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At UN, elites mull Millennium Development Goals. Did the poor weigh in?

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Chip East/Reuters

(Read caption) Vietnam's President Nguyen Minh Triet (C) speaks during the Millennium Development Goals Summit at United Nations headquarters in New York, September 20.

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I’m headed home from a couple of days at UN Week in New York, where I was fortunate to get to attend several events relating to a review of the Millennium Development Goals. I’ll have a lot more to say about that debate, TEDxChange with the Gates Foundation, the Mashable/92Y Social Good Summit, and the Clinton Global Initiative in the days to come. The summits and meetings are covering a huge range of topics, some of which are being honestly debated and discussed and others of which have been reduced to a series of feel-good talking points backed by questionable statistics and assertions.
This week’s events brought home one very clear fact for me: Western thinking about development is elite-driven. Almost entirely.

It’s partly understandable; the primary goal of the Clinton Global Initiative, for example, is getting the rich and powerful to make commitments to save the world in various fashions. While this work is targeted at the poor, their voices are absent in the conversation. While there is a lot of discussion of the need to capture human capital in developing countries, we didn’t hear from anyone who had actually lived the experience of escaping poverty. We didn’t learn how families survive on $1 a day from people who have no choice but to make it work.

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