Jacqueline Novogratz, the Millenium Development Goals, and Foreign Aid [Week 2]

a. In her TED talk, Jacqueline Novogratz talks about how to define poverty. Her answer can be seen in two different points that she covers. The first is showing the percentage of people in the world who are poor, by her definition, those who make less than $4 per day.  These are the people who’s survival is day to day based not on their lack of ability, but on their lack of access, to the resources they need. The second can be seen in the lack of access. Novogratz defines that in order to alleviate this poverty, sustainable systems are needed to help these communities prosper and continue to do so. Her main message is to ensure that when we hear facts and figures about the aid that we’re giving, that we first know what it’s doing, but second, make sure that it’s improving the lives of the people in the world we live in. Novogratz’s TED talk made me think of an article I had come across not too long ago, of a man in India who created an industry that was sustainable, gave employment, and improved the lives of women across the country, which is the kind of aid that impoverished communities need.

b. The overarching goal of the MDGs is to reduce poverty on a global scale. After reading the Millennium Development Goals, they seem to me less of a plan of action and more of a re-focusing for nations where poverty is widespread. Impoverished communities tend to be places where aid can come and go, but sometimes no long-lasting changes are made–there are seasons and worry and seasons of relief.The MDGs were set forth to help improve the quality of life of many people, as well as raise the standards. By raising these standards, these qualifications for living a life of health and access, the MDGs would be on the way to being achieved.  Unfortunately, neo-liberalism has caused several backward steps in the way of eradicating poverty. Encouraged by the World Bank and the IMF, it calls for countries to recall money allotted for public programs as a trade-off of receiving aid (McArthur, 2013). At the time, it inspired protests and ill will, but even today, it is a dangerous exchange to make. Although aid can be an excellent resource, it seems almost counterintuitive to ask a nation to discontinue their own efforts to take up conditional ones.  As  was spoken about by Jacqueline Novogratz in her TED talk, establishing sustainable resources is a long-lasting form of aid that nurtures itself. Neo-liberalism damages this idea, making developing countries further dependent on international assistance.

c. In his essay Own the Goals: What the Millennium Development Goals Have Accomplished, John W. MacArthur speaks of what he calls “Players on the Bench” (McArthur, 2013) . He specifies both the United States and the World Bank as “players” who’s involvement in the MDGs could have had a big impact for both them and on a more global scale. He criticizes the U.S for its hesitation to become involved, as late appearance on the global scene reduced the amount of impact that could have been had. He also criticizes the World Bank for its stubbornness in involvement, as much of the responsibility in planning the MDGs was handed over to the United Nations for more apparent reasons than the bank. While fulfilling the MDGs doesn’t fall on the shoulders of either the U.S or the World Bank–MacArthur doesn’t lay any blame here either–their hesitation reduced the speed and  effectiveness of fulfilling the MDGs as a whole.

d. One of the largest issues pointed out by the authors is that countries who receive aid are often over-run by the numerous amount of projects, their inconsistency, and disorganization (Birdsall, 2005). Countries that are receiving it often can’t organize these efforts themselves. Donating countries often work against themselves, attempting to help when their trade agreement cost countries in need more than they can spare. While the authors make many suggestions, to me they seem to take on the particular tone of assistance rather than dominance. True help not only lies on finances, but in breaking down barriers that developing countries wouldn’t be able to break down themselves. Eliminating barriers such as unfavorable trade agreements, cutting prices on critical medical aid, and eliminating poor leadership are some of the non-financial ways countries can help without doing more damage than good. Another way to improve conditions is with labor–developing countries often lack adequate labor (but not laborers), and assisting countries in strengthening this would ensure long-lasting effects (Birdsall, 2005). Overall, the message is that while money can do good, it can also do harm if it isn’t put to the right use. There are other ways developed nations can help support fellow nations that can render long-term benefits.


Birdsall, N., Rodrick, D., & Subramanian A. (2005). How to help poor
countries. Foreign Affairs

McArthur, J. W.  (2013). Own the goals: what the Millennium Development
Goals have achieved. Foreign Affairs.

Multiple authors, 2000, Millennium Development Goals


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