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date: 14 July 2020

Summary and Keywords

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), endorsed by 189 governments at the Millennium Summit, propose a concerted global effort to reduce the incidence of severe poverty and many of its most serious manifestations over a twenty-five-year period. The MDGs offer crucial insights into the politics of poverty and poverty reduction in international affairs. Their political dimensions can be analyzed in terms of agency, the nature and limits of accountability, the use and manipulation of quantitative goals for political ends, the dangerous illusion that MDG objectives can be accomplished in large part by mobilizing more development assistance, and the MDGs’ distinctly apolitical approach to the structural causes of poverty. The MDG initiative should be situated in three ongoing streams of debate and discussion: the debate over the relative priority of growth and of human development for poverty reduction; the tension between the assertion of rights and the enunciation of donor-driven goals as the political engine of poverty reduction; and the debate over the roles of markets and of state direction and regulation. While the MDGs concentrate on increasing aid flows to reduce the incidence of poverty and its manifestations, international trade and finance arrangements too often impede rapid progress. This is evident in water privatization, trade rules, and anti-retroviral medicines for HIV/AIDS patients. A way forward is to integrate the MDGs more deeply with human rights guarantees. Donors, for example, must take seriously the 2002 Draft Guidelines for the application of human rights to poverty reduction strategies.

Keywords: poverty reduction, Millennium Development Goals, poverty, politics of poverty, human development, markets, agency, accountability, human rights, international trade

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