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Beyond the MDGs: What Development Framework after 2015

19 March 2013 | New Delhi

In 2000, all member nations of the United Nations had pledged to achieve eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. These goals formed a blueprint for the development agenda of the world and set forth specific targets to be achieved in education and health and eradicating poverty and hunger. In the run up to 2015, the United Nations and its agencies, subsequently, launched a global conversation by which people can help shape the future development agenda after the MDGs expire. The ideas from these conversations will help the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons (HLP) set up by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to advise on the post-2015 development framework.

As a part of these conversations, the Global Development Network organized an online survey and a day-long consultation meeting in New Delhi on 19 March, in cooperation with the HLP on the post-2015 MDG framework titled ‘Beyond the MDGs: What Development Framework after 2015?’ Watch the video of the panel.

The consultation meeting focused on two main themes: livelihoods, employment and social protection; and water, sanitation, health and sustainability. It included a workshop with experts and academics in the morning and an open high level policy dialogue in the afternoon. Over 80 participants from across Asia, Africa and Mexico attended, including policymakers from India, academics and representatives of the major international organizations, civil society, donor agencies and the media.

Abhijit Banerjee, Professor of Economics at MIT and GDN Board Member, and Andris Piebalgs, EU Commissioner for Development represented the HLP, while Abhijit Sen, Member, Planning Commission and Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, India, provided insights into the Indian policymaking process, especially the interplay between global and national agendas concerning development goals and plans.

The discussions deliberated on redefining MDGs to account for the synergies and interlinkages between the goals and the complexities of poverty reduction, social inclusion, inclusive growth, and the need to ensure sustainability of progress. It pointed out that the new framework, while continuing its focus on poverty reduction, should also seek to foster inclusive and sustainable growth and reduce vulnerability of marginalized groups – such as people in conflict areas – and ensure equal access to opportunities.

The forum witnessed a rich discussion on the role of institutions in each session. The need for accountability, better governance, the rule of law, the role of technology, and the need to enhance the role of the private sector in the global development agenda, was stressed upon. The gathering also expressed concern about corruption and misallocation of funds.

In reference to global challenges, Andris Piebalgs said "Among global challenges, the climate change is a challenge that clearly goes beyond country borders. It’s an important challenge for the HLP to take up. Climate change will affect access to food, food security, etc. It is an issue you cannot avoid. All others you could say are regional."

Gender issues, particularly, equity, domestic violence, empowerment of women, education of women and maternal health, and their links with sustainable development, garnered great attention. It was agreed that there was a need to formally introduce a goal focused on gender in the post-2015 agenda. The human rights aspect of MDGs was also noted and a strong case made for including law and policy in the future framework.

Livelihood, health, water and sanitation were highlighted as key issues of unfinished business, despite significant progress under the current MDG framework. It was realized that there was a need to move from just focusing on quantity towards quality. Andris Piebalgs emphasized that access to clean drinking water was a goal in itself.

The discussions, interestingly, underlined the role of the interlinkages and synergies between goals and the potential trade-offs involved in pursuing one over the other (i.e. investments in infrastructure versus social policies, or poverty reduction through accelerated inclusive growth versus environmental sustainability, or better jobs versus more jobs). In this regard Abhijit Bannerjee said "We want everything but that is not possible. For example, it would be great to have energy for all but it would also be great to reduce carbon intensity, but the two are not possible together. We have to make choices, we can’t go with the view that we want all of them. The only option out is to develop technology."

Last, but not least, the fundamental issue of the actual benefit of identifying MDGs was discussed to decide on the progress that could be attributed to the MDGs as opposed to domestic policies that would have taken place even without the MDG framework. It was agreed that MDGs were an important tool for policymaking, allowing governments and policymakers to focus attention on a few key priorities widely accepted as a minimum threshold for development. MDGs provided a global framework for shared responsibility for development, both in terms of financing and in terms of policies.

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