Week 3: An Exploration of Global Financial Institutions and Sub-Saharan Africa’s Progress on the MDGs

imf wb

1. The World Bank, a financial institution created by the United Nations, is primarily a source of loans for developing nations. It maintains a commitment to promoting international trade and foreign investment. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of over 100 countries, one hundred and eighty-eight to be exact, that aims to sustain worldwide monetary cooperation, ensure financial stability, secure international trade, and promote economic growth. Mainly, this organization surveys financial and economic developments and gives policy advice; lends money to countries in financial trouble; and provides training and technical assistance. A helpful video explaining these and other global financial institutions can be found here. There is often much criticism of these organizations because of their Western-dominated leadership and orientation. For instance, as per tradition, the IMF has always been headed by a European and the World Bank by an American. In his book The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria explains how these institutions have been used as a vehicle to feed Western ideas, expectations, and policies into developing nations.

Additionally, the Council on Foreign Relations recounts that the IMF’s strict economic reform requirements for aid have had counterproductive and devastating affects on the borrowing countries- citing specific instances in Russia and Indonesia.

cartoon

2. Although many people critique the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for being too broad, they must begin as a rough, generic objective and be redefined and specified according to each individual country’s situation and capacity. The MDGs consisted of eight comprehensive goals, supported by twenty-one targets and more than sixty indicators. While this seems like enough for nations to gear the MDGs toward their unique needs, they perhaps could have used more guidance in order to hit the mark.

MDR2011_ProgressChart_SSaharan

a. Regarding Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger, the Millennium Development Goals Report 2014 illustrates that Sub-Saharan Africa was the furthest from meeting this goal. With this, the region inevitably has the highest prevalence of undernourishment.

Social spending is characteristic of money, typically set aside by governments, used for welfare services. Considering the MDGs, it relates to the international funding and donations to developing nations and which program(s), such as health, food, and education initiatives, they are allocated to. This social spending is essential to ensure the realization of the MDGs and is emblematic of the world’s support for the betterment of humanity. However, the spending must be used prudently and efficiently. Funds, therefore, should be distributed to sustainable projects to ensure long-term development, which will decrease dependence on aid.

b. Overcoming present economic and financial crisis requires devout partnership and persistence on the part of both developing and developed countries. As the The Millennium Development Goals and the Road to 2015 explains, “strong economic and policy positions” has contributed to the relatively surprising recovery of developing countries. However, the unfortunate reality is that these crises have slowed development. This is why those striving to achieve the MDGs require “policy reforms, increased aid and trade access, and sustainable support from international financial institutions.”

ghana

According to the World Bank’s Human Development Indicators, the Sub-Saharan country Ghana has increased school enrollment, decreased poverty, improved potable water sources, and raised its life expectancy. As seen in the graphs on the linked site, Ghana’s indicators average much higher than the Sub-Saharan region as a whole. It’s no wonder author Steven Radelet considers Ghana a leading nation in his book Emerging Africa: How 17 Countries Are Leading the Way.

3. One of Oxfam International’s main points of criticism of the MDGs is that they are insufficient in tackling the true, deeply-rooted underlying problem that is inequality. As the Executive Director stated, “Global poverty is declining but in country after country, inequality is on the increase.” She continues asserting, “Without targeted efforts to reduce gaps between rich and poor, the next set of development goals is almost certain to be unachievable.” The subject of almost every Millennium Development Goal- poverty and hunger, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, diseases, environmental concerns- stems from inequality. Winnie Byanyima’s statements boldly question whether or not the surface-level progress achieved by the MDGs is something to praise when, in fact, a much graver, complex issue persists at the core.

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