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Sunday, December 2, 2012

What Next After the MDGs Expire?

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) emerged at meeting in New York in September 2000. 189 heads of state agreed on eight ambitious goals, including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary school education and reducing childhood mortality rates.

Over the last 12 years, the MDGs have influenced the flow of financial and technical aid. The MDGs have also shaped national development priorities and planning in a majority of developing countries. Here in East Africa, national vision statements of the five East African Community countries resonate deeply with the MDGs.

But the MDGs are set to expire in 2015. As the deadline approaches, and furiously so, a fundamental question begs; what next? Even as I ask this question, I am mindful that it took 10 years to formulate and agree on the current MDGs as framework for international development. I am also mindful that in a majority of African countries, hunger and poverty endure millions of African children die before their fifth birthday, women still constitute the majority of the Africa’s poor and 800 African women die every day owing to complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

What really should happen post 2015? Some options are being bandied about: extend the deadline for the current MDGs; build and consolidate, based lessons learned, existing MDGs; in a bold paradigm shift, frame a new model for global development.

In January 2012, the 22-member Panel, established by the Secretary-General in August 2010 to formulate a new blueprint for sustainable development submitted its report. The report, “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing”, noted that he world is not yet on a sustainable development path and that progress is neither fast nor deep enough, and the need for further-reaching action is growing ever more urgent.

More importantly, the report notes that world faces new and powerful drivers of change, among these are: global patterns of resource consumption; resource scarcity; climate change; gender and income inequality; global financial crisis; urbanization. However, Sara Best of Oxfam International described the High Level Panel report as “weak medicine for a life-threatening diagnosis”. 

In July 2012, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the 27 members of a High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The Panel is co-chaired by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.  At a recent meeting in London, the Panel noted the importance of reflecting the changed world in any new global development framework, taking into account the new global development challenges including sustainability, inclusive growth and productive capacity, conflict, gender equality and women’s empowerment, and global partnerships.

The conversation about what shape the global development agenda takes is not a monopoly of the United Nations General Assembly. Civil society is active and engaged in the post-MDG debate. According Beyond 2015, a global civil society campaign, a new global development framework must take into account the shortcomings of the current MDG approach, especially its limitations in addressing structural causes of poverty, inequality and exclusion. Beyond 2015 further suggests that a new framework for international development must specify enforceable accountability mechanism at the national, regional and global level.

The debate on a new framework for global development presents an opportunity for a paradigm shift, which goes beyond the limited – development expert and donor aid dominated – paradigm that created the framework of the current MDGs. This is the time to think about creating an enabling environment for robust private sector growth, especially in Africa. This is the time to think about the role of public-private partnership and explore the modalities for incorporating entrepreneurial and inclusive business models in a new framework for global development.

A new framework for global development must not be solely about a new paradigm and new goals. It must also be about consolidating the successes and lessons of the past decade. Moreover, Africa has a huge amount of unfinished work before we can embark on sustainable development. Come January 2016, millions of Africa’s children and women will still be dying from preventable causes. Millions more will still be hungry.

For Africa a new global development framework must put women first. African women are the emblematic face poverty. Putting women first means prioritizing education and increasing access to high-quality health care. Significant reductions in child and maternal mortality in recent years are attributable to women’s literacy. Recent studies have demonstrated a strong positive correlation between early child development and literacy of a mother.

Most importantly, the global community must re-new its commitment to reducing green house gas emissions. Dealing with the challenge of global climate change is the most important down payment for our planet’s sustainability.

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