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Africa: New Development Goals

AfricaFocus Bulletin
February 8, 2014 (140208)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Global income inequality stands at a very high level: eight per cent of the world's population earns half the world's income, with the remaining 92 per cent earning the other half. Such a distribution is rightly viewed by global civil society networks as unacceptably high, as it is both unjust and undermines development progress." - Helen Clark, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

The process of gaining agreement on goals by international conferences and debates is inevitably messy, as well as obscured by compromise language and a plethora of acronyms. Agreement, moreover, is no guarantee of implementation. Still, the effort to specify measurable outcomes other than those within the dominant paradigm of macroeconomic growth has made significant progress, setting alternate frameworks for judging both national and international progress or lack of progress.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) added elements such as health, education, gender equality, and poverty to the agreed international agenda. But the debate on the post-2015 agenda has revealed major gaps that are now on the agenda for possible incorporation in the next round. These include, for example, goals that apply to all countries, not just to developing countries; greater prominence and more explicit attention to sustainability, and particularly the issue of climate change; and, notably, a strong emphasis on the fact that gross inequality as well as poverty must be eliminated. While the primary emphasis is on inequalities within countries, global inequality is also being explicitly targeted by many in the debate.

Among the multitude of agencies involved in international debates, the UNDP has been the most consistent in challenging conventional wisdoms and in opening up new topics for debate, such as through its annual Human Development Reports.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from a recent speech by Helen Clark, Administrator, UNDP, at the London School of Economics, highlighting key elements in the post-2015 development agenda.

Other relevant sources are listed at the end of this Bulletin.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on economic issues, visit

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"The next global development agenda: From aspiration to delivery"

21 Jan 2014

Helen Clark

The London School of Economics, International Growth Centre Public Lecture

[Excerpts. Full text available at: / direct URL:]


My topic today is: "The Next Global Development Agenda: from aspiration to delivery". Discussion on the renewed agenda is well under way, with a view to it succeeding the MDGs from 2016.

The signs are that this agenda can be bolder than the MDGs were, responding to the challenges faced by developed and developing countries alike. It will be a sustainable development agenda with poverty eradication as a central imperative.

The MDG agenda largely set targets for developing countries to meet, with a partnership goal outlining measures which would support development - from better trade rules to debt relief. A Sustainable Development Goals agenda could be more transformational - encouraging transitions to sustainable economies and societies by all, and supporting developing countries with the means to make those transitions.

Already the UN's Member States have agreed that the agenda should have a "single framework and set of goals - universal in nature and applicable to all countries, while taking account of differing national circumstances and respecting national policies. It should promote peace, and security, democratic governance, the rule of law, gender equality, and human rights for all." Those were the words of the outcome document of the leader-level meeting on the MDGs and post-2015 last September in New York.

That document expresses a high level of ambition. The world would be a better place if its aspirations could be delivered on. Are Member States likely to agree on that agenda and on what it would take to achieve it? What are the world's peoples saying about it? What stands in the way of meeting them? Those are some of the issues I will address in my lecture tonight.

The Global Challenges to Sustainable Development

These encompass but go well beyond the major environmental challenges to include:

Persistently high income inequality, inequality of opportunity, and other non-income disparities, together with significant numbers of people still living in extreme poverty.

Equality was highlighted as a fundamental value in the United Nations Millennium Declaration in 2000, when world leaders acknowledged that: "in addition to our separate responsibilities to our individual societies, we have a collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level."

Yet little progress has been made in combating inequality in its various forms. Global income inequality stands at a very high level: eight per cent of the world's population earns half the world's income, with the remaining 92 per cent earning the other half. Such a distribution is rightly viewed by global civil society networks as unacceptably high, as it is both unjust and undermines development progress.

Evidence suggests that income inequality impedes long-term growth; is associated with poorer health outcomes; generates political instability; contributes to higher rates of violence, including for homicide; erodes social cohesion; and undermines the capacity for the collective decision-making necessary for effective reform. Economic exclusion compounded by political exclusion can be a toxic mix - as a number of uprisings in recent years suggest.

