From September 20 to 22 a ‘High Level Plenary Meeting’ will be held at the UN in New York to look at the achievements concerning the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Once again, non governmental organizations in wealthy countries are mobilizing their troops in order to push for more development aid.
For those who might not remember: the MDGs are 8 objectives, 16 targets and 60 indicators concerning development cooperation. They aim at halving extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015, providing primary education for all children, gender equality and empowerment for women, fighting HIV/aids and malaria, reducing child and maternal mortality and caring for a better environment. The eighth and not quantified objective concerns the obligations of rich countries: more development aid, debt relief, access to their markets, affordable medicines and new technology.
The UN wants its member states to take vigorous action. Five years before the final date, the aim is to see what has happened and what remains to be done.
Twenty years after the World Bank introduced – for the second time – its proposals for poverty reduction strategies and ten years after the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals and the Poverty Reduction Strategies Papers, some very difficult questions remain: Why is poverty such a persistent problem? What are its root causes? Why do some countries have success and others have not? And most of all: how to correct the situation?
Since the international organisations put poverty on the political agenda in the 1990s, little has been heard about inequality. This is quite amazing, since it was the income gap between rich and poor countries that gave rise to the development project after the Second World War. The first UN resolutions on development do not mention poverty, but they do refer to the huge inequalities between developed and under-developed countries.
With the new poverty agenda of the World Bank and the human development programme of the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), both introduced in 1990, people, if not individuals, clearly have become the objects of development. There certainly are good reasons to welcome this shift, since development without benefits for people would be rather meaningless. But one also has to recognise the perfect convergence of this shift with the emergence of a neoliberal agenda that tried to weaken states and deprive them of their economic role. If countries are neither the objects nor the driving forces of development but only have to create an enabling environment and care for the extremely poor, there clearly is a new development agenda and there are good reasons to analyse all its consequences.
It is a real pleasure to read the books of Ha-Joon Chang. In fact, his most recent work has nothing new. It presents in a very clear and comprehensible way the results of his former research. His objective is to give people more knowledge and to equip the reader with an understanding of how capitalism really works.
Reading this book is real fun, however serious the catastrophe of 2008, created by free-market ideology, has been.