Global Policy Watch

As UN negotiations on the post 2015 framework begin to tackle the complex issues of accountability, review and follow up, the diversity of views, perspectives and the lack of concrete proposals make the likelihood of finding an agreement remote indeed.

It is not surprising that the political battles have already become fierce in the concurrent negotiations for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) and the post-2015 development agenda with its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At stake is who will shape the agenda—and how much real impact it will have.

What is the direction of the “transformation” that is now so frequently discussed in both talks? Are we headed towards a world of multistakeholder partnerships and the increasing outsourcing of public functions to private control, where those in positions of privilege can maintain their entitlements, at least until we fully breach planetary boundaries?

Or towards a world where we make decisions based foremost on the welfare of the majority of people and the planet? 

The outcome of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) will affect the ability of states to fulfill their human rights obligations, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets being set for the post-2015 agenda. Both human rights and the SDGs are similar in that they are universal, and entail individual as well as common responsibilities, taking into account varying national capacities to achieve them.

The SDGs take three different forms: those of particular relevance to the internal affairs of all countries, including rich ones, requiring changes in their domestic policies; those that address the need to change domestic policies in order to reduce negative external effects beyond a country’s borders; and those that zero in on international duties and responsibilities. The last two mainly apply to wealthier countries.

Getting the right balance between public and private sector roles and responsibilities in the Financing for Development and Post-2015 process will be fundamental to prospects for sustainable, inclusive development. Yet early evidence suggests this balance is already awry, skewed far in favour of private interests. Are we seeing a process of outsourcing the international agenda?

There’s no question that businesses around the world are sources of growth and employment. But they are also the source of the most serious threats to sustainable development—from pollution to illicit financial flows that undermine prospects for public resources.

Can we have a transformative development agenda without the transformation of business?

The post-2015 development agenda aspires to global transformation. Its content so far, including the set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) agreed in last year’s Open Working Group, affirms that aim through an unprecedented commitment to inclusion, sustainability and universality. This suggests that the world might finally move beyond current imbalanced patterns of consumption and production that have left wide swathes of human deprivation and pushed the limits of planetary boundaries. Yet the main question, after the most recent intergovernmental negotiations on the agenda in March in New York, is: will the political process live up to the agenda’s promise?

The 23-27 March session of the Post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations will focus on the Sustainable Development Goals and Targets. The choice of indicators for the SDGs is a major policy decision with long-term consequences -- nationally and globally. This has sparked ongoing discussion over whether the indicators should be technical or politically negotiated (or a combination).

The most recent step in the post-2015 negotiations was the 17-20 February debate in New York on the Declaration, meant to be the framework political statement. Despite strong emphasis on transformation and high aspiration, traditional lines were drawn between (mostly) Northern and Southern positions.

At the same time, the debate was rich and nuanced, reflecting the increasing diversity of developing country concerns and their willingness to engage substantively on issues that will be critical to transformation. The process continues to suggest there is historic potential for redressing some of the longstanding imbalances driving deep social and economic disparities, and the impending collision with planetary boundaries. The notion that post-2015 is supposed to universally apply to every country and person in the world is unprecedented—never before has there been a development agenda this broad in scope.

Over the past twenty years we have heard constantly that the world has the resources to address global development challenges such as poverty, environmental degradation, diseases and inequalities. However, despite the resources “being there” human development plans have been consistently underfunded.

Clearly, existing “trickle-down” and redistribution mechanisms are not being effective and will be woefully inadequate to fund the implementation of the universal SDGs agenda.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations discussed on 23-25 February the Secretary General report on the implementation of the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review requested by the General Assembly. Under a cryptic title, the meeting addressed core issues, such as the UN development system’s role (and its relevance) in the post 2015 agenda.

When it comes to the UN’s role in development, there is a broad consensus on the unique value the UN brings to the table because of its history, neutrality, convening power and universal representation. However, it is important to underline that the development ecosystem is being populated in recent years by emerging economic powers and new actors such as philanthropic organizations, large INGOs, regional institutions and development banks.

Moreover, the UN is no longer the biggest funder of development activities, as it is now finds itself in second position, behind the European Commission.

The change in the current development paradigm that the leaders of the world are going to approve next September will require bold reforms and policy shifts. Can they be accomplished without involving the Finance Ministers?

Syndicate content