Working with the grain to change the grain: Moving beyond the Millennium Development Goals

This report proposes a new model for defining and measuring development progress, and makes practical recommendations about how aid can become more effective in promoting, supporting and enabling human progress, especially in so-called fragile states.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will not be achieved by 2015. Progress is especially slow in fragile contexts, where institutions are weak and there is a risk of violent conflict.

But a closer examination shows that the MDGs are inadequate measures of development progress, and as such they represent an international development paradigm that is tired and confused. It is time to review what we mean by development, i.e. the very idea of human progress.

A more useful way to consider human progress is to consider a ‘developed society”’as one with a defined set of characteristics, and to create from these a vision for change.

Building on work by others, we propose a generic vision comprising six key characteristics:

  1. Equal access to political voice, and the legitimate and accountable use of power
  2. Equal participation in a vibrant and sustainable economy
  3. Equal access to justice, and equality before the law
  4. Freedom from insecurity
  5. The ability of people to maintain their mental and physical well-being, to have aspirations and make progress towards them
  6. The self-reinforcing presence of institutions and values that support and enable equitable progress and peace