Priority attention will be on knitting together a “post-2015” blueprint for poverty eradication and sustainable development which follows on from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of 2000 and the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). Agreement on the “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) is expected at the UN General Assembly in September this year.
Consensus on a new set of goals – however long – is important in order to focus minds and ensure more coherence in global development. Even more crucially, however, implementation of the SDGs will demand a broader, more inclusive mindset, more international consultation and certainly more active civil society engagement. Additional resources, renewed attention on updating existing financial tools and instruments and creating new ones will also be needed.
As such, the conference on Financing for Development Conference to be held in Addis Ababa in July must be well-prepared, with participants ready to look at traditional and innovative ways to fund growth and development.
Also in 2015, a climate change agreement is hoped for at the December COP21 ministerial meeting in Paris. Last but not least, the EU has designated 2015 as its first-ever European Year of Development.
Significantly, the 2015 summits are linked. An agreement at the Addis Ababa financing conference will provide momentum for the dialogue on the SDGs which will, in turn, create an impetus ahead of the critical climate talks.
A radically changed environment
The rhetoric in 2000 was impressive. But fifteen years after the adoption of the MDGs, the jury is still out on nations’ record in meeting the eight targets. The headline goal for extreme poverty reduction appears to have been met five years ahead of its target. Significant successes in school enrolment and mortality rates for under-fives have been achieved (albeit at slightly less than target rates). However, progress in meeting other important indicators remains patchy.
This time, it’s different. The MDGs were brief, focused, easily understood and communicated – and represented a rare international consensus for development. The SDGs reflect the concerns and priorities of a radically changed world. As EU Development Commissioner Neven Mimica pointed out, “the world is a very different place in 2015 to what it was in 2000. We can no longer focus only on eradicating poverty; today’s challenges are much more inter-related and we have to make sure that we achieve sustainable development in all of its three dimensions: environmental, social and economic.”
The SDG consultative process has been long and painstaking. The 17 SDGs and 169 targets agreed by the United Nations Open Working Group and endorsed by the General Assembly last year, represent a global wish list and cover the broad themes of the MDGs – ending poverty and hunger, and improving health, education and gender equality – but also include specific goals to reduce inequality, make cities safe, address climate change and promote peaceful societies. As such, they bring together two frontiers – development and climate – and tackle global public goods problems as well as national obstacles. There’s something for everyone - almost.
For purists, the list is too long, the goals too disparate. “What the world needs is a plan of action to replace the Millennium Development Goals. What’s on offer is a shopping list,” according to Kevin Watkins, Director at the Overseas Development Institute. “The 17 SDGs and 169 targets cover everything from the urgent and measurable – eliminating poverty, cutting child deaths, universal provision of education, water and sanitation, and climate stability – to the vaguely aspirational.”
Certainly, the goals are going to be much more complex to describe, implement and monitor.
On the plus side, however, the SDGs could encourage a more holistic approach to development and offer a chance for more partnerships and collaboration. Crucially, the SDGs will be universal, which means all countries – rich and poor - will be required to consider them when crafting their national policies. This is different from the MDGs, which were applicable to all and marketed as anti-poverty goals for poor countries.
Significantly, the adoption of the SDGs goes beyond the pure development agenda. They signal a determination by nations to jointly tackle complex global challenges. The importance of sustainable development will be accepted and highlighted as fundamental. Not least, they will reinforce an unprecedented process of international consultation and commitment at a time when many are sceptical about multilateral cooperation.
Global partnership for development.
MDG 8 urged development actors to forge a global partnership for development. Turning that ambition into reality means focusing on finding the resources to implement the post-2015 agenda. “Funding is crucial for credibility on climate and post-2015 efforts,” according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon who believes that all public, private, domestic and international funding sources need to be tapped.
Public financing and Official Development Aid (ODA) will be central to supporting the implementation of the SDGs. But money generated from the private sector, through tax reforms, and through a crackdown on illicit financial flows and corruption will be vital.
Certainly, there will be less ODA to spur implementation. Aid flows look set to stagnate at best, and continue declining in importance to emerging economies. Public-private partnerships will be crucial. New development actors are emerging as an important source of funds for developing countries, especially for the financing of infrastructure. Foreign direct investments (FDI) in emerging countries are on the rise as are impact investments, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities and philanthropy.
Remittances from workers abroad are a huge boon to their countries of origin. Governments are also under pressure to increase domestic resource mobilisation through more effective tax collection and anti-corruption measures.
According to Amina J Mohammed, special advisor to the UN Secretary General on post-2015 development planning, “the private sector also has responsibilities and all must work in partnership, within and across sectors,” adding: “Indeed, partnership is critical but means so much more than just collaboration. Partnership is about the integration of visions, values, plans, accountability, resources and knowledge sharing.
The world in 2015 will continue to be a difficult and hazardous place. The SDGs are one way of ensuring that the goal of a fairer, more equal and more stable world is kept alive.