Yesterday I wrote a short post on the post-2015 MDG goal setting exercise. I got loads of responses online and offline. Just to be clear, I think the exercise of setting global goals raises many questions: about the role of governments versus international organizations, the idea of 'eminent persons' making high level policy decisions versus normal people doing the implementation, and the gap between high level planning and actual implementation.
One of the reasons I focused on governments identifying their problems (note problems, not goals) and then beginning a process of finding solutions is because this is the best way to mobilize the kind of energy required for implementation. And no matter how much people want to spin the story, the MDGs lacked implementation power in many places (local money, energy, political authority etc. were not provided to push the global goals forward). In my other blog (that supports my book) I argue that problems are the entry point to real change, which also requires experimentation and broad-based ownership (see a link to the blog here http://matthewandrews.typepad.com/the_limits_of_institution/2013/01/looking-like-a-state-the-result-of-limited-institutional-reforms-in-development.html).
One of the responses to my blog yesterday reflected on this issue really well. It is from Natalia Adler at UNICEF and I include the full comment below (emphasis is mine). Her references to Mozambique reflect our common experience there, and are relevant in many other countries. Thanks, Natalia:
"These types of global goal-setting initiatives [post 2015 MDG type initiatives] are rarely able to inspire or mobilize concerted action for change, particularly in everyday actions in public management at the country level (never heard government officials saying they have to change course because of the MDGs...).
But the problem is not necessarily related to whether these indicators are globally or nationally agreed upon. I think the same logic applies to national goals as well... The problem is that it's just difficult to translate these outcome-level indicators into a series of operational interventions that will eventually contribute to their achievement.
As you know, Mozambique is/was developing a national planning system aimed at bringing synergies among all these plans/goals in hopes of making them more strategic, coherent and linked to the budgeting process. But making even well-designed plans and their goals operational is hard work. Plus, politics and power relations influence the extent to which these plans yield concrete results. In addition, the goal-setting agenda carries the assumption of a ‘clean slate’ often neglecting existing arrangements and commitments (to other goals), which cannot be easily brushed aside to give place to new plans/goals, whether they are agreed nationally or globally.
I personally don't have a problem with the post-2015 discussion identifying a set of 'global' indicators (e.g. child mortality being one of them). What should change are the targets, which, I agree, should be country specific/defined and focused on existing implementation issues and a realist understanding of the pace of development efforts. I agree with you. The focus on solving problems can trigger change better than goal-setting exercises..