Eradicating poverty by 2030?
That is the chief goal of the post-2015 Development Agenda. In a year it will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and press on with what has proved to be a successful fight against poverty.
Last year, numerous expert commissions and consultations already produced draft proposals for a new global agenda. The task for 2014 will now be to bring all the different tracks of the negotiation process together.
Most Heads of State and Government, ministers and representatives of international organisations looked back positively on the achievement of the current goals when they met in New York last September: even if some Millennium Development Goals will probably not be achieved, delegates at the UN General Assembly’s Special Event towards achieving the MDGs emphasised the progress that the agenda had brought to developing countries. Referring to his report, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that the proportion of people living on less than USD 1.25 per day had fallen sharply from 47% in 1990 to 22% in 2010. Thus, the goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015 had already been realised. In addition to this and other success stories, the number of starving people had been almost halved as compared to 1990 levels.
However, some goals remain far out of reach: the aim of making it possible for every child to have a primary school education by 2015 is not likely to be attained, and the same applies to attempts to improve ecological sustainability. In fact, carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, while tropical rain forests are still being cleared. Finally, income inequalities have soared dramatically in many countries.
Faced with all of these continuing problems, the United Nations is already at work on a new post-2015 Development Agenda, which will be signed next year at a summit of heads of state and government. Meanwhile, in June 2012, the UN conference on sustainable development (Rio+20) set up an Open Working Group (OWG), which will draw up a sustainable development agenda with concrete Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Consequently, there are two negotiation processes currently running – which, however, will merge into one agenda as far as most of the countries are concerned. The new catalogue of goals will therefore not just be a successor to the MDGs. Rather, with its focus on sustainable development and the eradication of extreme poverty, it will hold all the states to account – and not (like the present agenda) just developing countries.
What such a global agenda could look like was already the subject of proposals by various committees last year. High-ranking politicians and experts on the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons, academics in the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and private-sector representatives in the UN Global Compact showed in their final reports that a comprehensive agenda is feasible with a limited number of goals. In particular, their proposal to link general global goals to country-specific sub goals was broadly welcomed. 2013 also saw national and global thematic consultations which sought to involve a wider public.
The new year 2014 is now the last chance for private and civil-society actors to contribute to the process. As agreed at the Special Event in September, government negotiations will start next year. Before that, the Open Working Group on SDGs will convene for its eighth and final meeting this month (3–7 February 2014). Having already dealt with topics such as climate change and energy supply, this time the group of diplomats will look at issues of biodiversity, inequality and governance. As with its previous meeting, the working group will also invite scientists and representatives from NGOs and companies to provide their expertise.
In addition to this, in August last year an expert committee started debating the funding of sustainable development. The committee will meet three more times this year in order to devise financing strategies for sustainable development.
A third opportunity for an exchange of views on the post-2015 Agenda will be provided by three high-level events and three thematic debates organised by the President of the UN General Assembly John W. Ashe. Beginning in February, government representatives will take part in monthly podium discussions on issues such as South–South cooperation or the role of human rights in the new agenda, in order to further stimulate the debate at national level.
All the reports should be available by September, and by the end of the year they will be compiled in a summary issued by the UN Secretary-General. The document will thus serve as the basis for government negotiations and for the September 2015 summit. Then, once the goals have been formulated, the implementation process will start. And only then will we see how much governments are willing to invest in order to achieve the ambitious goals.
Master in International Development from Sciences Po Paris
Translated from the original text in German