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POLICY November 2008

BRIEF

The Millennium Development Goals and
a U.S. National Development Strategy
RECOMMENDATIONS
PROBLEM
The U.S. should adopt the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and incorporate
The United States is its framework into a U.S. national development strategy.
not in harmony with
other bilateral and
multilateral donors ACTIONS
and governments
• Make addressing the causes and consequences of poverty the primary objective
of developing
countries that of U.S. official development assistance – a step that would allow such assistance
have adopted to complement and support U.S. foreign policy and security goals;
the Millennium • Appoint a key development leader head of USAID;
Development Goals • Draft a National Development Strategy (see separate briefing paper) that uses
(a widely accepted the MDGs as the framework for the U.S. development efforts. Use the MDGs as
global initiative
a framework for U.S. official development assistance and measure performance
to significantly
reduce poverty) as against the MDG benchmarks; and
their framework • Commit to an increase in official U.S. spending on relief and development aid
for foreign relief spending to the internationally agreed upon benchmark (accepted by all donors
and development except the U.S.) of 0.7 percent of GDP.
assistance and
country-level
competition. RESULTS
Fully embracing the Millennium Development Goals offers an excellent opportunity
for the U.S. to reestablish its leadership in global development and maximize the
impact of its program dollars. In addition, by incorporating the MDGs into its overall
national development strategy, would provide the U.S. with a real framework to
combat global poverty.

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reform@interaction.org

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BACKGROUND
THE SEPTEMBER 2000 MILLENNIUM DECLARATION AD- proach in areas such as malaria and HIV/AIDS and has cre-
opted by 189 nations including the United States repre- ated its own parallel system, the Millennium Challenge
sents a comprehensive, coordinated approach to halve Corporation, which most often does not address aid for
world poverty and hunger, eliminate gender inequalities, poor countries.
prevent and treat HIV/AIDS and other deadly diseases, pro-
tect the world’s environment, and increase access to edu-
cation, healthcare and to halve the proportion of people
who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water by
2015. There are eight goals Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs) each of which is related to a specific topic such as
poverty, education or health. Each goal has eighteen quan-
tifiable targets measured against forty eight indicators.
The Millennium Development Goals represents a com-
mon vision for the future. They serve as a powerful basis
for mobilizing resources for development and coordination
international development efforts, The quantitative nature
of the goals allows for a degree of accountability, making
it possible for countries to track progress and citizens to
hold governments and donors responsible for improving
people’s lives.
Increasing aid volume is one component of the Goal
8—which calls for creating a global partnership for devel-
opment—with the others being promoting fairer trade
practices and debt relief for the poorest countries. While aid
alone will not end extreme poverty, it is a vital component
of achieving success with the MDGs.
Although it has become fashionable in the current Ad-
ministration to wring one’s hands about progress on the
MDGs and warn of impending failure, it is important to rec-
ognize the real achievements. Several countries—notably
India and China—have seen large drops in the number of
people living in absolute poverty. While in 1990, 29 per-
cent of the world’s population lived on less than $1 a day,
by 2003 that share had fallen to just over 19 percent. In the
past eight years 40 million more children are in school; AIDS
deaths have been reduced by a million; and some 1.6 billion
people have gained access to safe drinking water. All of this
has been achieved through good political leadership and
adequate resources.
Success on a global scale will only occur if developing and
developed countries fulfill their commitments under the
global partnership for development. With active U.S. lead-
ership, it is possible to garner domestic public support for
tackling the challenges of ending poverty and encourage
the international community to keep its promises as well.
The United States still remains the largest aid donor in the
world in absolute terms, but ranks next to last among all
other donors in the percentage of its national wealth de-
voted to development assistance.
The U.S. has limited its interventions to a vertical ap-