Beyond income inequality, gender-related discrimination, and inequalities related to geography, ethnicity, religion, age, and disability - to name just a few - plague countries in both North and South, and are detrimental to all. Using the inequalityadjusted Human Development Index, which takes into account not only the average achievements of a country on health, education, and income, but also their distribution, the 2013 Human Development Report concludes that the average loss to human development worldwide due to inequality was 23 per cent.

The jobs crisis:

The ILO estimates that more than 34 million workers lost their jobs with the onset of the global recession of 2008, and an additional 185 million workers joined the ranks of the working poor who subsist on under US $2 dollars a day. Despite a moderate pick-up in output growth expected for 2013-14, the number of unemployed worldwide was projected to rise by 5.1 million last year to more than 202 million, and by another three million this year. Six hundred million more jobs are needed over the next fifteen years just to keep unemployment rates at their current level.

Environmental degradation, including to climate, ecosystems, and disasters associated with this:

These threaten the health and livelihoods of people around the globe. The Fifth Assessment Report of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, issued last September, considered new evidence and painted a grim picture. It noted that: "Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions."

The cost of action is high, but as Lord Stern and others have long pointed out, the cost of inaction is higher. Natural disasters, many, but not all of which are climate related are estimated to have cost $2.5 trillion this century. The poorest people and countries suffer the most impact.

War and Conflict:

The terrible events in the Central African Republic and South Sudan in recent weeks have demonstrated yet again how devastating violent conflict is for development. Syria is estimated to have lost 35 years of human development progress since its conflict began. Its crisis has spillover effects in its sub-region. The destabilisation in the Sahel following Libya's upheaval also shows how the impacts of conflict are not neatly confined within national boundaries.

The World Bank estimates that more than one and a half billion people around the world are living in countries affected by armed conflict and fragility. But the ripple effects go much further - as seen in the attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall, the London underground, the Twin Towers attack, and more. Violent conflict is a global concern wherever its origin.

As well, scarce resources needed for development are impacted on by the scale of humanitarian relief required to save life and limb where there is conflict and where peacekeeping forces are deployed. The budget for UN peacekeeping operations for July 2013 - July 2014 was more than US$7.5 billion. The force in Darfur alone costs US$1.36 billion per annum, in DRC US$1.46 billion, in South Sudan close to US$ 1 billion, and over half a billion US dollars each in Haiti and the Ivory Coast - the list goes on.

The cost of crime and citizen insecurity also has to be factored in to the challenges faced globally. Many countries have precious resources diverted from development to law and order enforcement. Funding more comprehensive and developmental approaches to tackling these problems was the subject of a UNDP Human Development Report for Latin America released late last year.

Taken together, the big challenges facing us as a global community call for a shift in the way we think about and do development: one which brings together economic and social progress with environmental sustainability, and specifically recognises the role of peace and security, democratic governance, the rule of law, gender-equality, and human rights - as was recognized by leaders last September.

As well the absolute size of the emerging economies and their populations and the interconnectedness and universal nature of global challenges mean that the full engagement of both the world's North and South are needed on new pathways to development which are sustainable and inclusive.

The Global Conversation About the Next Agenda

Although the MDGs were derived largely from the intergovernmentally negotiated Millennium Declaration, their targets and indicators were largely determined by a relatively small group of insiders.

A review of "What Makes International Agreements Work" done by New York University and the Overseas Development Institute last year concluded that, "multilateral agreements that bring a range of actors into the process to support the accord, including domestic actors like government officials and civil society groups, are more likely to be agreed and implemented." This was precisely why the UN development system's initiated the "global conversation" on what people want in the post-2015 agenda.

