A Nation Building Process

By Boston, Thomas D. | Harvard International Review, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

A Nation Building Process


Boston, Thomas D., Harvard International Review


In Nigeria, piles of garbage are stacked so high that they resemble small Egyptian pyramids from a distance. These incubators for parasites, insects, and rodents cause countless cases of dysentery, diarrhea, and malaria. Imagine, for pregnant women and infant children, how devastating it must be when the heavy rains wash the run-off from the garbage piles into neighborhood streets and farmlands.

The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) can be a powerful catalyst for economic development in such countries. Jeffrey Sachs deserves tremendous credit for keeping the world's attention focused on them. In "A Pioneering Perspective," (Review, Spring 2011), Sachs correctly observed that MDGs are beginning to "play a surprisingly important role in shaping the formal development agendas of dozens of low-income countries." This observation alone provides adequate justification for keeping them as a development priority after the somewhat unrealistic target date of 2015 has passed. However, there is an even more compelling reason: embedded within the attainment of MDGs are the essential elements and necessary infrastructure for genuine nation building. This is why attaining the MDGs must be thought of as an ongoing process rather than outcome.

It is easy to look at the goals without fully appreciating the transformational processes required in a low-income, developing country to attain them. Gaining sufficiently strong consensus and commitment from competing political parties is essential to having a hope of meeting these goals and requires a mature state system. …

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