What is does "development" consist of, in the medium term? According to the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), the global deliverables by 2015 are:
1. Halve the incidence of poverty and hunger.
2. Ensure universal primary education.
3. Eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary schooling.
4. Reduce the child-under-5 mortality rate by 2/3.
5. Reduce the maternal mortality ration by 3/4.
6. Halt and reverse the spread of AIDS, malaria, and other major diseases.
7. Ensure environmental sustainability.
8. Develop a global partnership for development.
Do you see the odd persons out? Well 1 to 6 seem like measurable indicators. Goals 7 and 8 are much more amorphous (see the expanded list of objectives here.) It includes "significant improvement in the lives of 100 million slum dwellers", "make available the benefits of new technologies, especially ICT".
Aside from un-measurability, the MDGs suffer a confusion between ends and means. Surely we are less interested in a person gaining access to the internet, compared to a hungry person getting food. Perhaps wider ICT dissemination may improve economic growth to the point that hunger can be eliminated; but then that is an end, not a means.
John Bolton, the US representative to the United Nations, is critical about these goals. In one sense I agree with him. It's such a crying shame that very laudable objectives 1-6 are held hostage by the incoherent and instrumentalist elements in goals 7 and 8. But advocates of the goals (who privately acknowledge defects in their statement) seem unwilling to budge, under the idea that any revision may open the floodgates for watering down the entire Declaration.
At the global stage, politics has shown itself, yet again, as the art of the impossible.