chapter  6
27 Pages

Governing global poverty? Global ambivalence and the Millennium Development Goals


The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the world’s biggest promise-a global agreement to reduce poverty and human deprivation at historically unprecedented rates through collaborative multilateral action. They differ from all other global promises for poverty reduction in their comprehensive nature and the systematic efforts taken to specify, finance, implement, monitor, and advocate concerted action. This chapter charts the evolution of the MDGs and examines the

changing historical structure (material capabilities, ideas and institutions) that has shaped their form, content, application and achievements. In many ways the MDGs were the outcome of a fragmented conversation between critics of neoliberalism, loosely grouped around the idea of “human development,” and non-fundamentalist neoliberals, moving toward a post-Washington Consensus. The MDGs emerged at a time when (i) the previously dominant model for world development, neoliberal capitalism, was being heavily questioned but there was no clearly articulated alternative, and (ii) world leaders and multilateral institutions were coming under pressure to generate a vision of “how” the world would be different and better in the new millennium. Following this introduction, I outline the chapter’s analytical frame-

work. Then the evolution of the MDGs is summarized in a chronological account. The subsequent section applies the analytical framework to the chronological account and explains why the MDGs declared international development to be the pursuit of absolute poverty reduction (from a multi-dimensional perspective and framed in terms of resultsbased management), rather than the pursuit of economic growth or human rights or reduced inequality. The concluding section comments on the contribution that the MDGs have made to reducing poverty and inequality and speculates on the future of the MDGs, and similar global visions, in a world no longer dominated by the United States.