The Art of the Impossible: Measurement Choices and the Post-2015 Development Agenda, by Malcolm Langford
Despite the many recognised weaknesses of the Millennium Development Goals the embedment of indicators within a simple global measurement framework has proved compelling and communicable. The result is a surge of interest in the design of the post-2015 agenda. This has produced innumerable and innovative proposals for new goals and targets and a backlash from those wishing to maintain a focused, statistically robust and politically feasible framework. This paper argues that a third perspective is soon needed – the criteria for making choices between different options. These choices will and should be ultimately political choices but it is worth considering on what basis they should be made. The Rio Declaration 2012 establishes a number of criteria for this purpose but they remain at a general level and gloss over some hard trade-offs. This paper begins by surveying the context for the post-2015 discussion (Section 1), considers the potential functions and purposes of the post-2015 agenda in light of the impact of the MDGs (Section 2); proposes criteria for both thematic selection and measurement (Section 3); and applies these criteria to a seemingly hard case of human rights and governance (Section 4).