The UN summit to agree the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) takes place against a depressing background. Seemingly every day there are new scenes of crisis, poverty, human displacement and environmental damage somewhere in the world. The urgent need for a concerted global effort to tackle the root causes of these disasters by promoting sustainable development has never been stronger.

Nor can anyone doubt the hard work that has gone into drawing up the 17 goals and ensuring that they focus on all that needs to be done. But it is this comprehensive nature – and the 169 sub-goals – which sets tough challenges for individual countries. Read more

By Sanjay G. Reddy and Ingrid Kvangraven, The New School for Social Research

Should we really have new global development goals? The push for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – meant to guide the process of global development from 2015 to 2030 and expected to be adopted by governments at the UN in September – assumes the answer is yes.

Activists, lobbyists and government officials scrambled during the last two years to make sure that their respective interests were reflected in the new agenda and that has contributed to its bewildering complexity (17 goals, 169 proposed targets and 304 proposed indicators). Given that the goals were all but sure to be adopted, it is hardly a surprise that an imperfect political process governed their creation.

However, why adopt goals at all? Any systematic effort to answer this elementary conceptual question is disturbingly absent. Read more

Global gabfests on international development are an easy target for ridicule, given that some of them contribute little more than wordy declarations with minimal relevance for the world’s poor. This year, however, promises something different. Two crucial summits — at the United Nations in September and in Paris in December — will result in a set of global development goals for 2015 to 2030 and a new treaty on climate change, respectively.

In reality, the success of both summits will hinge on whether the world can first solve the trickier issue of how to finance such efforts. This will be the subject of a less high-profile but arguably more important summit in July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Successfully bridging the growing divisions between developed and developing countries over their respective funding obligations can smooth the path for the other two events. Failure to come to agreement on financing will likely doom them. Read more

By TMS Ruge

Two events have the potential to radically affect how the world tackles extreme poverty and climate change in 2015. On September 25, United Nations Member States will gather to adopt the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a summit in New York City. In December, the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) will attempt to sign long-overdue, universally binding agreements on the climate in Paris. We have been here before: this will be the 21st year of the COP meetings and the SDGs are set to take over after 15 years of development work driven by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In the boardrooms in New York and Washington, the voices of those at the “last mile” – a term in development jargon that refers to poorest of the poor – remained largely silent. Read more

By Mark Malloch Brown, former United Nations Deputy Secretary General.

The conventional wisdom behind the renegotiation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – eight targets for reducing poverty and its attendant woes that followed a resolution by United Nations members in 2000 – is that there were not enough of them and that they were too simple. So a UN industry has developed to write a lot more of them.

As one of the original drafters, my view is the contrary. It is not the goals that need changing (although they can certainly be improved at the margins) but rather the vision of development that lies behind them that needs reworking. And indeed adding goals risks detracting from the successful single-issue global campaigns – such as child mortality,which has halved globally since 1990 – that developed around them. Read more

“Anyone who says that Africa is missing the Millennium Development Goals is missing the point.” You might expect such a tart statement about a canonical organising principle of development policy to come from one of the aid industry’s many curmudgeonly sceptics.

That it came instead from Jan Vandemoortele, a Belgian economist who helped create the United Nations MDGs in the first place, raises questions whether propagating a single set of targets to drive government policy across the entire developing and emerging world is worth doing at all. The “sustainable development goals”, successors to the MDGs, are currently being developed, but the unfortunate signs are that they will be yet more complex and yet less meaningful than the originals.

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CDC, the UK government-owned development finance institution, has invested $17m in the South African transport and logistics company Grindrod, backing the development of roads, railways and ports across sub-Saharan Africa that could boost the region’s competitiveness and create jobs.

The investment marks the start of a strategic partnership between Johannesburg-listed Grindrod and CDC, which says it has the appetite to invest over $100m through the alliance as and when suitable projects emerge. Read more

By Pablo Sanguinetti of CAF and UTDT

A long time ago, a reporter is said to have asked the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, “Who is Borges?” To which the characteristically subtle answer was: “A forgotten man, from a forgotten time, from a forgotten continent”. With economic growth in Latin America having decelerated to 4.6 per cent in 2011, to 2.9 per cent in 2012, to 2.7 per cent in 2013 and with commentators dismissing the growth momentum of the preceding decade as a commodity-driven fluke, the region seems indeed to be on a path to oblivion. Read more

By Harjit Gill of Philips

In southeast Asia today, most countries face a difficult dilemma: should limited resources be used to combat the rapid growth of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that take such a terrible toll on human life and economic development, or should those resources go toward expanded efforts to reduce the debilitating effects of poverty?

