Works in Progress

“Millennium Development goals: Impact on National Strategies and spending”

Forthcoming in Development Policy Review

This study reviews post-2005 national development strategies of fifty countries from diverse income groups, geographical locations, human development tiers, and ODA levels to assess MDG absorption into development planning. Reviewing PRSPs and non-PRSP national strategies, the majority of the development plans have either adopted the MDGs as planning tools or “localized” them in a meaningful way, using diverse adaptation strategies. A high correlation is detected between income group, PRSP status and ODA reliance of countries, and their propensity to incorporate MDGs in their planning instruments. However, MDG alignment is not coterminous with greater pro-poor or MDG-oriented policies. Countries that have not integrated MDGs into their national plans were as likely to allocate government funds to social sectors as MDG aligners.

“From MDGs to SDGs: The Long Road to Owning Development”

This paper compares the process that gave rise to the Millennium Development Goals to the current process that will generate Sustainable Development Goals. It takes into account the changes that the world has experienced since the year 2000 and argues that shifting wealth and power dynamics from the North to key actors in the South, diversification of ideologies, an exponentially growing world population, and rapid technological revolution have all contributed to making the post-2015 development agenda a process that is more focused on the path to the next development agenda and not only its outcome.

“The Normative Policy Space: A Domain of Political Alternatives.” with Hiroaki Abe.

In this paper, we offer a brief review of the history of political thought to illustrate how political choice as a normative project has been gradually transformed into a positive enterprise where causal explanation dominates the contemporary studies of decision-making. We draw on Lefort, whose notion of the ‘empty place’ points us to the background space, which surrounds political decisions, where ideologies and institutions are not preordained but perpetually open to contestation. Taking our cue from Lefort and building on Mitchell’s critique of the conceptual-empirical or state- society distinction, we then introduce our policy space model, a space of political contestation over the dominant ideologies and institutions of a political community which structures the choices of decision makers. We then elaborate on the active and latent dimensions constituting the policy space and the transformations possible based on interactions between these dimensions. Finally, we illustrate our theoretical analysis through an examination of the global development agenda, which by the turn of the millennium converged on poverty reduction. We use our policy space model to depict the process through which alternative conceptions of development were gradually marginalized so that the active domain of policy space came to be occupied primarily by the liberal epistemology of the Millennium Development Goals, with the dominant narrative converging multiplicity towards a single end point.


Seyedsayamdost, Elham. "Development as End of Poverty: Reform or Reinvention?" Global Governance 21 (2015): 515-535.

Seyedsayamdost, Elham. "Building on the MDG Experience to Create a Truly Transformative 2030 Agenda." ACUNS Quarterly Newsletter 1 (Spring 2015).

Seyedsayamdost, Elham. “Technologies of Ambiguity: The Dialectics of Iran’s Nuclear Power.” Northwestern Journal of International Affairs (Winter/Spring 2011): 110-135.

Vandemoortele, Jan and Elham Seyedsayamdost. “The MDGs Are Not ‘Mission Impossible’” World Guide 2005/06.


Harvard University, Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research. “Long-term Conflict  and Humanitarian Action: A Policy Perspective” ATHA Policy Brief January 2009.  

Ahmed Galal. The Road Not Traveled: Education Reform in the Middle East and North Africa. Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2008.

Office of the Chief Economist for Middle East and North Africa. The Status and Progress of Women in the Middle East and North Africa. Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2005.

UNDP, Bureau for Resources and Strategic Management. Millennium Development Goals: A Training Tool Kit for MDGs. New York: UNDP, 2004.

UNDP, Bureau for Development Policy. UNDP Support to PRSP Countries. New York: UNDP, 2002.


Millennium Development Goals: Impact on National Strategies and Spending," Center for Governance and Sustainability, UMass Boston, 13 November 2015.

Development as End of Poverty: Reform or Reinvention?" hosted by Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the UN, organized by Global Governance, One Earth Future, and ACUNS, 22 June 2015.

“Beyond the 2015 MDGs: Empowerment and Equity for the Collective Global Good,” Berlin Model United Nations XXIII, Keynote Address, 19-22 November 2014.

“Contributions of the United Nations Development Programme to Achieving the Millennium Development Goals: An Assessment,” Independent Evaluation Office, UNDP, 22 July 2014.

“Development as End of Poverty: Reform or Reinvention?” Academic Council on the United Nations System, Istanbul, Turkey, 19-21 June 2014.