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The Questionable Power of the Millennium Development Goal to Reduce Child Mortality

This paper is one of a series of papers in a research project, The Power of Numbers: A Critical Review of MDG Targets for Human Development and Human Rights. Motivated by a concern with the consequences of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) beyond the achievement of the 2015 targets, the Project seeks to explore their broader policy and programmatic implications.



Authors:  Elisa Díaz-Martínez, Kozmetsky Center, St. Edward’s University & Elizabeth D Gibbons, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University

This paper "focuses particularly on the reductionism inherent in the way in which these global goals were set and came to be used, as well as the potential for distorting priorities and marginalizing, or even displacing, important human development and human rights concerns inherent in such global goal-setting exercises. A total of 11 studies are included, each analyzing the normative and empirical consequences of a particular MDG goal/target, and considering what other targets and indicators might have been more appropriate.
The Project aims to identify criteria for selecting indicators for setting targets that would be more consistent with Human Development and Human Rights priorities, amenable to monitoring impacts on inequality, accountability and consistency with human rights standards.
Although this paper is currently accessible as a free standing working paper, it should be read in conjunction with the synthesis and background papers of the Power of Numbers Project. These papers provide necessary information about the scope of the Power of Numbers Project, the historical framing of international agreements leading up to the MDGs, and the human rights and human development frameworks referenced in the paper. These working papers are expected to be compiled as a special issue of the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities."

For more about FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and this Working Paper Series The Power of Numbers: A Critical Review of MDG Targets and Indicators from the Perspective of Human Development and Human Rights.

Contact Information:

François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights
Harvard School of Public Health 651 Huntington Avenue, 7th Floor Boston, MA 02115 USA
Tel: +1-617-432-0656 Fax: +1-617-432-4310 Email:


Tags: children's rights, Harvard University, millenium development goals, development, Child Indicators, working papers, human rights
Published June 10, 2013 2:31 PM - Last modified June 10, 2013 2:31 PM