3rd Annual International and Interdisciplinary Conference

Progress or Posturing? Examining the Progress of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals

Middlebury College, Vermont, USA
March 12-14, 2015

This conference critically examines the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which were designed to significantly reduce global poverty and disease by 2015, thereby improving the lives of the world’s poorest. The eight goals were proclaimed and ratified in September 2000, and later by all of the 189 states then in existence and by 23 international organizations. The MDGs set time-bound measurable targets: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equity and empower women; reduce child mortality and improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDs, malaria, and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development. The 2015 deadline is quickly approaching and it is time to evaluate the successes/failures of the MDGs.

In the fifteen years since the establishment of the Millennium endeavor, progress on the eight goals has been uneven. Some countries, such as Brazil, have achieved many of these goals while others such as Benin have realized none. This conference will explore why some countries have been more successful than others in achieving some or all of the goals.

Progress or Posturing will be held at Middlebury College. It will offer a critical assessment of the MDGs by building upon existing scholarship to offer new insights into the Millennium endeavor. Were the MDGs unrealistic? What are the constitutive problems with the MDGs? Were the goals too opaque? Were they poorly defined? Who benefits the most from the MDGs? Whose voices were prioritized in setting the MDGs, whose voices ignored? How is progress measured and by whom? Do the MDGs resuscitate liberal humanism for the 21st century? Do “empower women,” and “development” simply serve as alibis for a new form of western imperialism?

We have identified five major themes around which the conference will be organized: health, education, environment, gender, and global partnership.  We invite papers that broadly address the questions outlined above with specific reference to these themes. Since we recognize that the level of success or failure of each of these themes varies spatially, we encourage submissions from multiple perspectives and locations. We are especially interested in presentations that address these topics in specific settings across the non-western world.

Those interested in presenting at the conference should send an abstract (no more than 250 words) by October 1, to the organizers below.

Funds are available to support travel and lodging of all participants.


Tamar Mayer, professor of geography, Director of the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs, Director of International and Global Studiesmayer@middlebury.edu

Robert E. Prasch, professor, Economicsrprasch@middlebury.edu

Tara Affolterassistant professor, education studies, taffolter@middlebury.edu

Merrill S. A. Baker-Medardassistant professor, environmental studies, mbakermedard@middlebury.edu