Last week at the ONE Campaign, we welcomed U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's “synthesis” report, which sets out his vision to help guide U.N. member states toward final agreement of the post-2015 framework.
Ban addressed the burning need to arrive at a focused and concise agenda by introducing six essential elements for delivering the goals: dignity, people, prosperity, planet, justice and partnership. To have real impact, the sustainable development goals must be understood by ordinary people from all over the world, so that they can demand progress and hold their governments to account. Ban’s assessment is a decent first step toward making sure everyone in the “global north” and “global south” — from the village market to the U.N. plaza — can understand what the goals mean for them.
The report is clear that we must carry through a high level of ambition into 2015. It is time for us to charge into next year and ramp up the fight to end extreme poverty by 2030, and here are three opportunities to do that even before we finalise the new goals.
1. The new development agenda could mean the end of preventable newborn, child and maternal deaths. And we don’t have to wait for the September reboot to start making that happen. At the end of January, world leaders have the opportunity to step up and help deliver that reality at the Gavi pledging conference in Germany. Fully funded, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance can provide vaccinations that could save 5 million lives over five years. Progress has been made in other vital areas of health care too — ONE’s recent AIDS report, launched last week, shows that we have reached a tipping point in the history of the disease, with more people newly added to AIDS treatment in 2013 than those who became newly infected with HIV. This is a historic, but also a fragile achievement. Shoring up these gains means building stronger health systems that can also stop the worst effects of diseases such as Ebola.
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2. In his report, Ban urges us to recognize that we will not realize our full potential if half of humanity continues to be held back. Building on the idea that this is a “century of women,” the African Union’s Year of Women's Empowerment starts in January. We know that boosting agricultural growth and improving the incomes of small-scale food producers is one of the most effective paths out of poverty, especially in Africa. Focusing on women in particular makes strong economic sense. In sub-Saharan Africa, around two-thirds of women are employed as smallholder farmers, yet they continue to face profound barriers equal participation and productivity, entrenching their poverty. There is a huge opportunity here to ensure that Africa’s agricultural growth spurt leaves no one behind — especially women. The Beijing +20 conference in March will also focus the world’s attention on accelerating progress on women’s empowerment.
3. A third critical opportunity next year is the Financing for Development conference to be held in Addis Ababa in July. Addis is a key moment for countries and other partners (including the private sector) to show they are serious about investing resources into smart development priorities. The level of ambition inherent in the SDGs will require governments not only to turn words into action on their financial commitments, but also to rewrite the rules — at national and international level — helping to unleash further resources currently trapped in a black box of dishonest deals. The resources raised by governments of developing countries must be boosted — including through international action to curb illicit financial flows — and channeled through transparent national budgets towards meaningful impacts on the lives of the poorest. And aid needs to be better focused on the poorest: ONE is calling for half of all official development assistance to go to least developed countries. Financing is not all that’s needed — but without the cash, the goals cannot be delivered. This is why enhanced transparency and vastly better data on revenues, expenditures, private flows and indeed all financial resources will be a critical measure of success in the F4D outcomes.
Ban Ki-moon has laid down a solid next step in the right direction. We must now make sure that we keep our eyes on the ultimate destination: the end of extreme poverty by 2030.
The many international events and processes happening next year may seem at times complicated, confounding and bureaucratic — but they are crucially important. Done right, if their grand promise is actually delivered, they will help ensure that no one is left behind in the new global development agenda, that citizens the world over have the resources and the information they need to build better, more prosperous and more dignified lives.
In the Gavi replenishment, the focus on women’s empowerment, and the Financing for Development summit, we have three major opportunities to kickstart progress towards the new goals before the ink is even dry on the paper in September 2015.
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