The global development community, it’s often said, is at a crossroads. If that is so, the crossroads, this week, is located in New York City.
Thousands of public, private and nonprofit leaders descend on Manhattan this week for a series of high-level events that include the annual United Nations General Assembly, Clinton Global Initiative and Social Good Summit.
Here are 10 things to watch out for this week as world leaders negotiate the future of international development cooperation.
1. The post-2015 debate
This week marks the first time world leaders will meet face to face to discuss a global development blueprint crafted earlier this year by a high-level panel on the behest of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The proposal, released in May, rang in the next phase of negotiations for an development plan to succeed the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
The report’s two main causes — eradicating extreme poverty and transforming economies through sustainable, inclusive growth — have been praised universally, but the aid community is divided on which goals should be prioritized with little more than two years to go before the MDGs deadline.
The proposal’s authors, especially panel co-chairs British Prime Minister David Cameron, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyo, will lead the charge this week in trying to convince world leaders that a global plan is worth pursuing, despite though it would make ratification more difficult if strict environmental standards were part of it. Civil society leaders will speak out in support at various events across Manhattan.
The action heats up on Monday already at a high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals for persons with disabilities. On Wednesday, the United Nations hosts a special event to review efforts made towards achieving the MDGs.
2. Syria’s humanitarian crisis
President Bashar al-Assad may have turned over data on his government’s chemical weapons, but fighting continues in Syria and aid experts say there’s no end in sight for what may be the world’s largest ongoing humanitarian crisis.
More than 2 million Syrians have fled their homes to seek shelter from the fighting between military and rebel forces, and many of them have crossed borders to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and other neighbor countries. As they struggle to accommodate the influx of refugees, tensions are growing not just between displaced people and their new neighbors, but also between governments — including key players such as the United States, Russia and China.
In New York, and especially at the General Assembly debate, which starts Tuesday, expect more calls for al-Assad to expand humanitarian access, step down or be tried for war crimes, and more warnings from U.N. agencies and other aid groups about the catastrophic consequences a prolonged period of conflict and food insecurity will have on the region.
3. Standoff with Sudan
Just two years ago, when South Sudan was formally granted independence after decades of civil war, many thought it was the beginning of the end of conflict in the region. They were wrong.
Violence continues in Darfur and border areas like South Kordofan and Blue Nile in Sudan, where the number of aid groups have been dwindling as complains multiply about a lack of safety and access to the most volatile areas.
Last week, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir vowed to defy an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court in The Hague and speak before the General Assembly. His appearance would surely create a stir and prompt demonstrations near the United Nations headquarters and elsewhere.
4. CGI blues?
Shortly before celebrating its tenth anniversary this month, the foundation set up by former U.S. President Bill Clinton was caught in a media storm over its finances and management. Clinton himself dismissed the claims, but the buzz continues, and it could end up overshadowing this year’s gathering of the Clinton Global Initiative at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Manhattan.
That said, CGI remains the place for corporate leaders to hobnob with social entrepreneurs and government officials. Expect major announcement by McDonald’s and other corporate giants like Pfizer, Gilead Sciences or the Rockefeller Foundation, an appearance by U.S. President Barack Obama, and plenty of gossip about the presidential ambitions of Hillary Clinton, who together with her husband and daughter Chelsea now leads the newly renamed Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
5. Global Fund replenishment
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria is about to complete its last funding cycle. Ahead of the fund’s replenishment conference in November, Executive Director Mark Dybul will travel to New York to generate goodwill from donors.
The Global Fund says it needs at least $15 billion to continue its work over the next three years, but pressure is mounting from donors to accelerate reforms and boost value for money, despite calls from top philanthropists like Bill Gates to support the organization.
New York won’t provide Dybul with all the answers, but it’s a crucial milestone on the way to replenishment.
6. Business meets development
Last week’s U.N. Global Compact Leaders Summit had one clear takeaway: The business community wants to be more than a welcome source of funding whenever traditional aid groups struggle to pay; it wants to help determine the global development agenda.
At CGI, that call will find many supporters — the event, after all, is geared toward business. And even at the United Nations and the many side events hosted by nonprofits like Women Deliver and the ONE Campaign, no one will deny that private sector investment in the developing world dwarfs foreign aid.
But few mechanisms exist for the United Nations to engage business in the crafting of a post-2015 global development agenda, and many aid workers remain highly skeptical of the private sector’s impact on development. Bridging that gap will be a major theme way beyond this week.
7. Maternal and child health
At the U.N. General Assembly two years ago, Ban launched a global strategy to improve maternal and child health. Since then, dozens of developing countries have advanced plans to overhaul their health systems and improve the quality and availability of care.
And yet, MDGs 4 and 5 — which focus on maternal and child health — are proving to be among the toughest to reach.
On Tuesday, this cause will be the focus of events hosted by “Every Woman Every Child,” a global movement spearheaded by Ban to mobilize and intensify global action to improve the health of women and children around the world.
8. Water, energy poverty
The world is running out of drinking water and natural resources to fuel the machines that serve our daily needs.
On Monday, End Water Poverty will present a petition signed by more than 1 million people for world leaders gathered in New York to take immediate action on providing sanitation and safe drinking water for all, and incorporate the cause in a post-2015 global development framework. The U.N. General Assembly is expected to pick up the issue this week.
On energy poverty, African leaders will have the chance to meet with high-ranking U.S. officials to discuss Power Africa, Obama’s multi-billion initiative to expand electricity access on the continent. U.S. lawmakers are negotiating who will pay for what, benefitiaries are waiting to know the final details of how the program will be hashed out in their countries, and the private sector is closely analyzing the fine print to decide if electrifying Africa is a good investment or not.
9. EU aid priorities
European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs is in New York to lobby for a rights-based approach for international development that focuses on inclusive, sustainable growth in line with the Rio+20 global sustainability agenda.
Piebalgs and his European colleagues are expected to push for the adoption, by 2015, of one global framework for development — a tough feat given the highly diverging interests represented at the United Nations. This week will be an important milestone, also for Piebalgs, who is preparing to host Europe’s largest development event, the European Development Days, in Brussels at the end of November.
Devex will be catching up with Piebalgs early this week in New York, so stay tuned for our exclusive interview with the development commissioner.
10. Tweet what?
Thousands of people descend on New York this week, but much of the action can — as so often these days — be followed online, through livestreams and tweet-offs, Google Hangouts and YouTube clips.
Online advocacy is a major part of New York #globaldev Week, and it’s anyone’s guess which cause will cut through the clutter and win that coveted spot on the list of “trending” Twitter topics.
Last year, a group of African first ladies began to tweet about the importance of family planning and empowering women. This year, one of the social media stars is expected to be Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager and education activist who will tweet for the first time on Monday to officially launch the Malala Fund and celebrate the upcoming release of her book “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” on Oct. 8.
You can follow Devex on Twitter and Facebook, and find comprehensive coverage of New York #globaldev Week here.
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