The Millennium Declaration was based on a set of fundamental values that included freedom, equality, tolerance and solidarity. Unfortunately, the social justice agenda was lost in the process by which the Declaration was translated into an agenda for action centred on the eight MDGs and their targets and indicators to monitor progress.
This paper argues that the MDGs being largely formulated in terms which measure ‘average’ progress in relation to the goals, may capture overall progress at global or national level but do not indicate whether such progress has been broad-based or equitable.
A section on macroeconomic policies holds that the neo-liberal macroeconomic framework that has shaped the pace and pattern of growth in most countries in recent years has done little to challenge the intransigent inequalities that give rise to social exclusion. Along with the economic deficits generally associated with poverty, excluded groups face additional discrimination on the basis of socially marginalised identities such as race, ethnicity, caste and sometimes religion or language, with gender cutting across these various groups. Socially excluded groups suffer from spatial inequalities; they tend to be concentrated in disadvantaged locations – remote and challenging rural terrains or overcrowded slum neighbourhoods. Social, economic and spatial inequalities in turn contribute to political exclusion; such groups are generally denied voice and influence in collective decisions that affect their lives.
Greater attention to redistribution is necessary. While redistribution can occur through growth even broad-based growth is unlikely to be sufficient on its own to break historically established cycles of inequality. Pro-poor growth has to be combined with redistributive policies if the MDGs are to benefit excluded groups.