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Time for a Rethink

Author: Jagdish N. Bhagwati
September 2010
Finance and Development


AT the start of what became known as the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations, many proposed it be named the Millennium Round. But that suggestion went nowhere after a wit observed that this could mean it would take a millennium before the negotiating nations would reach consensus to close the Round.

This is not quite the problem with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs; see Box 1 in "Regaining Momentum" in this issue of F&D). They are not specific commitments by nation-states whose feet would be held to the fire in case of "default" or shortfall--the way that, say, a multinational trade agreement creates obligations through the World Trade Organization (WTO). The MDGs are in fact aspirational do-good targets in selected areas, often with quantitative dimensions (for example, halving the hunger rate, not just reducing it) and have defined dates--with the exhortation that all goals be met everywhere by September 2015. But there are no repercussions on any nations if the goals are not met, as seems likely in most cases.

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