The Millennium Development Goals: In Light of Catholic Social Teaching

By D. Brian Scarnecchia, J.D. and Terrence McKeegan, J.D. | September 4, 2009

This paper considers the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from the perspective of Catholic social doctrine in three ways. First, it demonstrates the reason why studying the MDGs in light of Catholic social doctrine allows the policymaker to test how well current international development schemes fulfill their fundamental goal of improving human dignity. Second, it briefly summarizes the history of international development, offering a critical analysis of the MDGs’ underlying principles. Third, it takes each of the eight MDGs in turn and considers them in light of the Millennium Development Goals Reports through the years 2005 to 2008, the Holy See’s interventions at the United Nations (UN), and the authors’ own analysis. The paper finds that without some changes to the way the MDGs are now promoted by various UN and other officials, they will not live up to their mandate.

The paper concludes that for international development to succeed it must build community with, not simply for, the poor. We warn that without genuine solidarity with the poor, development aid tends to reinforce class differences. When this happens, wealthy countries are tempted to view developing countries — especially where populations are growing — as a threat to their security and to devise development targets and objectives that promote the national interests of donor nations over the genuine needs and human aspirations of the people in developing countries.