Some say it’s an either/or proposition but that’s a false choice. The truth is, you can’t achieve one without the other. Economic vitality helps create and support innovative and effective healthcare systems but no country can succeed economically without a healthy workforce. Health and wealth must go hand in hand. Read more

From the ‘hopeless’ to the ‘hopeful’ continent, a decade of strong growth has changed perceptions of sub-Saharan African economies – not least among international investors, who have rushed to recent Eurobond offerings from the likes of Zambia and Rwanda. Rubbing against the optimism though are criticisms that the growth achieved has been far from inclusive, with human development lagging behind. Chart of the week takes a look. Read more

By Craig Baker and Andy Ratcliffe

The arguments over whether South Africa should still receive aid from Britain, following Justine Greening’s announcement that there would be no new DFID projects in South Africa, show how the global debate about the continent is shifting.

Africa was once viewed as a region that had stalled, making little or no progress. Now, the world is starting to notice the pace of economic change. Headlines on the theme of ‘Africa rising‘ are appearing more and more in international newspapers. But many doubt that this economic growth is actually improving living standards for the average African citizens. Read more

Tourists associate Bolivia with dizzy heights, blindingly white salt flats and Aymara women in flouncy skirts, plaits and tiny bowler hats. But haute cuisine? Not so much.

Unlike neighbouring Peru, which has pioneered a new Andean cuisine that has charmed Europe and the United States and attracted a valuable new class of tourist – the foodie – to the country, Bolivian “fine dining” tends to mean foreign food.

But Claus Meyer, the chef behind Denmark’s Noma, thrice named the best restaurant in the world, is determined to change that. Read more

The global mining industry could hardly be accused of being introspective. It’s a tough business, all about grade, costs and prices. Everything else is secondary. Nowhere has this attitude been more apparent in the past than at the annual Africa Mining Indaba in Cape Town.

This year, the obligations of the industry as a development partner were front and centre in the main auditorium; the debate was as much about people and politics as it was about mining. The agenda has clearly changed. Read more

Gold diggers beware! The World Bank is setting up a trust fund to give African nations some muscle when dealing with foreign investors in the extractive industries. The $50m fund is driven by concerns that African governments are allowing the natural wealth of their country to be chipped and siphoned away, with little benefit to local people.

Recent strikes in South Africa have left foreign investors wary of putting money into African mining. Further challenges won’t be welcome. Read more

It’s been almost one year since Zambian president Michael Sata entered office, having ended the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy’s twenty year rule in September 2011. There were a few nervous investors at the start, so how is he doing now? This week the IMF mission to Zambia cast its verdictRead more

Dmitry Medvedev has landed in Vladivostok to help the far east city celebrate its birthday and check out the new infrastructure that has been built for this September’s APEC Summit.

For the past few years, various Russian officials have been billing Vladivostok as Russia’s new capital of the Far East, or its own San Francisco (but better), as Medvedev boldly pronounced on MondayRead more

Ceviche and pisco sours are right up there with llamas, Incas and Machu Picchu when it comes to Peruvian stereotypes these days.

That’s in large part down to Gastón Acurio, the Peruvian chef who brought his Astrid and Gaston restaurant to Manhattan last year after first finding success in Spain, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Mexico. Read more

By Jimmy Greer of Brazilintel

Few things are more likely to invoke the suspicion of very serious people in advanced economies than loose talk about measuring national “happiness”.

You can imagine the eyebrows rising further when an institution in an emerging economy like Brazil – a country with plenty to do in delivering higher standards of living to much of its population – says it is about to embrace the idea. But news that the Fundação Getulio Vargas in São Paulo (FGV-SP), a higher education institution and think tank, is setting out to measure Brazil’s gross national happiness (felicidade interna bruta, or FIB) should be taken seriously. Read more

As an economist, Ricardo Hausmann has spent much of his life thinking about numbers. But over the last few years, the director of Harvard’s Center for International Development has been thinking more and more about the less tangible productive capabilities that a country produces – which he refers to as “letters”. Read more