04 February 2013

The MDGs: the best thing your friends have never heard of?

Well of course you have heard of them, DH reader, but I am constantly reminded of how bubble-like our development insider existence is when I talk to my non work friends about the MDGs.

I had these conversations because one of them spotted me on the BBC News Channel on Friday night talking about the MDGs.

The conversations go something like this:

friend: So what will you talking about on the telly?
me: The Millennium Development Goals.
friend: What are they then?
me: Goals that all nations signed up to to help end poverty and hunger and disease.
friend: have we ended poverty and hunger and disease?
me: Er, no
friend: Why not?
me: Well, it depends on the goal and the country.
friend: Give me an example then.
me: Well for hunger in East Africa it is about peace, roads and drought.
friend: And money?
me: Sometimes it is not enough money, but often it's about how money is spent--which regions and what it is spent on.
friend: Sounds complicated.
me: It is.
friend: Has the MDG-thingy worked then?
me: It has been better than anyone expected--look at the fuss everyone is making about them--if they didn't count no-one would give a hoot.
friend: I'll overlook the use of the word "hoot" -- how have they worked?
me: Well, they have increased aid, more of it has gone to Africa, and more to health and education. Most importantly they have been a rallying call for the development community.
friend: So why do we need new goals if the old ones work and have not been met?
me: Good question (panics for answer)--because there are new problems (e.g. climate change), things we did not get right the first time around (including more on monitoring actions as well as outcomes), and frankly because we need to reenergise everyone to complete the unfinished agenda.
friend: Reenergise? It already sounds really exciting to me!
me: hmm, you may be right (realising that he may just be a wee jaded)

A communications expert once told me, if you want to be able to speak persuasively about development, talk to your (non work) friends about it. They will ask you the hard questions and you won't be able to dodge behind jargon. Quite.


Unknown said...

Very interesting conversation there.. sounds like a question someone posted on my facebook page recently. It put me in a corner so tight I was tempted to delete from my timeline. The thing about the MDG is that the goals are clear and so are the targets but the process towards implementation has been sketchy most especially in Africa. Today every speaker in agricultural research and development cites Ghana as the only West African country to meet MDG 1(halving hunger by 2015). This is 2013 and I live in Ghana and see a lot happening on ground and I will tell you that those are mere indices and as you have there are new challenges that have made the attainment of the MDGs more difficult...

Lawrence Haddad said...

Thanks Ejere, yes I would like to see more indicators on implementation... it is not good to focus only on implementation (no results focus and weak accountability), but neither is it good to only focus on outcomes (no understanding of what works and accountability)--we need both.. I had a similar conversation with another Ghanaian the other day about the difference between metrics and what people perceive is happening around them. Best, L.