A new development agenda: The way forward
- It is in the interests of all nations of the world to agree to a bold, but practical post-2015 development agenda for poverty eradication and sustainable development.
- While negotiations continue over this new agenda, efforts should continue to meet the existing Millennium Development Goals.
- The new agenda should be universal, with benefits and responsibilities for all nations.
- A major challenge to arriving at agreement on a post-2015 agenda will be to reconcile poverty eradication with environmental protection.
The theme and focus of the eighth edition of European Development Days in 2013 (EDD13), was ‘A Decent Life for All – building a consensus for a new development agenda’. EDD13 in general and the Closing Panel in particular focused on the challenges raised by the Report of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, titled ‘A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development’, presented to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 30 May 2013.
Speakers, with active audience participation and input, considered several questions, including:
- Why is a new development agenda needed for 2015?
- When is it needed?
- How should a new agenda be structured – should it be universally applicable to all nations, rich, poor, developed and developing?
- How can all the nations of the world reach agreement on a new development agenda – what kinds of incentives, trade-offs and arm-twisting will be required to get a deal?
- Should poverty eradication and sustainable development be linked in a post-2015 development agenda?
Speakers and the audience generally agreed that a new development agenda is needed for 2015 because the existing UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are set to expire in 2015. While the eight MDGs have been very useful in advancing poverty reduction and improving human well-being, progress toward their fulfilment has been spotty and new realities require some new approaches going forward. However, even while a new agenda is being negotiated, strenuous efforts to meet the MDGs should continue.
There was also general agreement that the new development agenda should be universally applicable to all nations, with benefits and responsibilities for rich, middle-income and poor countries, including the BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. There was further general agreement that sustainable development – development that takes account of planetary resource limitations, environment concerns and climate change challenges – must be linked to poverty eradication in the post-2015 agenda, but that this linkage will require trade-offs and compromises.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia and a Co-Chair of the UN High-Level Panel, noted that while progress has been made under the MDGs, in many poor countries, particularly in Africa, many of the goals have not been achieved. She particularly emphasised that MDG 8 – ‘to develop a global partnership for development’ – has not been met and she called for much greater consultation with and participation of poor countries in formulating the post-2015 development agenda. She added that the UN High-Level Panel recommendations are bold, but realistic and achievable. ‘All people and all countries must believe that there is something in the post-2015 agenda for them,’ she said.
‘We have a daunting, but inspiring task ahead of us’, observed Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary General, United Nations. ‘Many actors must be involved, including the private sector,’ he added. Sustainable development will also require ‘stable, credible institutions, and institution building. This may be controversial’, he cautioned.
Low-income countries ‘lack the resources to participate effectively’ in the negotiations over a post-2015 agenda, warned Debapriya Bhattacharya, Chair of the Southern Voices on Post-MDGs, Bangladesh. He worried whether the post-2015 agenda will be ambitious and balanced enough. ‘There will be hard choices and painful trade-offs,’ he said.
Wealth and income inequality is a major worldwide impediment to poverty eradication and sustainable development. Some members of the audience believed that there should be no deal unless the international community commits to meaningfully address inequality. Some also thought that there should be no deal unless it is clear how the new agenda will be financed – where is the money coming from?
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International, maintained that the new agenda ‘must address inequality in all its dimensions’, including gender. ‘Inequality is bad for progress.’ She urged that the new agenda must require all nations ‘live within planetary boundaries.’ There should be binding emissions targets and adequate financial support for climate change adaptation in poor countries. NGOs should refuse to be party to a new agenda with ‘unambitious, half-way goals’, she argued.
Paul Collier, Director for the Centre for the Study of African Economies at The University of Oxford, United Kingdom, foresees a ‘potential train crash between environment and poverty reduction goals’. Is it possible to reconcile environment protection with prosperity? For this train crash to be avoided, ‘there needs to be intellectual movement on both sides’. We need institutions that properly balance the trade-offs between the needs and interests of present populations and those of future generations.
