Rights, equality and sustainability in the core of the development agenda

UN Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon briefs the
General Assembly.
(UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz)

The United Nations is preparing for a post-2015 Development Agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals, with an advisory panel announced last week and a possible Development Summit in 2015, wrote Martin Khor, executive director of South Centre, in his most recent column for The Star, one of the leading Malaysian newspapers.

“The Development Agenda is shaping up to be the UN’s major process of the next several years. That is good, but it will have to address several issues soon. One is the link between its own process and that of the Rio+20 follow up, including the establishing of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Will the SDGs be the successor of the MDGs? How should the interaction proceed?” asked Khor.

Khor’s column reads as follows:

UN plans new Development Agenda
By Martin Khor

Following the Rio Plus 20 summit on sustainable development held in Brazil in June, the United Nations is now laying the ground for its next big move  ̶ the launching of a Post-2015 UN Development Agenda.

The contents, the events and the expected practical effects of this Agenda are still hazy. But expectations are already building up that it could galvanize the world to re-commit to promoting the developing countries’ quest for economic and social development.

In addition, it is important to re-define and strengthen the leadership role of the UN in championing development with new ideas and concrete programs in developing countries.

A comprehensive UN development agenda is even more needed today as the developing countries are facing severe effects and great uncertainties arising from the rapidly deteriorating economic situation in the developed countries.

It is possible that the Development Agenda process will lead to a UN Development Summit in 2014 or 2015.

The move to consider a new UN development agenda is prompted by the fast approach of the expiry date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which set targets to be met in 2015 for poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development.’

Since 2015 is now so near, a review of the MDGs’ success is needed, and the associated question is what development framework and action plans should be established as a follow up to the MDGs after 2015.

In 2010, a MDG summit held at the UN requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to come up with recommendations to advance the UN development agenda beyond 2015. It also asked the General Assembly to hold a “special event” in its 68th session starting September 2013, to follow up on actions made towards achieving the MDGs.

One of the expectations is that at this special event, the General Assembly will give the go-ahead for a Development Summit in 2014 or 2015, with the terms of reference of what that summit will discuss and what it is to achieve.

Meanwhile the UN Secretariat is already moving ahead on the development agenda. It has embarked on three things.

First, a UN task team comprising 50 UN departments and agencies produced a report at the end of June on what the UN system considers could be the new development agenda.

The report proposed three fundamental principles (human rights, equality and sustainability) and four core dimensions (inclusive economic development, environmental sustainability, inclusive social development and peace and security).

It also identified four sets of “enablers”, or key factors that are needed to enable progress to be made in the four dimensions.

Second, the UN organizations are moving ahead to organize eight global workshops, each on a major theme. This will be complemented by UNDP-organized consultations in 50 countries on what the governments and civil society want in a UN development agenda.

Third, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon has convened a high-level panel to advise him on the development agenda. On 31 July, he announced the panel will be co-chaired by three political leaders  ̶  UK premier David Cameroon, President Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.

The other 23 panel members include Ministers, other eminent persons, and experts from Benin, Brazil, China, Colombia, France, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, India, Latvia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Timor-Leste, Turkey, USA, and Yemen.

The panel has been asked by Ban to produce a “bold yet practical development vision” by the first half of 2013. This will input into a report that the Secretary General will prepare for governments to consider at the General Assembly’s special event, expected to be held in September 2013.

The Panel is to propose “recommendations on a global post-2015 agenda with shared responsibilities for all countries and with the fight against poverty and sustainable development at its core.”

The Panel is also asked to reflect new development challenges while also drawing on experience gained in implementing the MDGs, both in terms of results achieved and areas for improvement.

It is also asked to coordinate with a working group of experts from 30 countries now being set up to design Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a follow up to the Rio+20 Conference.

As can be seen from the above, the Development Agenda is shaping up to be the UN’s major process of the next several years. That is good, but it will have to address several issues soon.

One is the link between its own process and that of the Rio+20 follow up, including the establishing of SDGs. Will the SDGs be the successor of the MDGs? How should the interaction proceed?

Second, will the development agenda be narrowly defined as just a set of new goals and targets like the MDGs, or will it have a more comprehensive framework, with principles, an analytical structure, a plan of actions, with means of implementing them?

Third, when do the governments (the member states of the UN) get involved in designing the Development Agenda, its action plans, goals and targets? And through which process?

While the UN Secretariat and many UN agencies have already launched their own preparations for the development agenda, the governments are scheduled to join the action only from September 2013, with the special event.

That is very late in the process, especially if countries are supposed to own and drive the Development Agenda.

Finally, it is important that the development agenda gets its contents right. It has to place the looming global economic crisis at its heart, in order to be relevant, and include the social and environmental crises as well.

It should address the structural factors that give rise to the crises, and not only set up new goals and targets, as was the case with the MDGs.

More information
UN press release: http://bit.ly/PHbLlU

The Star: http://bit.ly/Rtmbu3