- 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.