Will the post-2015 goals need 're-branding'?

    Millennium Development Goal icons on display at the TedxChange in Amsterdam. The MDGs were able to create a brand name for themselves — they're recognizable and compelling. Photo by: Robert Tjalondo / TedxAmsterdam / Gates Foundation / CC BY-NC-ND

    As the post-2015 development agenda takes shape, it’s easy to get lost in debates over how to improving the goals as a development tool.

    From governance to gender issues, sustainability and universality, these discussions are important, but one should not lose sight of the importance of the goals as a communications tool, according to Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, United Nations undersecretary-general for communications and public information.

    That communications aspect has precisely been one of the great success stories of the MDGs, he noted at an forum hosted last week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    “I think the Millennium Development Goals managed to create a brand name for themselves,” the U.N. official said. “I think they were quite simple, they were quite easy to understand, people could relate to them, and they were communicable — you could pass them on, you could share them, you could depict them with an icon, and they were compelling.”

    Launsky-Tieffenthal explained that a critical part of building on the successes of MDGs will be to ensure that relatability is maintained — starting with the name itself.

    “I think the term ‘sustainable development goal’ is off-putting. It’s very difficult, nobody really understands what it means,” he said. “So I think a lot of hard work will still have to go into not just identifying the goals, but trimming them down to a number that’s acceptable, and then pick the right language for it.”

    And while we’re at it, Launsky-Tieffenthal thinks “governance” could use some re-branding.

    “The term governance — maybe you can help us find a better term that explains what governance is, how can we make governance relevant to the population at large,” he said.

    What do you think? Should post-2015 stakeholders agree to make a governance goal less controversial? Have another idea? Please share your thoughts by leaving us a comment below, joining our LinkedIn discussion or sending an email to news@devex.com.

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    About the author

    • Paul Stephens

      Paul Stephens is a former Devex staff writer based in Washington, D.C. As a multimedia journalist, editor and producer, Paul has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Washington Monthly, CBS Evening News, GlobalPost, and the United Nations magazine, among other outlets. He's won a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for a 5-month, in-depth reporting project in Yemen after two stints in Georgia: one as a Peace Corps volunteer and another as a communications coordinator for the U.S. Agency for International Development.