Andris Piebalgs, EU Commissioner for Development, reminded the audience that we live in a world of nation states, a system that limits global solutions. Only the United Nations system includes all countries and thus a new development agenda must be UN based. The challenge for arriving at a new development agenda will be ‘to convince all people that the new regime will serve their countries,’ he concluded.
The challenges confronting a bold, but practical agreement on a post-2015 agenda will be formidable. However, they should not prove to be insuperable if all nations realise poverty eradication and sustainable development are in their national interests.
Body: We agree it’s a useful framework, we agree we have to get to a deal by 2015, we agree that we want it to link as far as possible the poverty, MDG and sustainable development goals, we agree it should be universal […] and we think it’s going to be difficult for a number of reasons including climate, means of implementation and finance and global institutions.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1661
Body: We must ensure that we do not take our eyes off the ball […] Everyone is encouraged to put in extra effort to achieve the MDGs.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1660
Body: Just as we are running down our natural assets without leaving a legacy, we are running up our natural liabilities in the form of carbon. It is the same conceptual issue both for the environment and for getting out of poverty. It is the same challenge for building institutions that navigate the future.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1659
Body: We need to be good stewards of nature. This means being good stewards of natural assets that avoid the accumulation of natural liabilities.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1658
Winnie ByanyimaInequality is not just morally repugnant; it is bad for social and economic progress.Body: Inequality is not just morally repugnant; it is bad for social and economic progress.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1657
Body: The stakeholders this time include everybody: the private sector is involved, NGOs are involved. We must ensure that everyone feels involved and takes responsibility. Consultation on the new agenda is open to everyone.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1656
Body: We must involve everybody. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1655
Body: We are in a new global landscape, with mass communication, migration, urbanisation, youth unemployment. So we must involve everybody. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1654
Body: Let us have the political will to end social injustice – then we will get there.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1653
Body: I hope national goverments will not pass on everything to the international institutions and avoid their own responsibilities.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1652
The eradication of poverty and ensuring that prosperity and wellbeing are sustainable are two of the most pressing challenges facing the world today. These challenges are universal, interrelated and need to be addressed together by all countries.
The European Union (EU) is involved in global discussions on the development agenda after 2015 – the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – placing particular emphasis on building towards an intensive exchange with non-state actors.
Public consultations, dialogue with strategic partners and wide-ranging research have fed into the EU position on an overarching framework. Through its February 2013 Communication ‘A Decent Life for All’ and the ensuing Council Conclusions, the EU states five building blocks for a post-2015 agenda:
- Basic, universal living standards under which no-one should fall. Even if all MDGs are reached, much unfinished business will remain to eradicate poverty and further human development.
- The promotion of ‘drivers’ of inclusive, sustainable growth. Investing in infrastructure or energy, for example, creates growth and decent jobs, whilst boosting human development.
- Sustainable management of natural resources. This is vital if we are to halt environmental degradation.
- Equality, equity and justice. Not only are these values in themselves, but also fundamental for sustainable development.
- Tackling insecurity and state fragility, which impede sustainable development.
Several international processes relevant to the post-2015 agenda are ongoing. Commitments made at the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012 initiated work to develop Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); a High Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda recently published its recommendations for the post-2015 agenda; and a broad United Nations-led consultation process is ongoing. Recently, the UN Secretary-General published his report ‘A life of dignity for all’, which builds on these inputs. In addition, an MDG Special Event will take place in New York, USA on 25 September, which will also give recommendations on the way forward towards a post-2015 agreement.
This work will provide further impetus for the development of a framework that would offer a coherent and comprehensive response to the universal challenges of poverty eradication and sustainable development in its economic, social and environmental dimensions.
Against this backdrop, the eighth edition of European Development Days will discuss, debate and foster consensus on the EU’s objective to set a globally-agreed, ambitious framework that addresses poverty eradication and sustainable development, and ensures a decent life for all by 2030.
Under the thread of this year’s edition – ‘A vision for the post-2015 agenda’ – this year’s forum is structured around four themes. Each theme will be composed of three topics and each topic will be highlighted by an auditorium panel and a series of lab sessions.Image: