The UN released a report yesterday on the world's progress towards the Millennium Development Goals that included the news that not one sub-saharan African country is on track to meet all of the goals. If like me you find the goals hard to visualize, check out Gapminder's MDG visualization thingy. (Thingy is the technical term). It's pretty awesome:
I'm not sure how I feel about the MDGs - I wonder whether publicizing big-picture goals takes too much focus off of understanding the field-level details that need to be in place for the big-picture to be realized. Can we talk both about halving the number of people without access to safe water worldwide as well as the changes to incentives and motivations for government health extension workers in rural districts of Malawi that are needed before we can acheive it? I worry that the news that all the goals are unlikely to be met will overshadow the small steps that are happening on the ground (like the fact that the Malawian fertilizer-subsidy program looks like it will be somewhat better run this year over last year) and the learning that we should be doing from what has worked and not worked up to this half-way point to 2015. I also worry this report will lead to a 'blame the victim' mentality on the part of rich countries directed towards poor countries (and poor people) that will overlook the fact that the failure to acheive the goals is as much a failing of rich countries' to commit financially and of the global development system that needs to change. The thinking I fear is along the lines of 'We gave it out best shot and it didn't work. Lesson learned: we cannot beat poverty and we probably shouldn't try.' Heaven forbid the current systems and committment to development represent our best shot.
But if you want a warm and fuzzy feeling on top of worries and questions, load up the thingy, click Malawi and 'show trail' and graph access to improved sanitation versus infant mortality rates. It's what I did this morning :)