Keyword in Focus

Keyword in Focus: Millennium Development Goals

If there is a keyword that best summarizes this week’s international agenda it’s this: UN Millennium Development Goals. Ten years into the third millennium and five years before the goals need to be attained, at the occasion of the UN summit taking place in New York today and tomorrow, political leaders, activists, journalists and academics discuss what has already been achieved and what still needs to be done.

What are we talking about? The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a set of eight goals, with several concrete targets each, to which all 192 UN member states as well as dozens of international organizations committed in 2000:

The eight Millennium Development Goals
Image: courtesy of UNDP

The situation regarding the goals doesn’t look as bleak as some like to imply. But it doesn’t look too good either.

For a more nuanced evaluation, check our our Digital Library, where some or our partners from the north, south, east and west have published excellent reports, analyses and commentaries on 10 years of MDGs. Under the keyword UN Millennium Development Goals you will also find primary resources, such as the UN Millennium Declaration from 2000, organizations that deal with the MDGs, links and ISN news articles.

The fact that we still talk about the MDGs is, in my view, a surprising success for the UN leadership. It shows the UN’s agenda setting power. On the other hand, I’m still skeptical whether we’re not missing something by focusing on these eight development goals. And there is an inherent problem in the goals as with all output-oriented performance evaluation: You only measure what’s measurable and human well-being is notoriously difficult to measure.


Françafrique: The Ties That Bind

France maintains close links with its former African colonies, photo: Dezz/flickr
France maintains close links with its former African colonies, photo: Dezz/flickr

The Franco-African relationship is alive – but is it well? This week the ISN takes a closer look at France’s postcolonial ties with its former African colonies 50 years after independence.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Jennifer Brea about the unique colonial and postcolonial history between France and its former African colonies that shapes relations to this day.
  • A Podcast interview with Dr Elisio Macamo examines what he perceives as a French withdrawal from francafrique.
  • Security Watch articles about the burgeoning drug trade in West Africa and the threat that corruption and graft hold over many francophone African countries.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including US Congressional Research Reports on the influence of the ICC in the former French colonies and Guinea’s new transitional government.
  • Primary Resources, like French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s infamous 2007 address at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as FRANCE 24’s look at each of the 17 sub-Saharan African nations that gained independence in 1960.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the locally based International Relations Institute of Cameroon.

The ISN Quiz: The Pitfalls of Development

We’re asking whether development aid is missing its mark in this week’s Special Report. How much do you know?



The ISN Quiz: Sport and Development

We’re focusing on sport and development in this week’s theme. See how well your knowledge of how sport’s impact on communities has developed.


Kick-starting Development Aid

Photo: Screenshot of

Often in development aid, misery and natural disasters determine where the money goes. The tsunami that devastated Banda Aceh in 2004 could be seen all over the news for many weeks. The recent Haitian earthquake is still very present in many minds and may touch our conscience in such a way that we gladly give our money to respective development agencies. As a consequence, these places are swarmed with NGOs, IOs and private initiatives creating and realizing projects.

Yet, isn’t that exactly the purpose of development aid? To help people in need? Yes, but meanwhile a disaster victim in Banda Aceh receives 5 tents, 7 pairs of shoes and tons of goods of development aid for years to come, children in the poorer regions of Africa, South America or elsewhere lack the public attention to attract comparable support.

Relying heavily on organizations such as the UN Development Programme or US Aid, funding of projects in unknown and remote areas can be very difficult. It is a widespread practice that agencies, especially those which count on private financial contributions, use the “big disasters” to raise money and then redirect these funds to cross-finance smaller, less known projects in other regions. However, this practice is often prone to intransparency, fraud and improper management.