XVII. Development Goals and Strategies
Over the past several decades some developing countries have
achieved high economic growth rates, significantly
narrowing the gap between themselves and the most developed
countries. But many more developing countries have actually seen the economic gap widen (see Figure
4.4). Thus, while accelerated growth and development leading to convergence with developed countries
are possible, these are in no way guaranteed. In fact there is a high risk that today's gap between
the rich and the poor countries--with 80 percent of the world’s population commanding less than
20 percent of global GDP--will become even wider. There is also a high risk that the number of people
living in extreme poverty--on less than US$1 a day--will not substantially decrease (see Chapter
6). All these risks are aggravated by the growth of the world’s population, which in the
next 30 years is projected to expand by two billion people, almost all of them expected to be born
in developing countries (see Chapter 3).
Whose responsibility is it to stop the global spread of poverty?
And what can governments do to catalyze their countries' development?
To begin to answer those questions, it is important to remember that development is far more complex
than simply economic growth or the quantitative accumulation of national capital,
even in the broader meaning of the term (as described in Chapter 16, for
instance). Development is also the qualitative transformation of a whole society, a shift to new ways
of thinking, and, correspondingly, to new relations and new methods of production. Moreover, as you
will probably agree, transformation qualifies as development only if it benefits most people—improves
their quality of life and gives them more control over their destinies
(see Chapter 1). This comprehensive process of change has to involve most
of the population and cannot be imposed from outside the country or from above--for example, by means
of unpopular government policy or by means of foreign aid.
Millennium Development Goals
1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro issued the famous Agenda 21 (for the 21st century), which--in its
40 chapters--provided the main framework for international understanding of and cooperation on the
issues of sustainable development. Notably, Agenda 21 recognized combating poverty as a basic condition
for ensuring sustainability--social, economic, and even environmental. Since 1992 international agreement
on the key issues of sustainable development has deepened and a wide consensus on the urgent need to
combat poverty in its many forms has arisen. A number of world conferences organized by the United
Nations following the Rio Earth Summit discussed the so-called International Development Goals, which
were meant to help focus and coordinate the efforts of donor countries, international development agencies,
and the governments of developing countries themselves. In September 2000 many of those goals were
incorporated into the resolutions of the UN Millennium General Assembly in New York (also called the
Millennium Summit) and endorsed by 189 countries as Millennium Development Goals.
There are eight major Millennium Development Goals, seven of which formulate far-reaching improvements
in some of the most important indicators of development, followed by concrete targets to be achieved
by 2015, in comparison with the figures for 1990. The eighth goal specifies some of the main means
of achieving the first seven goals in the portion of the work that requires joint effort by international
development partners--the governments of developed and developing countries, as well as the private
In summary form, the Millennium Development Goals and their related targets call for achieving the
following outcomes by 2015:
- Decreasing by half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty (on less than US$1 a day)
and suffering from hunger.
- Achieving universal primary education.
- Eliminating gender disparity at all levels of education.
- Reducing the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds.
- Reducing the maternal mortality ratios by three-quarters.
- Halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.
- Ensuring improved environmental sustainability (by integrating sustainable development into country
policies, reversing the loss of environmental resources, and halving the proportion of people without
access to potable water and basic sanitation).
- Building a Global Partnership for Development. (In Annex 3, see the exact
list of eight long-term goals along with concrete targets and indicators for tracking progress towards
The eighth goal was added in 2001, and its specific targets and indicators continue to be actively
discussed and formulated under the leadership of the main international development agencies. As of
early 2002, wide agreement seemed to be achieved on the following targets:
- Further develop open and nondiscriminatory trading and financial systems, which would include
an increased level of official development assistance (up to 0.7 percent of the donor countries'
- Address the special needs of the least developed countries and
those of the landlocked and small island developing countries (which have greater difficulty competing
in the global economy),
- Deal comprehensively with the problem of the unsustainable foreign debt of developing countries,
- Develop and implement strategies for reducing youth unemployment,
- Provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries,
- Spread more widely the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communication
Note that success in the first three components of Goal 8 will depend mostly on the partnership between
the governments of developed and developing countries, while attainment of the last three will also
require good will and active participation on the part of the private sector, including the leading
pharmaceutical and ICT companies.
