The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) provide a new consensus for development towards 2015. They aim to "address the problems of extreme poverty in its many dimensions - income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion, while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability". These goals relate to various dimensions of fundamental human rights, as set out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the rights and development frameworks that have subsequently emerged. This article looks at the MDGs in the context of broader thinking about rights, responsibilities and obligations and how they relate to the project of development. It argues that the responsibilities of Northern countries to assist or promote development must be understood in relation to the obligation to progressively realize and not violate human rights, with due respect to the principles of indivisibility and interdependence. The discussion of the MDGs shows that they are subject to the ambiguities and contradictions that have bedeviled the rights and development debate throughout its history. However, new opportunities have arisen since the 1990s to restore coherence and holism to the human rights project, putting people back at its centre. This is the deeper challenge that needs to be borne in mind when considering the MDGs. The accomplishment of each of the targets that specifically define them is based on measurable indicators, generally altogether acceptable in themselves. Each of these goals is certainly commendable (who would disapprove of reducing poverty or improving health?). Nevertheless, their definition is often extremely vague. Moreover, debates concerning the conditions required to reach the goals are often dispensed with. It is assumed without question that liberalism is perfectly compatible with the achievement of the goals. Goal 1: Reduce extreme poverty and hunger by half.
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