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THOSE BUILDING BLOCKS OF DEVELOPMENT
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The millenium development goals cover all the crucial dimensions of human development. In particular, they do not mention expanding people’s participation in the decisions that affect their lives or increasing their civil and political freedoms. Participation, democracy and human rights are, however, important elements of the millennium declaration. The goals provide building blocks for human development, with each relating to key dimensions of this process. The goals also reflect a human rights agenda — rights to food, education, health care and decent living standards, as enumerated in the universal declaration of human rights...

The goals also build on the momentum created by the international development goals, devised in 1996 by the development assistance committee of the organization for economic cooperation and development to define how its 23 bilateral donors would work together to improve lives in developing countries in the 21st century...

But because the international development goals originated in the donor community, they were never wholeheartedly adopted by developing countries or by civil society groups...So although the millennium development goals include all but one of the international development goals, they are seen not as the brainchild solely of rich countries. Instead they are truly global development goals that reaffirm the world’s collective commitment to improving the lives of people in poor countries...

The global community, often led by the United Nations, has set many development goals...and has a history of many failures. For example, in the Alma Ata Declaration of 1977 the world committed to healthcare for all people by the end of the century. Yet in 2000 millions of poor people died of pandemic and other diseases, many readily preventable and treatable...And the failures should serve as reminders of past neglect to follow through on solemn global pledges. UN goals have also achieved many successes — some spectacular. An immunization goal dramatically increased coverage, from 10 to 20 per cent in 1980 to more than 70 per cent in 1990 in more than 70 countries. And even when quantitative targets have not been achieved by their target dates, they have accelerated progress. For example, by 2000, life expectancy had been raised to at least 60 years in 124 countries. In the Nineties child mortality was reduced by a third or more in only 63 countries — but in more than 100 it was cut by a fifth. So global goals can raise ambitions and spur efforts.

The millennium development goals have been widely acclaimed, inspiring new energy for action against poverty. But they have also been criticized for: being too narrow, leaving out development priorities such as strong governance, increased employment, reproductive health care and institutional reform of global governance; relying on narrow indicators, such as school enrolment gaps to track progress in gender equality, or numbers of telephones to measure access to technology; being unrealistic and setting the stage for discouragement — and for being used to name and shame countries that do not achieve them; distorting national priorities, possibly undermining local leadership by promoting a topdown, often donor-led agenda at the cost of participatory approaches in which communities and countries set their own priorities.

These concerns point to what could go wrong if the goals — particularly their numerical indicators — are taken out of context and seen as ends in themselves rather than as benchmarks of progress towards the broader goal of eradicating human poverty. Though the goals reflect consensus on key global development objectives, they are not a new model for development. And while all are important, the priority placed on each should be determined by national development strategies...Although the millennium development goals originated in the UN, they are people’s goals — and they can be achieved only if efforts are nationally owned and country driven...

As governments begin to assess whether and how the goals will be achieved by 2015, they also assess policy priorities and develop national strategies. Several countries have increased social spending and launched new programmes in support of the goals. For example, Bolivia has aligned its social policies with the goals ...National ownership is not just government ownership. Action must be driven not just by politicians and government agencies but also by communities, local authorities and civil society groups. The political momentum for policy change must come from a country’s people, pressing for more schools, better health care, improved water supplies and other essential elements of development. The goals provide an entry point for applying such pressure...

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