”goal structure?\”

The goal structure of the proposals may be described in terms of the number of goals, the narrow-ness or broadness of goals, the existence of a hierarchy of supporting targets and indicators, and the time horizon. While some proposals endorse a clear hierarchy of goals and indicators, others propose general \”principles.\” Similarly, there is a debate about the total number of goals and the desired timeframe.

(3) At what level are the goals articulated?

Whether global targets should be included and, if they are, how they should be translated (\”localized\”) in particular nations or communities is an outstanding source of controversy. In line with the endorsements and criticisms outlined in part one of this report, there are proposals on both sides of this debate.

(4) Does the proposal focus on issues beyond material deprivation?

The current set of MDGs is focused on issues of extreme deprivation. However, a number of commentators argue that well-being depends in addition on a range of non-material factors and believe therefore that these should be incorporated in the MDG successors. These perspectives are, for example, articulated by human-rights proponents and those who view development in terms of capabilities.

(5) Is the proposal motivated by a particular theory of change or development?

In contrast the agenda in earlier periods — the \”development decades\” of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s — which focused on economic transformation, industrialization and growth — the MDGs are not linked to a particular theory of change or development. It may therefore not be surprising that there has been a swing back towards development narratives. As Sumner and Tiwari (2009) observe, \”over the last few years, there has been some re-emergence of the grand- or meta-narrative in approaches to development\” (839). Examples include economists such as Collier, Sachs, and Rodrik, who identify particular constraints associated with poverty (\”traps\”) that limit the possibility of growth, as well as heterodox economists who emphasize various need for structural changes (Gore 2007). Whether or not the proposals endorse a theory of change or development tends therefore to separate between alternative perspectives.

(6) Is inequality a central issue?

Inequality is consistently recognized as an issue that must to be addressed. How central this is in the proposal varies, however. For some, inequality is a problem only insofar as it relates to absolute deprivation. For others, inequality is itself exclusionary and therefore problematic. In the latter case, there is motivation to directly target inequality itself.

(7) What is the proper role of foreign aid?

Foreign aid has attracted considerable scrutiny during the past few decades. It is therefore not surprising that some critics have advocated for a different orientation to development assistance, for instance in the form of public-private partnerships. Needless to say, on the other end of the spectrum are those that believe that the problem up to this point has been inadequate levels of aid.

(8) What is the proposal\’s orientation to global partnership?

The issue of equal sharing obligations among actors, accountability, and global governance are among the most challenging issues for the MDG successor proposals. Indeed, few of the concrete proposals have endorsed particular institutional reforms or described how enforcement mechanisms might be implemented. However, the proposals do differ significantly with respect to their orientation to this question. While some proposals gloss over these issues or dismiss them as not implementable, other proposals explicitly address the need to reconfigure existing international relations.

iii. Main Proposals

At the present time, five proposals seem worth identifying because of their relatively clear articulation:

  • Baseline or \”Roll-over\” Proposal: The most conservative proposals would leave the existing MDGs in place with minor revisions.
  • CIGI 12-Goal Proposal: Developed in coordination with a number of experts and civil society, the proposal described by Carin and Bates-Eamer (2012) is already at a relatively high level of development and includes a impressive range of potential indicators. This basic design of the proposal involves twelve goals divided into three groups: The first group addresses \”necessary endowments for individuals to achieve their fuller potential,\” the second group promotes \”human capital,\” and the third deals with the effective provision of global public goods. These twelve goals vary significantly from those identified in the MDGs, including diverse new goals such disaster preparedness, \”empowerment of people to recognize their civil and political rights,\” and \”connectivity.\”
  • Four Principle Plan: Waage et al. (2010) have proposed a plan oriented around four general principles rather than a set of specific goals. These principles include \”holism, equity, sustainability, and ownership.\” One of the key motivating principles for discarding a set of goals is to promote work development that is cross-cutting and locally developed.
  • Sustainable Development Goals: Colombia has proposed a set of \”Sustainable Development Goals\” (SDGs) that resembles the MDGs in several respects (Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, República de Colombia). This proposal has attracted considerable attention and was the subject of a 2011 UN NGO conference. A primary question with respect to these SDGs is if they could be incorporated in an MDG-like framework.
  • Millennium Consumption Goals: Munasinghe (2011) and Vergagt (2011) have proposed a set of \”Millennium Consumption Goals\” (MCGs) which are anchored in prevailing beliefs about environmental carrying capacities. Targets in this proposal include carbon emissions reduction, and energy conservation. Meeting these targets is predicated on substantial changes to the patterns of the consumption in the developed world. This proposal thus places burden of change on the developed world and must therefore be considered relatively radical.

Also adding to this dialogue is a long list of other commentators (see for example Van der Hoeven 2011; Pollard and Fischler 2012; Martens 2010; Vandenmoortele 2012; Poku and Whitman 2011; Darrow 2012; Manning 2010). These are not discussed here because they either are at a low level of elaboration or present variations or intermediate cases between the proposals presented above.

IV. Works Cited

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Carin, B. and N. Bates-Eamer (2012). Post-2015 Goals, Targets, and Indicators: Background Paper Paris, April 9-11, 2012, Centre for International Governance Innovation, Korea development Institute

CGAP (2011). The World We Want: CGAP Annual Report 2011, Global Call to Action Against Poverty.

Chang, H.-J. (2010). Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark: How development has disappeared from today\’s \’development\’ discourse (15 February 2009 version). Towards New Developmentalism: Markets as Means rather than Master. D. Khan and J. Christiansen. Abingdon Routledge.

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Dalgaard, C. J. and L. Erickson (2009). \”Reasonable Expectations and the First Millennium Development Goal: How Much Can Aid Achieve?\” World Development 37(7): 1170-1181.

Darrow, M. (2012). \”The Millennium Development Goals: Milestones or Millstones? Human Rights Priorities fir the Post-2015 Development Agenda.\” (Forthcoming) Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal XV(March).

Easterly, W. (2009). \”How the Millennium Development Goals are Unfair to Africa.\” World Development 37(1): 26-35.

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Waage, J., Rukmini Banerji, Oona Campbell, Ephraim Chirwa, Guy Collender, Veerle Dieltiens, Andrew Dorward, Peter Godfrey-Faussett, Piya Hanvoravongchai, Geeta Kingdon, Angela Little, Anne Mills, Kim Mulholland, Alwyn Mwinga, Amy North, Walaiporn Patcharanarumol, Colin Poulton, Viroj Tangcharoensathien and Elaine Unterhalter Lancet 376(9745):991-1023 (2010) (2010). \”The Millennium Development Goals: a cross-sectoral analysis and principles for goal setting after 2015.\” The Lancet 376(9745): 991-1023.

[1] Quick and Burall also refer to a number of organizations that have launched initiatives to involve the poor in the formulation of a post-2015 framework: Hewlett Foundation, Action Aid, World Social Forum, World Economic Forum, and the Rockefeller Foundation (2011, 21).

[2] In an earlier report Pollard (2009) identifies five different possibilities: (1) A clearly led legitimate framework with extensive consultation, (2) an \”inside out\” process similar to the original process whereby UN specialists draw up the framework, (3) an \”outside in\” process in which civil society takes the lead, (4) a \”jigsaw\” framework in which leadership emerges from another international body (G20, G77, UNFCC), and (5) the possibility of failure. Some of these possibilities may now be less relevant due to the apparent emergence of the UNDP as the lead body in the process.


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