Millennium Development Goals: Ideas, Interests and Influence, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Millennium Development Goals

Ideas, Interests and Influence, 1st Edition

By Sakiko Fukuda-Parr


251 pages | 4 B/W Illus.

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Heralded as a success that mobilized support for development, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ushered in an era of setting development agendas by setting global goals. This book critically evaluates the MDG experience from the capabilities and human rights perspectives, and questions the use of quantitative targets as an instrument of global governance. It provides an account of their origins, trajectory and influence in shaping the policy agenda, and ideas about international development during the first 15 years of the 21st century. The chapters explore:

• whether the goals are adequate as benchmarks for the transformative vision of the Millennium Declaration;

• how the goals came to be formulated the way they were, drawing on interviews with key actors who were involved in the process;

• how the goals exercised influence through framing to shape policy agendas on the part of both developing countries and the international community;

• the political economy that drove the formulation of the goals and their consequences on the agendas of the South and the North;

• the effects of quantification and indicators on ideas and action; and

• the lessons to be drawn for using numeric goals to promote global priorities.

Representing a significant body of work on the MDGs in its multiple dimensions, compiled here for the first time as a single collection that tells the whole definitive story, this book provides a comprehensive resource. It will be of great interest to students, researchers and policymakers in the fields of development, human rights, international political economy, and governance by numeric indicators.


‘This book, by one of the foremost analysts of development goals, presents a review of the strong influence but also the limitations of the United Nations’ MDGs. It holds important lessons on the use of global goals, and it is a must read in the era of the SDGs launched by the UN in 2015.’ - José Antonio Ocampo, Professor, Columbia University, USA. Former UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

'This critically important book examines the consequences of using numerical goals for development. Focusing on the major contemporary development initiative, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr exposes serious limitations of governance by indicators, particularly for a human rights approach to development.' Sally Engle Merry, New York University and author of 'The Seductions of Quantification: Measuring Human Rights, Gender Violence, and Sex Trafficking'

'Just like the king in "The Little Prince" claimed to command the sun to set every evening, the MDGs have been credited with results that would most likely have happened anyhow, while obscuring increased inequalities and structural causes. A privileged witness and participant, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr brilliantly documents in this book two decades of development practice and narrative and draws unavoidable conclusions.' - Roberto Bissio, coordinator of Social Watch

Table of Contents

Introduction: Goals and norms of development

Part I Shaping the international development agenda: From human development and human rights to basic needs

Chapter 1. Prospective circa 2003: The Millennium Development Goals—why they matter

Chapter 2. Retrospective circa 2013: Recapturing the human rights vision of the Millennium Declaration

Part II The marketplace of ideas

Chapter 3. The emergence and spread of the global poverty norm

Chapter 4. The poverty narrative and the political economy of development

Chapter 5. Are the MDGs a priority in national poverty reduction strategies and aid programs? Only a few are!

Part III Global goals and the power of numbers

Chapter 6. Global goals as a policy tool: Intended and unintended effects of quantification

Chapter 7. The power of numbers: How targets perverted human rights and human development agendas

Chapter 8. Framing the discourse and shaping agendas: The MDG hunger target and the narrative of food security

Chapter 9. MDGs as performance measures: Faulty metrics that penalize countries starting behind

Chapter 10. Conclusion: Global goals to set international agendas


Select bibliography

About the Author

Sakiko Fukuda-Parr is Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs at The New School, New York. From 1995 to 2004, she was Director of the UNDP Human Development Reports.

About the Series

Global Institutions

The "Global Institutions Series" is edited by Thomas G. Weiss (The CUNY Graduate Center, New York, USA) and Rorden Wilkinson (University of Sussex, UK).

The Series has two "streams" identified by their covers:

  • Blue covers offer comprehensive, accessible, and informative guides to the history, structure, and activities of key international organizations, and introductions to topics of key importance in contemporary global governance. Recognized experts use a similar structure to address the general purpose and rationale for specific organizations along with historical developments, membership, structure, decision-making procedures, key functions, and an annotated bibliography and guide to electronic sources.
  • Red covers consist of research monographs and edited collections that advance knowledge about one aspect of global governance; they reflect a wide variety of intellectual orientations, theoretical persuasions, and methodological approaches.

Together these streams provide a coherent and complementary portrait of the problems, prospects, and possibilities confronting global institutions today.

Learn more…

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