Article written

  • on 21.07.2013
  • at 03:00 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

Development post-2015: What role for African diaspora? 0

Christmas has come and is long gone yet it would seem that every special interest in international development continues to play a curious version of “let’s hang our baubles on an already overloaded Millennium Development Goal Christmas tree”.

It seems like a fun game, so let me reach up and add a few more: Jobs; inequality; universalism; transparency; migration; and political economy. However, in my defense, I hope these new dangly bits will actually help to streamline the tree and maybe make some other baubles less necessary.

The onset of 2015 has spawned a major industry in pre-post-2015 reflections and debates about what should replace the MDGs. It is hard to believe that one can really add much of value to what has already been produced; even keeping abreast with a subset of the material generated has proven impossible. With an eye firmly fixed on 2015, the British Labour Party’s Shadow Spokesperson on International Development, Ivan Lewis MP, is also in on the act with a series of consultations, including a cross-section of African diaspora individuals.

First, I must confess that I find myself at the skeptical end of the spectrum of opinions about the MDGs: On the one hand, I can see that supporters believe the MDGs have helped to focus minds around the goals; mobilize donor resources for their achievement; and gradually get them integrated into national development plans. On the other hand, the main MDG goal of halving poverty has been achieved through China’s phenomenal growth. China has lifted millions of people out of poverty through reforms started in 1979. That’s right: 1979, long before the MDGs came into being. China’s economic transformation has come about primarily through an internal political process of encouraging private enterprise. So how much progress in terms of real development outcomes can we really attribute to the MDGs? Similarly, other economies that we might as well call emerged (no longer emerging) economies have also navigated their way to widespread wealth and development without reliance on an MDG process (although many of these countries made judicious and productive use of aid and other resources to transform their economies).

Another bias I must confess to is being heavily influenced by the book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson in which they advance the thesis that it is a combination of inclusive – as opposed to extractive – political and economic institutions that explains the success or failure of nations. For sure, though widely acclaimed, theirs is a hotly contested thesis, but arguments that more aid is central to the achievement of the MDGs do not stack up: it is hard to correlate aid levels with improvements in education or health.

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