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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Principles for a global development agenda beyond 2015

We live in an epoch characterized as the Anthropocene in, which the impact of our species on the planet is analogous to the forces of nature such earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In our quest for food, fodder, fibre and energy we have fouled the atmosphere, warmed our planet, degraded our soils, polluted our water systems, cleared forests and savannas and exterminated animals and fishes. 

We have conquered space. With airplanes we have put time and distance in chains. Today you have more computing power in your smartphone than the Apollo Guidance Computer, which provided computation and electronic interfaces for guidance, navigation and control of Apollo 11. But tonight hundreds of millions are hungry and malnourished. Millions will die of preventable diseases. Islands of odious wealth in our society are engulfed in a sea unconscionable poverty. In many societies women and ethnic minorities are staggered by the winds of discrimination. For many, government delivers not hope and security but despondency and tyranny. For migrants, cities deliver squalor and peril.

On May 30, 2013 UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon launched the report of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 development agenda. The report provides a framework for a new global partnership to end poverty and transform economies through sustainable development.

The 27-member Panel led by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and British Prime Minister David Cameron proposes 12 goals and 54 targets. I find this exhausting and unremarkable. What puzzles me is that like in the current MDGs, poverty eradication endures a priority goal. I am puzzled because poverty is a symptom, often of deep structural dysfunction, which cannot be tackled in isolation. However, we owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who made their voices heard in face-to-face meetings with the Panel.

It is especially laudable that the Panel has defined five big, transformative shifts for a Post 2015 development agenda. These the five big transformative shifts inhere in the common vision outlined by world leaders at the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012. To specify the 12 goals and 54 targets is in my view an overreach. I suggest that the UN work with governments and citizens to commit to the five transformative shifts, which are essentially principles for a new global partnership for sustainable development post 2015.

Here are the five principles, which I believe should drive the post 2015 development agenda, with government and communities setting their own goals and defining measureable, achievable and time bound targets.

Leave no one behind: This principle imagines a more equitable and inclusive society and commits governments to ensure a level playing field in the provision of basic services such as education, health, access to finance as well as reaching out to excluded groups and building resilience through social protection.
Putting sustainable development at the core: The idea here is that government, business and private citizens must transform the way we use the earth’s resources to produce food and the creature comforts we relish. A critical plank of this principle is valuing and accounting for natural capital and shifting our economies to a green growth pathway.
Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth: This is not even remotely implied in the current MDGs. At the core of this principle is the audacious idea that growth must be sustainable, inclusive and equitable. An essential ingredient for economic transformation is providing high quality education and building the skills of the youth. This is a pre-requisite for creating opportunities for decent jobs and secure livelihoods, which, is key to reducing poverty and social inequality.
Building open and effective, open and accountable institutions: At the heart of this is the notion that governments everywhere must the transparent, inclusive, accountable and responsive to the needs of their citizens. This principle underscores the fact that good governance and strong public institutions, which uphold peace and the rule of law are critical to setting a stable socio-economic context for sustainable development.
Forge a new global partnership: The idea of this new vision for global partnership is to engage government, international organizations, business, civil society, scientist and academics, foundations and social impact investors in a framework of action, beyond aid, to achieve sustainable development. This partnership must provide a better way to link knowledge, technology, finances as well policy and institutional capacity.

Imagine what the world would look like if all of us committed to these principles. 

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