Experts Review UN Millennium Development Goals

Human development and human rights experts met on Wednesday at the Harvard School of Public Health to evaluate the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals and to plan for what will be put in place when the goals expire in 2015.

The meeting was the first of a multi-author review of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals intending to determine what was successful from the previous plans, what unexpected challenges were faced, and what new problems have emerged that must be addressed.

The study leaders, UN officials, and human development and human rights experts debated what criteria should be used to choose indicators that will best assess the current state of development, and ultimately, what is the best course of action after 2015.

“These eight [Millennium Development Goals] have become these massive poverty goals, but they expire in 2015, so the entire international community is organizing around the UN to figure out what comes next,” said Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, a Professor of International Affairs at the New School.

The study will address how politics has influenced the UN’s priorities and why some goals succeeded while others failed.

“The reason why the [Millennium Development Goals] got so much traction in an unprecedented way and caught the imagination of people is because they are expressed as numeric targets, they are concrete and have real action,” said Fukuda-Parr.

The discussion brought about dissenting opinions on how to evaluate the global state as accurately as possible.

“We at the [Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights] have developed frameworks for national contexts. How do we translate these indicators of success to a global scale?” said Grace Sanico Steffan, a human rights officer the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Many at the meeting wished to avoid setting specific numerical constraints and framing their evaluations in legalisms, noting the dangers of using a prescriptive framework to gauge successes.

“Our main question is, does the way that the targets are set and prescribed have an impact on the results? I think that everybody is realizing how difficult this issue of evaluating the impact of a global development agenda is, but how important it is in shaping national policies, “ said Diana Alarcon, a senior economic affairs officer within the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The study contributes to a larger goal of granting civil society members a role in shaping the UN’s development plans. Participants of the meeting said they aim to implement an institutional platform for communications between the UN and outside study leaders in the future.

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