This is a post in a new series on the Development Channel,“This Week in Markets and Democracy.” Each week, CFR’s Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Program will highlight noteworthy events and articles.
Development Community Debates MDG Report
The UN released its final Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) report, hailing the effort as “the most successful anti-poverty movement in history.” Since the MDG’s introduction fifteen years ago, the number of people living in extreme poverty and the global child mortality rate have halved. Yet the development community is split over how much the MDGs mattered for this progress. The Center for Global Development warns that emphasizing goal-setting distracts from policy discussions. On the other side, proponents contend that setting data-based yardsticks and reducing the global agenda to eight priorities helped channel focus and funding. As attention shifts to post-2015 development goals, the UN report recognizes uneven gains–growth in China and India has pulled millions out of poverty while the poor in other countries have been left behind.
Modi’s Heavy-Handed Efforts to Control the Indian Narrative The Indian government has delayed release of a UNICEF child welfare survey for months, some believe to avoid political embarrassment for Prime Minister Narendra Modi after his home state of Gujarat–where he served as chief minister until 2014–showed dismal results. These revelations coincide with the public ouster of Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen from Nalanda University. In a televised interview this week, Sen warned of unprecedented government interference in academia under Modi. Modi’s carefully-crafted narrative extends to social media, where his government rolled out a Narendra Modi mobile app. The app awards points for approving government policies through “likes” and sharing flattering articles about Modi–there is no option to disapprove.
Reigning in Civil Society in China and Cambodia
The Chinese and Cambodian governments are moving forward with proposed laws that threaten civil society autonomy. China’s NGO bill would require both foreign and domestic groups to undergo vetting by state security forces. While framed as part of a broader rule-of-law campaign, NGOs contend that it would allow the government to shut them down. In Cambodia, the draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO) gives the government broad powers to dissolve any organization deemed a danger to national security or to the “culture, traditions and customs of Cambodian national society.” Cambodian legislators say the bill enables needed regulation of some 5,000 civil society groups. Human rights advocates disagree–32 domestic and international groups demanded the law’s withdrawal, and protestors rallied at Cambodia’s National Assembly to block its passage.