Where is the bottom billion? and other interesting questions in the run-up to the MDG review summit

Summer’s over, and a “back-to-school” feeling seems to be infusing most areas of activity. This is the case for those, formally or informally, following the “international development syllabus” for 2010-11. And here, without a doubt, the star event to kick-start the year is the 2010 Millenium Development Goals (MDG) review summit, scheduled for next week in New York. In preparation, pretty much everyone within development circles is putting their MDG-hat on and announcements, reports, commentaries and declarations are coming from left, right and centre. I’ve tried to keep an eye for these, and here are a few, but if I you know of something else that is interesting, please leave a comment below!

– First of, the EU, which wants to continue showing their commitment published a few months back their conclusions for the summit and beyond. Also last week, the European Comission president, José Manuel Barrosso, during his first “state of the Union address” in which he also outlined the EU’s main development priorities for 2011, pledged a further €1 billion for the MDGs. Also, a special Eurobarometer has been carried out to reflect European citizens’ attitudes to development, and this shows:

that 89% of respondents consider development aid is important or very important. Two in three Europeans believe that the EU should honor, or even improve, on its promises to increase development aid to 0.7% of GNI by 2015, the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goal.

And for EU development policy junkies, you can read about all of this on the Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs’ site (and blog), here.

– Scheduled to coincide with the New York event, the Comission for Africa has also published a new report, titled “Still Our Common Interest”. Other advocacy groups, and NGOs have also their reports out, for example this Oxfam paper looking at wether hunger can be halved by 2015.

Plenty of think-tanks, like Spain-based Real Instituto Elcano, and FRIDE, have recent papers on the MDGs. Precisely FRIDE organised last week a roundtable discussion on this topic, with a very good attendance, and some interesting reflections. Here you can find a summary of the event (in Spanish). And below, FRIDE researcher Oladiran Bello explains the content on his paper:

Interestingly, as you may have already seen, many of the reports and studies are indeed quite critical of the MDGs’ performance and stress need to look both beyond the eight indicators, and also beyond 2015. This is the case with this International Alert report, titled “Moving with the Grain to Change the Grain: Moving beyond the MDGs”, or this Lancet-LIDC paper, “The Millennium Development Goals: a cross-sectoral analysis and principles for goal setting after 2015” (via A Bombastic Element).

Another extremely interesting study is this one by Andy Sumner, and which Jonathan Glennie examines on The Guardian’s Data Blog (Thanks for sharing Helene). It is titled: “Which bottom billion?”, and the jist of it, according to Sumner itself is this:

‘In 1990, 93% of the world’s poor people lived in poor countries – meaning low-income countries (LICs)…Three-quarters of the world’s approximately 1.3 billion poor people now live in middle- income countries (MICs) and only about a quarter of the world’s poor live in the remaining 39 low-income countries, largely in sub-Saharan
Africa. This is then a startling change over two decades and it implies there is a new ‘bottom billion’ who do not live in fragile and conflict-affected states but largely in stable, middle-income countries.

Remarkably interesting data, which should make everyone think hard about how things are being done. It is good that diplomats, NGOs and advocates are having their time to shine as they look at something as important as international development. The flip-side to all this flurry of excitement and activities is that, almost everyone agrees, the progress towards 2015 is far from ideal, and the relevance of the MDGs (besides acting as a highly visible motto for the importance of development, apt for celebrity endorsement) is doubted by many. Will need to wait until next week, but all these indeicators do paint a rather bleak outcome for the review summit.



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