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How the Millennium Development Goals Are Unfair to Africa

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Publication Date: November 2007

Publisher(s): Brookings Institution

Author(s): William Easterly

Topic: International relations (International relief and humanitarian assistance)
Social conditions (Poverty and homelessness)

Keywords: global poverty; development; Africa; foreign aid

Type: Report

Coverage: Africa


One of the centerpieces of foreign aid efforts in the new millennium has been the effort to attain seven Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for developing countries by the year 2015, representing progress on a range of economic and social indicators. These goals were first agreed at a summit of virtually all world leaders at the United Nations (UN) in 2000, and they have since occupied a great deal of the attention of the UN, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and bilateral aid agencies in their dealing with low-income countries.

This paper argues that the MDGs are poorly and arbitrarily designed to measure progress against poverty and deprivation, and that their design makes Africa look worse than it really is. The paper does not argue that Africa's performance is good in all areas, only that its relative performance looks worse because of the particular way in which the MDG targets are set.