One of the biggest questions surrounding the fate of the international development community once the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015 is whether the follow-up development agenda — the Sustainable Development Goals — will have better implementation and results.
While there’s currently no definitive answer to this question, many development experts insist that implementation of the post-2015 agenda should be a collaborative effort. They also emphasize the need to address issues such as financing and the capacity of both donor and recipient countries that threaten to halt the progress of the SDGs before they are even rolled out.
Jean-Michel Severino, chairman of the Convergences World Forum, explained that with the dawn of the post-2015 agenda, development stakeholders should have three things in mind: prioritize development issues despite unstable domestic situations, ensure buy-in for the SDGs and accept that they will not be perfect.
“When Europe was facing an economic crisis and important political domestic consequences are taking place, many people tend to think that those big issues should wait, and may not realize that they are the core of their own recovery,” Severino told Devex Associate Editor Richard Jones during Convergences 2014 in Paris earlier this month. “I’m reasonably confident that we should probably come to an acceptable point by October 2015 when it comes to the goals: that they will not be perfect, there will be criticism.”
But Severino did stress that the international community needs to “sell” these SDGs to the public, admitting that legitimizing those goals could be an issue in the long run.
Financing the new development framework amid the general belt-tightening among traditional donors is another challenge — and the private sector could help bridge that gap.
“When we talk about what's going to happen as far as financing of the SDGs is concerned,” said Severino, “one has to recognize that the two key sources will be the domestic resources of the developing countries themselves, and private sector flows.”
He further explained that job creation will be one of the biggest development demands moving forward — something that the private sector could contribute to as well. Without this, he said, global growth will be less inclusive and less sustainable.
“If this massive group of people does not embark on the SDG agenda, if they don't understand how and why they have to change their practices, the fight for our global survival will be lost,” Severino said, adding that governments should also do their part by implementing necessary policies, regulatory frameworks and capacity-building programs.
But once the SDGs are rolled out and funding starts pouring in, will developing countries have the capacity to absorb and manage this amount of money in pursuit of development objectives?
“Absorptive capacity is a very complicated thing,” Severino said. “In purely development terms, the absorptive capacity is also related to what type of instruments that you use.”
He noted that there are “important limits” to using the “old project mode” and asserted that being prepared and up to date on the latest developments trends will therefore be key.
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