chapter  6
2 Pages

Concluding Discussion

The MDG framework has served as a catalyst to encourage governments and the development community to focus support on improvements in human development and poverty reduction, rather than solely economic growth. However, one critique of MDG 1 is precisely that it encourages economic growth as the primary solution to poverty (Fukuda-Parr 2010; Vandemoortele 2011). It is generally accepted that the MDGs have influenced the shaping and targeting of the flow of resource commitments, and have been held by some partly responsible for the nearly 50% increase in development assistance from donor countries to developing countries from 2000 to 2011, for the increasing share of that aid which went to LICs, and for the larger share going to the social sectors (Kenny and Sumner 2011). The MDGs were mentioned in most Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, although a different income poverty target may have affected the manner in which they were included. Fukuda-Parr (2010) documents that the majority of developing countries’ Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers focus on economic growth and investment in social sectors and not on specific pro-poor growth objectives, with the apparent assumption that growth will automatically result in poverty reduction. Some longstanding, common critiques of the MDGs are particularly relevant to MDG 1. For

example, the segmentation of income poverty from interconnected domains such as hunger, nutrition, health, water and education discourages coordinated, multi-sectoral approaches needed to deliver greater and more sustainable improvements. Another common criticism is the lack of national ownership and accountability, a concern that could be partially addressed for income poverty goals by the political participation involved with setting national poverty thresholds. Finally, the framework basically applied to developing countries only, hence reinforcing a perception of an “aid-oriented” approach. There is arguably an emerging consensus for a global development agenda that applies to all, but which will allow different countries to adapt their strategies, based on their own circumstances (e.g. as illustrated in the High-Level Panel report). How, then, to both address some of the criticisms elucidated in this paper, and also make the income

poverty goal more relevant to poverty reduction? Gauri (2012) argues that the next MDGs could become more relevant to poverty reduction. First, arguing that any new goals need to be designed in ways that spark political and popular mobilization. For this to happen, a poverty goal needs to be psychologically, morally and politically salient. For a goal to embed those characteristics suggests that such analysis needs to be functional to a process that is less cognitively demanding for the broad public, more morally compelling, and that truly fosters national ownership. The “simple” goal of eradication of poverty is both easy to understand and morally compelling. Also, any future poverty goal should be embedded within a broader narrative on the causes of

poverty. On one hand, the identification of the root causes of poverty of individuals and nations is clearly a deep and complex task that has been the subject of decades of debates in economics and other disciplines. On the other hand, the goal cannot be left in a vacuum. One option could be to frame poverty as a matter of distribution. As the projections discussed above illustrate, even absolute poverty eradication is not possible without improvements in equality. Distribution is thus important both intrinsically and instrumentally. In addition to including a focus on inequality in the broader causal narrative related to eradicating poverty, it may also be beneficial to have a goal specifically related to inequality reduction, as some have suggested (Fukuda-Parr 2010; Pogge 2013). The way causality is articulated also has implications for how the poverty goal could be more morally

compelling. By this we mean that, if a particular frame is used-for example, distribution-then the widely shared principle of “equal opportunity” (for