This article considers how the capability approach has been linked with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and poses the question derived from a number of critical commentaries as to whether the approach has provided a robust enough critique of the exploitative relations associated with global corporate capitalism. It focuses on the first three MDGs concerned with poverty, education and gender, and shows how writers working within the human development and capability approach literature adopt a range of views with regard to the MDGs. Some oppose the framework, some welcome it, and some write as critical friends. Many comment explicitly on the problems of capitalism and global inequality. Ideas of trade-off and comparative evaluation associated with the approach are examined in relation to thinking about global obligation and justice under conditions of inequality. The argument for ‘more justice’ associated with the approach is seen to be in need of clearer specification, and Robyen’s deployment of the capability approach to elucidate principles of gender justice is seen to provide a particularly nuanced way of thinking about problems associated with gender inequality, poverty and education. Empirical data collected from discussions in Kenya and South Africa with teachers responsible for implementing the education, poverty and gender components of the MDGs show how these can be interpreted in terms of a trade-off or used to invite more open reflective discussion on forms of gender justice and capabilities, suggesting new ways for thinking about a post-2015 successor framework to the MDGs.
Unterhalter, E. Trade off, comparative evaluation and global obligation: reflections on the poverty, gender and education Millennium Development Goals. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities (2012) 13 (3) 335-351. [DOI: 10.1080/19452829.2012.681296]