Mixed reactions to post-2015 development agenda talks

Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, co-chairs of the United Nations High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda during discussions in London in November 2012. Photo by: Patrick Tsui / Foreign & Commonwealth Office / CC BY

The last of three United Nations high-level panel talks on a post-2015 development agenda was concluded on Wednesday (March 27) in Bali, Indonesia, as civil society and aid groups greeted the meeting’s communiqué with mixed reactions.

“The importance of addressing inequality is not clearly seen in this document,” said Nicole Metz, the Netherlands-based policy advisor on the post-2015 agenda for Oxfam International.

Neil Datta, the secretary of the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, told Devex that while the communiqué is a “promising start,” he is concerned that it lacks substance.

“For whilst the environment, the economy and sustainable development are all put at the centre of the panel’s vision, there is not yet any reference to global health, gender equality or population dynamics in their vision,” Datta wrote in an email.

The two-page communiqué lists five development areas that require progress and that the agenda should reflect: reshaping and revitalizing global governance and partnerships; protecting the global environment; better managing consumption and production patterns; strengthening means of implementation; and improving the accountability measures for tracking progress and delivery gaps.

Neva Frecheville, co-chair of the global civil society campaign Beyond 2015 welcomed the news that the new development framework should be “based on the principles of equity, sustainability, solidarity, respect for humanity and shared responsibilities.” However, she and fellow co-chair Mwangi Waituru were “concerned that human rights are not being given necessary prominence” and asserted that these rights would not be consigned “to the margins of a people’s post-2015 development agenda”.

Minh-Thu Pham, the director of policy for the United Nations Foundation, noted that these topics — global governance, accountability and environmental sustainability — were all preset agenda topics for the Bali meeting.

Indeed, the communiqué’s lack of language on human rights and inequality — gaps that Save the Children also criticized — may not offer a clear reflection of the final analysis and recommendations the HLP will issue in a report this May, Pham told Devex.

“This is just one meeting of the panel, looking at one set of issues,” she said. “It’s just one ingredient of a dish — and it is a very important one — but I do not think these are really their conclusions. It is more a sense of what their discussion was.”

Still, Pham said that the communiqué treats inequality in a bold, forward-thinking manner.

“It is saying that we have to have this data revolution. A lot of experts say that the original MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] didn’t take into account vulnerable populations …  because we didn’t have the right data to track what is happening with these populations,” she said. “So for the panel to say we need this revolution to track the numbers and to see what is happening with these populations, that is the way most experts say we should be addressing this.”

Economic divisions between the global North and South also are at play in the document, as it addresses the importance of regulating tax havens and illicit financial flows.

“It is really interesting and positive to see addressing tax havens and financial flows featured. It shows the high-level panel is willing to look at and address the global community, not only southern or developing countries,” said Metz, of Oxfam International. “It shows [the HLP is] looking at the global causes of poverty and how to address them.”

One point Metz said she would have liked to have seen is a mention of citizen accountability, which she said factored heavily in civil society talks in the lead-up to the Bali meeting.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia and co-chair of the 27-member HLP, reportedly called for enhanced emphasis on eradicating extreme poverty in Bali and said the talks marked a turning point in agreements.

Indeed, Neva Frecheville of Beyond 2015 was cautiously optimistic that the HLP has “started to create a narrative for the discussions and negotiations for the next two years.”

Following the May report from the HLP, Ban will issue a report in September that will focus on the eight MDGs. Pham, of UNF, said the importance of continuing to track and try to meet the development goals currently under way should not be undermined.

“What people should be paying attention to right now is how to we meet the MDGs. The credibility of a post-MDG framework or new set of goals is dependent on how we will do on these MDGs,” she said. “We don’t want to take our eye off the ball and for the world to think, ‘Well, we didn’t do so well on these, so we will come up with a new set of goals.’”

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About the author

  • Amy Lieberman

    Amy Lieberman is the U.N. Correspondent for Devex. She covers the United Nations and reports on global development and politics. Amy previously worked as a freelance reporter, covering the environment, human rights, immigration, and health across the U.S. and in more than 10 countries, including Colombia, Mexico, Nepal, and Cambodia. Her coverage has appeared in the Guardian, the Atlantic, Slate, and the Los Angeles Times. A native New Yorker, Amy received her master’s degree in politics and government from Columbia’s School of Journalism.

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