After months of intensive and complicated negotiations UN Members States, along with civil society, have finally agreed on a common position regarding the new post-2015 framework. The Outcome Document, which was adopted in September during UN General Assembly Special Event on the Millennium Development Goals, acknowledged the progress made since the eight global targets were set in 2000, while also committing to do more to tackle many remaining challenges and accelerate progress. But also set up an outline for the road map of the new agenda. This document is the first step, at such level, towards establishing the post-2015 development agenda. This visible consensus which managed to be reached in New York stresses that the post-2015 agenda will be a single comprehensive framework tackling, with one set of goals, poverty and sustainable development for all at the same time. This should be, and already is, consider as the EU success in this negotiations.
A few months ago while the European Commission launched its public consultation on the post 2015-framework and the ‘Millennium Development Goals -defining post-MDG agenda’ report was in its initial phase there were many conflicting opinions presenting different values and interest on the future development agenda. At that time our biggest concern was how to avoid the creation of a so called ‘Christmas tree’ representing all kinds of idea and to reach one common position. There were many approaches focused either only on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) formulated during Rio+20 Conference or gathered around the concept of fighting against poverty itself. Nevertheless, the EU’s strong voice has been heard, in the above mentioned report, as well as in the EC communication A decent life for all adopted few months ago, it states that the eradication of poverty and the achievement of sustainable development must be within the priority areas of the new framework. Although the Outcome Document includes valuable clarification on how the currently-separated tracks of the MDG review and Rio+20 follow-up should converge into a unified track, we still fear that the former could overdo the latter and that the poverty eradication goal might be watered down in the final stages of this process.
Why do we need a new framework?
Over the last decade, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) successfully have helped drive the eradication of poverty and further human development yet the global situation has been gradually changing politically, economically and socially. Developing countries have changed, either by way of: poverty has taken on new dimensions, the differences between the countries of the South have grown, some countries with aid recipients become donors, while others are struggling with high levels of inequality, and are sensitive to shock crises (climate change, food crises, demographic change, etc.). Although progress has been made, a rapidly-changing world and these challenges require a comprehensive and effective approach in the framework of EU development policy. It is estimated that after 2015, over 1.3 billion people will be living on less than a dollar a day, and 600 million will have no access to drinking water. New objectives and the structure of the agenda concerning development after 2015 must, or rather shall, reflect the new reality and need to be addressed in a complex way.
While working towards a framework that will address major global problems such as climate change and biodiversity, population demographics, conflicts, job insecurity and inequality, a new key principle on which the post-2015 development agenda should be based on what the EP has always been calling for –the human rights based approach. From the very beginning, it was the EU side stressing during the negotiation on the Outcome Document that fighting poverty and achieving sustainable goals can only happen if human rights are widely respected and implemented. Most importantly, what is needed is an agreement to assure that the millions of poor and marginalized will have a voice in both defining priorities of the next post-MDGs agenda and monitoring their implementation. It is important that no one is left behind.
What are the Sustainable Development Goals?
The resent years have shown that environmental degradation has an impact and threatens the achievement of the MDG. The fight for scarce resources and disparities in living standards are one of the main drivers of conflicts, violence and hunger. Therefore, while setting new goals, the EU avoids looking separately at environmental and development issues.
In order to reach the fully sustainable development we should integrate in a balance manner its 3 dimensions: providing economic transformation and opportunity to lift people out of poverty, advancing social justice, and protecting the environment. Only the combination of those aspects of development may secure creation of such a framework which successfully ends poverty all over the world. As underlined in the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference, we should also look at health and education as integral components of sustainable development and also as key drivers of poverty eradication and economic growth.
In order to eradicate hunger, while improving food security, we must first reach the goal of providing key standards in education, nutrition and clean water. The Rio+20 Conference made also clear that ‘to achieve our sustainable development goals we need institutions at all levels that are effective, transparent, accountable and democratic’. Therefore, a clear commitment to democratic governance should be reflected in the new framework.
There is however, one element- which although crucial for the achievement of sustainable development, it was completely underestimated while drafting the outcome document, -Policy Coherence for Development (PCD). Without coordination between different policies and among donors our efforts and aid are not effective. While we are improving one area we harm it with other policy. It is absolutely essential that the UN member states will follow the example of the EU by taking account of the objectives of development cooperation in all policies that they implement, which are likely to affect developing countries.
Another important aspect related is with peace and security. Armed conflict and post-conflict situations are some of the major obstacles to development. One and a half billion people live in fragile or conflict-affected states which have not met a single MDG. Those countries require specific attention.
New ways of financing of post-2015 framework
In order to finance new sustainable development framework we need to mobilize all possible financial resources including a healthy and competitive private sector and innovative financing mechanisms. We need to focus on: improvement of coordination between donors, developing on blending grants and loans for development, adjust fiscal policies with effective taxation mechanisms, strengthening domestic revenue through effective taxation and fight against corruption. The real challenge remains in mobilising national resources for development by developing countries themselves, as well as moving from transparency into accountability.
What is next?
The UNGA Special Event on MDG was a starting point, which outlined recommendations and it will serve as a guidelines for the negotiation of a new set of goals. New goals, which are not yet precise, should in principle balance poverty eradication with sustainable development created by such a people-center post-2015 development agenda. This agenda should be based on principles of human rights, rule of law, equality, non-discrimination, sustainability, good governance with the objective of creating a just and sustainable world in which every human being can achieve their rights and live free from poverty.
Nonetheless, the Outcome Document is still very general in this aspect and lacks clarity regarding how deliberations on, the role of private sector climate change, policy coherence for development and poverty will, or will not, be integrated into one coherent global framework beyond 2015.
Nevertheless, while we are looking forward to a high-level summit in September 2015 and new sustainable development policies we should focus more on the present and our actions today. There is still some work ahead of us; we still have current commitments to be achieved. Not only do we need to accelerate our efforts but also build upon the successes which have been achieved thus far.
Filip Kaczmarek, Rapporteur on the Millennium Development Goals -defining post-MDG agenda Head of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the UNGA Special Event on the Millennium Development Goals.