is important to understand that all of the Millennium Development Goals are closely interconnected,
so that achieving one of them can be expected to contribute to achieving the others. For example, reducing
the share of people living in extreme poverty from about 30 percent of the developing world’s
population to about 15 percent would certainly help to deal with the health and education challenges,
but achieving health and education goals would also contribute to the fight against poverty. It can
also be shown that providing for environmental sustainability, although it may initially require some
additional spending, will ultimately more than pay for itself in terms of better health, longer lives,
and more natural resources available for poverty reduction. Unfortunately, failure to achieve some
of these goals can also preclude the achievement of many or all of the others. Particularly devastating
can be the effects of an unchecked HIV/AIDS epidemic, which, by killing adults in their most productive
years, exposes millions to extreme deprivation. And a failure to build an effective Global Partnership
for Development can make the challenge of attaining the Millennium Development Goals disproportionately
hard for many developing countries, particularly the poorest of them.
The last decade of the 20th century has brought some progress towards the Millennium Goals, but if
improvements are not accelerated, these goals will not be achieved by the 2015 deadline in many or
even in most developing countries. For example, if the average rate of economic growth of the 1990s
(1.7 percent a year) is not increased, the average proportion of people living on less than US$1 a
day will probably not decline below 19 percent. Moreover, most improvements are likely to occur in
China and India, while in countries of Sub-Saharan Africa the number of poor may actually continue
to rise. Overall, according to the World Bank estimate made in 2002, only 22 developing countries seemed
to be on target to meet this goal, while 65 other countries were unlikely to meet it without additional
external assistance or their governments’ policy changes or both. Progress in reducing under-five
mortality has also been uneven across countries: although 26 developing countries were well on track
to reach or exceed the goal by 2015, 11 other countries experienced increased morality rates. Most
of the latter countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV/AIDS has significantly aggravated the
problem. Sub-Saharan Africa also has the largest proportion of children out of school (see Data
Table 2) and is lagging behind other developing world regions in narrowing the gap between girls'
and boys' school enrollments, even though it has traditionally had lower barriers to girls' schooling
than some other places.
The main precondition for achieving the Millennium Goals is sufficiently fast and equitable economic
growth in developing countries to provide the material resources for reducing all kinds of poverty,
including human poverty (poverty in health and education). The main responsibility for meeting this
challenge lies with the governments of developing countries, but donor countries and international
development agencies can have important roles to play by building a Global Partnership for Development
to complement these efforts. In addition to increasing the amount of official development assistance
and improving its effectiveness in poverty reduction, developed countries can make a big contribution
by removing the remaining barriers to imports from developing countries, thus helping to accelerate
their economic growth.
According to the World Bank's preliminary estimates, reducing protectionism by
half worldwide would yield developing countries a gain in welfare approximately equivalent to US$200
billion in 2015, much more than any expected official assistance. However, this gain would not substitute
for development assistance because of its unequal distribution among developing countries—most
of the new trade opportunities would be taken by middle-income, already high-trading economies. The
need for additional development assistance is estimated by various international agencies to be in
the range of US$40-60 billion a year, which would mean practically doubling the existing levels of
assistance. Is it realistic to expect such an increase?
