All in Eight Boxes

As an International Development major, I’ve been familiar with the Millennium Development Goals for quite some time. The United Nations’ MDGs have always seemed like a fairytale to me. The goals paint a glossy picture of what they (whoever decided on these outlandish goals) think the world should look like. They categorized the goals into eight wonderful boxes and asked the world to accept them.

Though it seems nice, we can not shove all of the world’s problems into  eight boxes. Many of the problems are too complex  and interconnected to be put in different categories. While the first category, “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” seems over simplified by placing these two problems together.

Hunger and poverty are absolutely intertwined, but they don’t necessarily have to be. As an avid gardener, I believe we can be rich in food even if we are poor by the rest of the world’s standards. Not everything has to be solved within the system we have now; not everything has to go through the economy. Not everything can be put into boxes.

Something interesting I came across while researching the MDGs was a map. The UN has created a map to monitor the progress of the goals. This map below shows the percentage of the population who are undernourished. Surprisingly, Canada and India are very close at 8.9% and 8.6%. The map also shows Spain at 24.0% and Côte d’Ivoire at 5.0%. Take a look and make conclusions for yourself by comparing the countries.

Percentage of population undernourished

In the end, we like having everything in boxes and categories because it makes the problems seem less daunting and easily conceptualized. However, here lies the real issue. If we convince ourselves that these problems are less complex than they really are then there is no hope of solving them


3 responses to “All in Eight Boxes

  • bstanga

    After 20 minutes of playing with different variables on this map- I was surprised by the lack of data for certain countries. Data gaps can be justified or at least explained for the most part- for example information gathering capacity may be hindered by infrastructural or bureaucratic shortcomings, especially in poorer countries. However I do not see why data on the “consumption of all ozone-depleting substances” was unavailable for all european countries expect for Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, ex-Yugoslav states, Belarus, Ukraine, and Turkey. The countries that either chose not to or were unable to report data are all in the European Union. What is the motivation for this? This particular data gap seems suspicious and makes me wonder if there are political motivations at play.

  • jnicolo

    I have a similar view of the MDGs. It is hard to say that the problems of 200 ish countries can be thrown into 8 categories and then ask all of these countries to agree to work on it. But, it is also hard to say that this attempt was so hopefully ambitious as to serve no purpose. I think that however over-simplified the MDGs may be, the fact remains that these goals unified much of the world in their recognition of the importance of this way of thinking. With this said, I assert that the MDGs’ conception and oversight is flawed, but the conversation that was started by their conception serves a purpose, and will eventually lead to a realistic and effective global effort for development.

  • emcdona1

    I agree with the above comment. I think while oversimplified, they do point out the very broad categories that could be worked on. Hopefully these goals serve more of a purpose than just painting a picture of whats a wrong with the world. I think that however it is important to realize that each country and community within the country has different needs and ways to implement projects to fit those needs. Buy oversimplifying the problem, it only serves to give a very broad definition on what needs to be done. The rest needs to be very fine tuned and catered to each specific country.

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