To date, over 1.7 million people from more than 190 countries are estimated to have been engaged - through national consultations, consultations on major themes which could be included in the agenda, and through the global MY World survey which asked people to rank their priorities for the new agenda. Among the main messages were the following:

1. Don't give up on the MDGs. Eradicating poverty and hunger, achieving gender equality, and improving health and education services remain very high in people's priorities. They want these issues to continue to be addressed directly now and in the future.

At the same time people ask that we learn from and build on the existing goals. They call for a greater emphasis on the quality of basic services — not just access to them. It is not just the number of children in schools that matter, but what they learn. People have also expressed a clear desire to 'raise the bar' for the next set of goals. In education, for example, people are calling for the next framework to include early childhood and secondary education and vocational training.

2. Tackle inequalities in all their dimensions. In the 88 national consultations, people aired their frustration with inequality in all its forms, and expressed their desire for dignity and respect for all. In recognizing the multiple dimensions of poverty, they conveyed a clear sense that our world is deeply unfair, and that the dynamics of power and exclusion have left certain people, groups, and countries behind. These groups become invisible when numbers, percentages, and rates of progress are reported. As one leader in Ghana noted, "I can't very well go back and tell my village that they are seven per cent better off than they were last year."

The clear message was that governments and all their partners and stakeholders should work to reduce inequalities between women and men, rural and urban areas, ethnic and religious groups, rich and poor, and on all other dimensions. A compelling call was made for the empowerment and advancement of women and girls, investment in their education and health, and for ensuring that their rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights, are upheld.

3. Prioritise decent work and livelihoods. Another strong call was for opportunities for decent work. People spoke of the impact of breadwinners having to leave family members behind on small plots of land, while they went elsewhere for work. They spoke of the impact on young people of a lack of work and livelihoods. People reported taking jobs — any jobs — regardless of dangerous conditions, mistreatment, or whether the job was just for a day or a few hours. The strong message was to include decent work as a core development objective in the new framework.

4. A desire for better governance. In almost all countries and across the thematic discussions, people called for more honest and effective government, and for a say in the decisions which affect them. They want governments which can deliver decent public services, manage natural resources sustainably and fairly, and facilitate peace and security. Participants from every region have, in the global MY World survey, consistently ranked honest and responsive government among their highest priorities.

5. A call for a more transformational and universal agenda. People are seeing the way the world is going as unsustainable. They cited the rapid onset of climate change and mismanagement of natural resources as reasons why their societies were becoming more unequal and less secure. They want environmental sustainability incorporated alongside economic and social development in the new framework.

People were well aware that addressing growing inequalities and unsustainable practices will require transformational change by all countries and co-ordinated global action. They want action on carbon emissions and all other forms of environmental degradation. They want the new agenda to be based on the universal values expressed in the Millennium Declaration - including human rights, equality, and justice. They want factors damaging the global economy, like excessive volatility, illicit financial flows, and tax havens operating with impunity, to be acted on. In this and other ways, the call is for a new agenda which reflects new realities and tackles shared challenges.

6. The call for an accountability revolution. Those who've been engaged in the conversation want to stay engaged to ensure that their views are taken into account, monitor the real time progress in their countries, and to hold their governments accountable for results. Echoing the Secretary-General's High Level Panel, they have called for a revolution in data, - so that regularly updated, reliable, and disaggregated data is available about their communities, countries, and world. They see a data revolution as the foundation for an accountability revolution.


The Process from here?

Since early last year, an Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, appointed by the UN General Assembly, has been meeting to formulate proposals for post-2015. It is expected to report by September this year. Parallel to that an expert group on financing for sustainable development is also meeting.

Before the end of the year the UN Secretary-General will bring a synthesis report to the General Assembly on all the inputs to date to support the Member State negotiations to be launched next September. The aim is to have world leaders agree on a new agenda at a world leader's summit in September 2015.


While much of the detailed work to establish practical goals, targets, and a supporting framework is yet to be done, a number of themes are clear.

1. "Leaving no one behind" has a lot of traction - as it should have. That could include goals to eradicate poverty by 2030, to eliminate chronic hunger, to end avoidable child deaths, to extend access to essential services like health cover to all citizens, and more.

