Reprod. Health Matters   |  November 21, 2013

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This paper explores the intended and unintended consequences of the selection of MDG 5 as a global goal, together with its respective targets and indicators, and places what happened to MDG 5, and sexual and reproductive health and rights more broadly, into the context of the development model that was encoded in the MDGs. Over the last decade, as the MDGs increasingly took centre stage in development and their use evolved, they were inappropriately converted from global goals into national planning targets. This conversion was particularly detrimental in the case of MDG 5. It not only created a narrowing in terms of policies and programming, but also had an enormous impact on the discourse of development itself, reshaping the field in terms of the organization and dissemination of knowledge, and underscoring that the process of setting targets and indicators is far from neutral but encodes normative values. Looking forward, it is not adequate to propose an MDG+ framework based on the same structure. Sexual and reproductive health and rights must be placed back into the global discourse, using development to empower women and marginalized populations, and to address structural inequalities that are fundamental to sustained social change. The new development framework should include a strong narrative of social transformation in which fit-for-purpose targets and indicators play a role, but do not overtake or restrict the broader aims of advancing social, political, and gender justice.

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