in preparation for the Monterrey Conference, the European Union countries
committed themselves to raising their official development assistance to the average level of 0.39
percent of GDP by 2006, which will represent at least an extra US$7 billion in that year. For its part,
the United States pledged to begin increasing its allocations for development assistance so as to bring
the increase up to US$5 billion a year by 2006. Australia, Canada, Norway, and Switzerland also made
new commitments on aid. Overall, these initiatives are expected to raise official development assistance
by about US$15 billion by 2006 and from 0.22 percent of donor countries’ GDP to 0.26 percent
(see Chapter 13). These new commitments were welcomed by all the development
stakeholders, even though it is widely understood that much more needs to be done to ensure the achievement
of the Millennium Development Goals. More efforts will be needed from both donor countries and developing
The Role of National Development Policies
The governments of developing countries are the most important actors in the development process,
and no amount of foreign aid can be effective in a country where the government is corrupt (see Chapter
16) or fails to implement good policies enabling national economies to grow. However, even governments
truly seeking to accelerate their countries’ development face a lot of difficult choices, if
only because they have to operate with limited resources. While development is by its nature a comprehensive
process of change, governments must, nevertheless, identify and focus on a few areas where their limited
action can make the biggest difference. In addition to making up for multiple market
failures (see Chapter 11), including those in the area of environmental
protection, government can also play an important role in coordinating the involvement of all development
agents—private firms, public agencies, and civic associations—within the framework of a
national sustainable development strategy. Government can help different segments of society arrive
at a common vision of the country’s medium-term and long-term future, build broad national consensus
on ways of making this vision a reality, and enable all the development agents to act in accordance
with their social responsibilities. Formulating comprehensive national development priorities and coordinating
their achievement is a crucial task that can never be entrusted to the private sector or to any foreign
that in early 2002 around 50 countries reported to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg,
South Africa) that they had already adopted or were developing national sustainable development strategies,
integrating economic, social, and environmental goals. In some cases, national poverty reduction strategies
were comprehensive enough to stand for sustainable development strategies. But in some others, social
policies aimed at poverty reduction were formulated without adequate consideration of economic and
environmental policies, even though the poor were known to be badly hurt by environmental losses. At
the same time, policies for agricultural and industrial development in many cases have failed to take
into account poverty reduction and environmental protection priorities. Agenda 21 and the Millennium
Development Goals are meant to help developing countries’ governments to formulate their specific
national development strategies in a comprehensive manner, with due regard for complex interactions
among all the aspects of sustainable development.
Note that the roles of the government and the private sector in implementing the national development
strategy cannot be the same in all countries. They depend on the maturity and capabilities of the country’s
private sector, on the one hand, and on the organizational and financial capabilities of the government,
on the other. But there are certain areas where government involvement is indispensable: providing
for universal basic health care and primary education, protecting the economically vulnerable, creating
and maintaining an effective legal system with strong law enforcement and independent, well-functioning
courts. Supporting the preservation and development of national culture is another important role for
government, particularly where the private sector and civic associations are weak. Cultural values
can serve as a strong cohesive force when other forces are being weakened by war or by rapid social
change. Cultural development is not a luxury, but a way to strengthen social capital and thus one of
the keys to successful development.
In the economic sphere, the government is indispensable in promoting and safeguarding market competition
in the private sector. The government can also play an important role in improving public access to
the information and knowledge needed for development—for example, by supporting modern means
of communication (telephones, faxes, Internet), investing in basic research, and creating a favorable
environment for independent media and civic associations.
Some government roles are still highly debatable, however. For example, it is not clear to what extent
governments should support and protect from foreign competition those industries identified as areas
of a country’s comparative advantage (see Chapter
12). Nor is it clear if there is any universal optimal level of redistribution of incomes through
the government budget—via taxation and various social programs—in the interests of social
equity (see Chapter 5).
Every country faces many choices in dealing with its development issues. These choices are made daily
in more or less coordinated and more or less democratic ways, with a longer- or shorter-term perspective
in mind. They entail big risks or big benefits for entire nations, but there is a lot of uncertainty
in every choice. Learning from historical experience, national as well as global, may be the best way
to minimize this uncertainty. The author of this book hopes that it will help you start thinking about
your country’s development in a global context—comparing countries and searching for useful
lessons of development experience from around the world— and looking forward to what can realistically
be achieved in 10, 20, or 50 years.
The author also hopes that this book will encourage you to play an active role in your country’s
development efforts, including discussions on the vision for its future and on its unique path of development.
Your attitude—active or passive, optimistic or pessimistic—is part of your country’s
social capital, too. The Rio Declaration adopted by the Earth Summit specifically pointed out that
the “creativity, ideals, and courage of the youth of the world should be mobilized to forge a
global partnership in order to achieve sustainable development and ensure a better future for all.” You
can in fact make a real difference by developing informed opinions and making them known to other people,
by influencing the course of public debates and eventually the choice of government policies. The experience
of many countries shows that policies can be sustained over the long term only if they are understood
and supported by most of the population. Only if the changes that these policies bring about do not
contradict most people’s values and sense of fairness can the ongoing process of change be broadly
acknowledged as development. That is why your participation, and that of your peers, in shaping and
implementing a national development strategy is so important for your country’s future success.