· The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)- which will be coming to an end this year, were significant in bringing international leaders together to address the numerous dimensions of extreme poverty.
· To be successful, a post-2015 global policy framework must move beyond the MDGs, incorporating the lessons learned (positive and negative).
· Opinions through various forums emphasize “people centered, planet sensitive development” (United Nations, Generally Assembly)
· The Sustainable Development Goals are the most likely outcome of the post-2015 process.
Background: The Millennium Development Goals
In 2000 the United Nations established eight goals which would serve as the global focal point for human development efforts for the next fifteen years. They are: 1) eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, 2) achieve universal primary education, 3)promote gender equality and empower women, 4) reduce child mortality, 5) improve maternal health, 6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, 7)ensure environmental sustainability and 8) develop a global partnership for development. Based on evidence formed decision-making, the goals were accompanied with 21 targets and 60 indicators, which sought to quantifiably determine their progress (MDG Report, 2014). Some of these targets have been met. Globally, we have witnessed a 50% reduction in poverty, greater access to drinking water, decreased tuberculosis and malaria, increased political participation amongst women and greater primary school attendance for girls (MDG Report 2014, 4). However, many have come up short, especially efforts to reduce child and maternal mortality, decrease developing country debt burdens, and lower co2 emissions (MDG Report, 2014).
Positive lessons from the MDGs
The Secretary General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda regarded the MGDs as a remarkable success. The MD’s highlighted the importance of addressing poverty and human well being, and were able to bring a diverse range of actors to the table, resulting in increased financial commitments (Caliari in Fukoda Parr & Yamin, 2013). Aid swelled from $51 to $132 billion between 2000 and 2012 (Pritchett, 2014). Additionally, the use of quantitative targets were important, in order to measure the progress of the goals.
Shortcomings of the MDGs
Many criticisms have been brought forward against the MDGs. Quantification has been challenged as being a major flaw of the MDGs, suggesting that numerical targets are deficient for the complexity of the issues at hand. By favouring quantification, difficult to measure ambitions were often ignored (such as democracy, migrant rights, violence against women, etc.) (North-South Institute, 2014). Second, the low standard of the goals has been challenged. These critics claim that the standards of which the goals are based, wrongfully assume that there is threshold of which one can cross to improve one’s well- being, i.e from extreme poverty (less than $1.25) a day, to poverty (Pritchett, 2014). Third, MGDs have been accused of being elite-driven, and favouring Western interests. For instance, some have noted that Africa was set up for failure by the MDGs, as several of the targets were much more difficult for the continent to achieve (Easterly, 2009, p. 34). Lastly, it has been suggested that the MDGs did not accelerate development, but rather results were consistent with projections based on initiatives established prior to the MDGS, perhaps the MDGs only helped sustain these improvements (Steven, 2013).
Policy-Making Timetable & Stakeholders
Both the successes and failures of the MDGs have had a significant impact on the prospects for a post-2015 development agenda. The call for an inclusive approach has resulted in outreach by the United Nations and civil-society. In addition to collecting citizen input through My World, an online vote taking mechanism established by the UN, numerous conferences and initiatives including the 2010 Summit on the Millennium Development Goals, the Rio+20 conference, the Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals and the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda have occurred. Notably, a “people centred, planet-sensitive” coherent policy approach has been emphasized across all platforms. Based on all of this input, the intergovernmental negotiation will occur in July this year, followed by The United Nations Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda in September.
The most plausible outcome of a post-2015 development agenda are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGS have been proposed by the United Nations Working Group – the result of thirteen sessions between 70 country representatives and government feedback. The SDGs stress – but are not limited to – the environment, employment, inclusive growth, education and health. Unlike the MDGs, the SDGs emphasize an actor-orientated, universal outlook. In order to ensure the success of these goals, “six essential elements are outlined (people, dignity, prosperity, justice, partnership, planet) for their success, which include 17 Goals and 169 targets. It is possible that these goals may be rearranged for greater concision – as has been advocated by British Prime Minster David Cameron and others (Kharas and Zhang, 2014, p. 30). However, the large input of the various stakeholders suggests that there will be greater pressure to ensure these themes remain.
The world has changed drastically since 2000. The population has increased, with more people living in urban centres then ever before. We now have a greater understanding of climate change, and are witnessing a changing distribution of poverty alongside the rise of new actors in the international arena. Significantly, the world is increasingly interdependent – the international financial crisis being an example of this (High-Level Panel, 2014). The High-Level Panel outlines 5 transformative shifts that must occur in response to such changes. First, “Leaving no one behind – means ensuring that within country inequality is addressed including gender, rural/urban and ethnic disparities, which the MDGs did not consider efficiently (Kharas and Zhang, 2014) Second, sustainability must be the foundation for the entire agenda. Third, the economy matters: one major lesson taken from the MDGs has been that the future cannot be about poor country intervention. Rather, it is about changing the whole structure, including establishing better terms of trade for the developing countries (High Level Panel). Fourth: transparent, capable institutions are critical for sustainable development. And fifth, a partnership for this project must all actors: civil society, business, local governance, academia, etc (High Level Panel, 2014).
Overcoming the costs of such a grand project will be challenging. Few have considered the economic costs of the proposals. Money matters, and therefore engaging the private business sector will be critical in overcoming financial obstacles (Kharas and Zhang, 2014). Additionally, in order to successfully implement and monitor future targets, a ‘data revolution’ is critical (High-Level Panel, 2015). Inadequate and inconsistent data is problematic because data drives policy-making decisions. Correct data is critical in order to monitor success (MDG Report, 6). Although the MDGS have improved collection globally, there remains a need for recent, standardized data at the national and international levels in order to fill current gaps: “Sustainable data for sustainable development” is crucial (UN General Assembly).
Many lessons have been learned from the MDGs. Despite the challenges of a post-2015 global policy agenda, the large amount of enthusiasm, inquisition and input demonstrates the commitment to a sustainable future.
Have your say at: http://vote.myworld2015.org/
Post submitted by UNAC-website writer Brittney Potvin.
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KHARAS, H and ZANG, C. (2014) New agenda, new narrative: What happens after 2015? SAIS Review of International Affairs, 34 (2) Summer-Fall 2014, p. 25-35.
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