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Citation Information

Type Book Section - Critical review of a top-down sustainable development framework: The Millennium Project in Nepal
Title The utility of the participatory approach for sustainable development assessments
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
Page numbers 13-65
URL https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/516f/d07a723a998c64ff72d78df8e59d8df6dee0.pdf#page=26
In the three decades since ‘Our Common Future’ harmonized development policies around a new
sustainable development paradigm, experts have consistently emphasized the importance of a
democratic and equitable approach to define and achieve sustainable development for all
countries. However, this is rarely achieved in practice, as targets and indicators are often defined
by a suite of experts or a few stakeholder groups, far removed from on-the-ground conditions. For
example, the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) assessment framework
utilized an expert-led approach and promoted a one-size-fits-all framework for all developing
countries. The MDG is one of the largest and most widely adopted commitments in the
international development regime. While progress towards these targets has been routinely
reported at the national scale, less is known whether these targets actually reflect context-specific
sustainable development. Through our evaluation of the MDG framework in the context of Nepal,
we highlight how a top-down sustainability assessment can fail to align with the sustainability
concerns of a developing country. We focused our evaluation on the set of indicators for MDG 7
(environmental sustainability), based on their relevance and comprehensiveness in the Nepalese
context. Our analysis suggests that generic indicators such as forest cover may be relevant, but
they may not provide a useful information about the problems they were designed to assess. For
example, the MDG assessment uses forest cover as an indicator of forest degradation and
deforestation, however, forest cover alone does not capture the degradation resulting from
common practices in Nepal such as (over) grazing, fuelwood collection, monoculture within
community forestry systems, nor conversion to plantations.

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