Millennium Development Goals and Human Rights: Past, Present and Future Cambridge University Press  |  January 9, 2011

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The creation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2001 promised the opening of a new chapter in international development. By 2015, global income poverty, hunger, and water deprivation were to be halved; even larger reductions were to be achieved in maternal and infant mortality; primary education would be universal; and the lives of 100 million slum dwellers were to be improved (see Table 1.1). In the eighth goal, wealthier states agreed to provide greater amounts of aid and debt relief, create a more responsive trade system, and place increased developmental focus on poor and small-island developing States. The MDGs were soon hailed for their “catalytic effect on the global development debate” (Malloch-Brown, 2004: xviii). Despite early signs of sluggish progress, they were strongly defended for their potential to reshape and invigorate development discourse and practice and for supporting a ‘big push’ to mobilise substantial aid increases (Sachs, 2004; 2005; UNMP, 2005). Substantively, the goals presented, at least on their face, a new international consensus on the objectives of development: prioritising poverty reduction and diminishing the focus on economic growth, economic liberalisation, and donor self-interest. In terms of process, they offered a new form of “real-time accountability” for developing and developed States (Malloch-Brown, 2004). Simple, time-bound, outcome-based, and monitorable commitments presented a new tool to help spur policy reforms and the more equitable allocations of resources. The goals also possessed that elusive quality of international political legitimacy.

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