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Opinion

Getting Behind Global Development Goals

March 26, 2013

by KATE HIGGINS (NSI)

Ottawa Citizen

Did you know that in 2000, world leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration? A commitment to a peaceful, prosperous and just world, the declaration included targets for development and poverty reduction, to be reached by 2015. These eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)  focus on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, HIV/AIDS reduction and environmental sustainability in developing countries, and include one goal that covers rich countries’ commitments to aid, a fair trade and financial system, technology transfer and debt relief.

So how did we do? According to the UN’s 2012 Millennium Development Goals Report, some goals will actually be achieved by the 2015 target date. For example, the share of people living on less than $1.25 a day has fallen globally from 47% in 1990 to 24% in 2008, which is a fantastic achievement. The world is on track to meet the targets for access to safe drinking water and parity in primary education between girls and boys. But progress in other areas has been disappointing. Hunger remains a global challenge and maternal mortality numbers are far from what they should be. What’s more, according to recent reports, aid, or money that is transferred from richer countries to poorer ones to support development and poverty reduction, fell in 2011 for the first time years.

As the 2015 target date fast approaches, what comes after the MDGs is on everyone’s mind. The High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda is meeting this week, from March 25-27, in Bali, Indonesia, and will submit their report to the UN in May this year. The panel, co-chaired by the President of Indonesia, the President of Liberia and  the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has been asked by the UN Secretary-General to “prepare a bold yet practical vision … on a global post-2015 development agenda”, with the fight against poverty and support for sustainable development at its core.  In addition to this, the UN has convened 11 thematic consultations and a number of country-level consultations to get feedback on what should come after the MDGs, and has launched a global survey for citizens, called MYWorld, to capture people’s opinions on what the post-2015 priorities should be.

The Post-2015 Development Agenda will greatly affect international development for decades to come.  But to be fit-for-purpose the agenda will need to focus on more than poverty reduction in developing countries, and will require  commitments from developed countries, like Canada, that go far beyond aid. As the North-South Institute’s series with OpenCanada highlights, given global warming, and the implications of this for the world’s most vulnerable people, the Post-2015 Development Agenda will need to prioritize sustainability and climate change. With trade and investment as such important drivers of development, a global development framework that doesn’t expect rich countries to commit to fairer trade rules, and support investments that create jobs and revenue for developing countries, just won’t cut it.  With inequality now recognized as one of the biggest problems facing countries across the globe, the Post-2015 Development Agenda should tackle inequality head-on.  Keeping up with the competing priorities and proposals on post-2015 is not easy.  At the North-South Institute, we’re doing our best to keep track with an interactive tracking tool that thematically organizes and analyzes post-2015 proposals made to date.

2015 may seem like a long way off, but the wheels for establishing the Post-2015 Development Agenda are in motion. The process itself will consume time, energy and money, and critics will surely question its relevance in a context of diminishing aid resources. But this is a crucial process that shouldn’t be ignored. Based on the MDGs experience, it’s likely that the Post-2015 Development Agenda will play a huge role in determining how we go about meeting our commitment to a peaceful, prosperous and just world.  And that’s an effort I can get behind.