But delivering on such goals requires reaching those living in fragile countries and remote areas, and all those affected by violence, discrimination, exclusion, and extreme poverty. Estimates of the extent of the concentration of extreme poverty in fragile states range upwards from one-third of the global total today, to projections of fifty per cent by 2018, and two-thirds and upwards by 2030. The eradication of extreme poverty cannot be achieved if parts of our world continue to be wracked by violent conflict and fragility - and by gross inequality, including that based on gender.


2. Tackling inequalities, however, is a broader agenda than "leaving no one behind." Many types of inequalities have been increasing, including where economic growth and poverty reduction have been rapid. The problem affects countries across the development spectrum. It cannot be satisfactorily addressed only by social policies endeavoring to mitigate its effects. Inclusive, job-rich growth models are needed, along with fairer sets of rules at the global level in a range of areas from trade to finance to tackling climate change. In these ways, the ambitions which post-2015 and the SDGs are likely to express are linked to progress being made in other multilateral forums and to the development of a more people-centred globalization.

3. This must be a truly sustainable development agenda, which promotes economic and social progress without wrecking the ecosystems we all depend on. Environmental sustainability must be one of the cornerstones of the new agenda, and be integrated throughout it. The growing problem of unsustainable production and consumption patterns needs to be directly addressed.

The earth's resources ultimately sustain all life. Freshwater resources will be shared between an additional two billion people and the industries which service them by 2050. Providing sufficient food, water, nutrition, and energy to all people in all countries is a pressing global challenge now. Failure to provide these basics has human development and even security implications.


Advancing the agenda; some key points

1. Target setting: The MDGs were time bound, measurable, and easy to communicate. That helps an agenda get traction. But the targets have not always been a good match with national or local contexts, because they were established as global targets and on the basis of global trends. To be most relevant, targets often need to be localized to reflect what can be achieved - which may be more or less than the indicative global targets suggest.


2. Partnerships and mutual accountability: Big partnerships across governments and many non-state actors - civil society, NGOs, academia, the private sector - are needed to make a global agenda move. Should an accountability framework go beyond the usual suspects - governments - to include the non-state actors? The High Level Panel argued that as the number and importance of non-state development actors grows, including them is essential for the effectiveness of the agenda. They suggest indicative targets to incentivise businesses, for example, to adopt transparent and green accounting practices and codes of behaviour which strengthen accountability norms.

For Member States it will be important to define what "common but differentiated responsibility" for a universal and transformational sustainable development agenda means. It could mean, for example that:

  • developing countries, particularly the poorest, look for a commitment from developed countries to provide "bedrock" public financing for sustainable development, which would be used in a catalytic way to attract and grow new sources of financing. That would mean the provision of reliable and sufficient levels of ODA, along with specific funding to enable poor countries to deal with pressing global and developmental challenges, including climate change. At some point, this must mean taking an overview of all funding streams - climate finance for addressing adaptation and mitigation, for example, is directly related to advancing sustainable development.
  • developing countries could commit to implement and fund, according to their abilities, transitions to sustainable development - raising and allocating their own resources, but with funding support for poorer countries as outlined above, and with middle income countries assuming a greater share of the burden of tackling global challenges. All developing countries, however, will want to see firm commitments made by developed countries to technology transfer, knowledge sharing, and capacity building. The developed North will also need to lead the way in adopting sustainable consumption and production patterns at home.


Sources for More Information

High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda

The World We Want
On-line consultations on post-2015 development agenda

Millennium Development Goals and post-2015 Development Agenda

Development goals post 2015: Reduce Inequality, by Lars Engberg-Pedersen
Danish Institute for International Studies Policy Brief, April 2013
Recommends national and global use of the "Palma ratio," that is, the income share of the top 10 percent to that of the bottom 40 percent.

"Righting" the Development Agenda, by Robert Bissio
Development Dialogue Paper September 2013

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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