The assumption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is that social rights are fundamental rights in themselves, and secondly that social justice and inclusion rather than inequality foster development. Social injustice is seen to undermine the environment for economic growth and rob a nation of social cohesion, peace and prosperity. This Policy Brief therefore raises questions on whether or not sufficient attention is given to social justice and inclusion in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The general observation is that in the bid to be generic to meet the expectations of the 189 members who signed the MDGs, the goals sacrificed some of the transformative contents that are needed to effect social change.

To illustrate the direct challenges that face the MDG  with respect to social justice, and the bid to achieve social inclusion the Policy Brief  comments on equity issues in the areas of livelihoods, education and gender empowerment.  Other vulnerable groups that deserve mention in the pursuit of social inclusion are of course persons with disability, the elderly, children and youth, but they are not the focus of this piece. Most of the observations are drawn from administrative reports on vulnerable groups, as well the Ghana MDG reports as well as the Annual Progress Review of the Medium Term Development Programme (Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda - GSGDA). The Policy Brief is made up of the following sections: MDGs and Social Justice; MDGs and Gaps in Promoting Social Inclusion; MDGs and Inclusive Education; Gender Empowerment in MDGs.

MDGs and Social Justice

The MDGs have been lauded for the bold statement the goals make about the need for social equity across all socio-economic groups. So, the Goals push every nation to work to achieve a minimum standard of living in a more aggressive manner than the 1970s basic needs drive. Much has been achieved since the MDGs were launched in 2000, and with 2015 finally here a lot of stock taking is going on with special attention being given to the uneven progress that has been made and why. The post-2015 debate has given opportunity to analysts to study the persistent deprivations and exclusion among some social groups. Under the circumstances, efforts aimed at achieving inclusion have intensified and are seen as key to overcoming stark deprivation, weak governance and general abuse of rights in many parts of the world.

Critics suggest that the MDGs, as they are presently composed, do not go far enough to interrogate the underlying causes of poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion. Consequently, despite the MDGs the structural constraints on the enjoyment of human rights by all are virtually left intact in some countries. Part of the reason lies in the complexity of poverty and vulnerability, especially in the condition of intersecting inequalities faced by most deprived people in developing countries which leave them with multiple disadvantages (Kabeer, 2010).  

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