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Country analysis > Zambia Last update: 2020-11-27  

Structural injustice and the MDGs: a critical analysis of the Zambian experience

Ciara Gaynor

TrСѓcaire Development Review

Dublin 2005

SARPN acknowledges the TrСѓcaire website as the source of this report.
This chapter appeared in the Development Review 2005 published by TrСѓcaire.
The full contents of the Development Review - which dealt with Challenges in Meeting the Millenium Goals - can be accessed at:
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Following independence in 1964, Zambia ranked amongst the most prosperous countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is now the fourth poorest, and one of the most unequal countries in the world. Since 2000, the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) and national government have made efforts to meet the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals), but the indicators still reveal a depressing picture. This article analyses the efforts that are being made in Zambia to achieve the MDGs and critically assesses the economic, political and social blockages towards achieving the Goals at a national and international level.


The launch of the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) represents one of many international development goal-setting exercises of the UN over the past fifty years. Other UN goals have included: ending colonialism; acceleration of economic growth in developing countries; expansion of education; eradication of smallpox, malaria and other communicable diseases; expansion of immunisation; improving the situation of women and children; and increasing overseas development assistance (ODA) to least developed countries (LDCs) (Jolly 2004). The track record in achieving some of the stated goals is very poor. At the end of four UN Development Decades there are more impoverished people in the world than ever before. Is the UN’s latest development initiative substantially different from previous initiatives? What are its strengths and what criticisms have been levelled against it? What impact has the MDG process been making in Africa?

With a Human Development Index ranking of 163 Zambia is one of the least developed countries in the world (UNDP 2004). Without question, reducing the number of Zambians living in absolute poverty is a valid goal to be pursued at a national and international level. Based on current trends, however, this and most of the other 7 MDGs are unlikely to be met in Zambia by 2015. From this one might infer that the MDGs are not making a great deal of difference at the local level in improving the lives of the most impoverished. This paper sets out to examine the main reasons why this is so, taking international as well as national economic, social and political factors into consideration.

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