Consider the state of development thinking as considered in a new book by David Malone, UNU’s chief rector and the former head of Canada’s International Development Research Centre. He explores whether new development goals–for any millennium–will matter:
When the Millennium Development Goals were adopted shortly after the turn of the millennium, they were fairly succinct, and they were mostly about quantities of things—for example, universal primary education available to all kids around the world. That was a goal because many kids didn’t have access to primary education around the world.
This time round, the goal is much more qualitative. Experts, societies themselves are quite worried about the quality of what kids get in school, and quite rightly so. Just having bums on seats in schools doesn’t achieve a great deal in terms of rapidly changing economies and societies. You need to be learning useful skills and knowledge that is valuable to kids. That insight on quality more than quantity is increasingly reflected across a wide range of fields of human endeavor in the developing world, and it shows how much progress there has actually been in development, that you have moved from worrying about the number of kids in primary school to thinking about things like quality education, and perhaps even—although it is very aspirational for many—lifelong education, which is a great idea.
These are fundamental shifts in thinking about what is achievable in the developing world and what the developing world wants to achieve for itself.
And concerns about “one-size-fits-all”:
By the way, if you need any convincing on how different very successful development tracks can be from each other, think of India and China over the last 30 years. These are the two large countries that have produced consistently the two highest rates of growth over the last 30 years. They had completely different development models. China first, after Deng Xiaoping came to power, focused on feeding the population, so much of which had starved during earlier waves of economic policy in China, then moving to export-oriented industries, for which they needed strong infrastructure, which they somehow or other managed, such that, within 30 years, probably the greatest growth in history, and also the largest adventure in pulling people out of absolute poverty unfolded in China over the last 30 years. It’s worth reflecting on, as we are often quite critical of China, what they have achieved in the last 30 years.