The North-South Institute



Monitoring New Development Goals Abroad, and at Home

June 5, 2013


Ottawa Citizen

In the year 2000, world leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration, a commitment to a peaceful, prosperous, and just world. The declaration included targets for poverty reduction and development to be reached by 2015. These came to be known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Over the past decade, the MDGs have not only provided a vision for international development, but benchmarks against which development progress can be measured. As we approach the year 2015, the world is asking: what will replace the MDGs?

Last week, the High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, appointed by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, and co-chaired by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, released its report,  “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development”. The report recommends what should replace the MDGs when they expire in 2015.

Much has changed since the MDGs were conceived in 2000. Today, as many industrialized economies falter, emerging and developing economies are growing like never before. Aid remains an important resource for many low- and middle-income countries, but other sources of finance, such as taxation, foreign investment and trade are increasingly important.  The world is approaching its environmental limits, requiring all countries to combat climate change. Traditional relationships between “rich” and “poor” countries are changing.

Taking these changes into consideration, the report recommends that as of 2015, the world should: leave no one behind; put sustainable development first; transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth; build peace and effective, open and accountable public institutions; and forge a new global partnership that involves governments, communities, business, and civil society and is based on a common understanding of the inter-connectedness of our world.

A set of twelve global development goals can help the world achieve this transformation. The panel suggests: end poverty; empower girls and women and achieve gender equality; provide quality education and lifelong learning; ensure healthy lives; ensure food security and good nutrition; achieve universal access to water and sanitation; secure sustainable energy; create jobs, sustainable livelihoods, and equitable growth; manage natural resource assets sustainably; ensure good governance and effective institutions; ensure stable and peaceful societies; and create a global enabling environment and catalyze long-term finance.

Where the report differs from the MDGs is that it states that the world can end, not just reduce, extreme poverty by 2030.  By recommending goals on sustainable energy, natural resource management, jobs and equitable growth, good governance, and peace and security, the report is putting forward a considerably broader set of development goals for the world to reach.

What does this mean for Canada?

First, the report recommends that more is expected of developed countries in supporting international development.  For Canada, this would mean increasing its commitment to aid and making concrete efforts to support a fair global trading system, the reduction of illicit flows and tax evasion and a stable international financial system.

Second, the report calls for developed countries to be leaders in transitioning towards more sustainable energy, consumption and production practices. This is critical for combating climate change and securing the prosperity of generations to come.

Third, the report argues that it no longer makes sense to only monitor development progress in developing countries. The panel advocates that all countries of the world, including Canada, set their own country level targets for all the global development goals. This represents a significant shift from the MDGs, where progress was only tracked in low- and middle-income countries. Canada would be expected to set national level targets on health and gender equality, for example, and report to the United Nations on its progress.

What will be interesting to see is how Canada, and other developed countries, react to the suggestion that alongside making further commitments to global development, they also set targets for development progress at home. The report represents a huge opportunity for Canada to demonstrate leadership in developing these goals. Canada could draw on its strong track-record in supporting maternal health, food security, economic growth and gender equality through its development assistance program. Canada could share with the world its depth of statistical expertise, supporting the report’s call for a “data revolution”.  Canada could provide global leadership in engaging with the private sector on this agenda, an area where the government has already demonstrated considerable commitment.

If the MDGs are anything to go by, the post-2015 development agenda will define national and global policy for decades to come. The opportunity for Canadian leadership is there. Will Canada take it?

Kate Higgins leads the Governance for Equitable Growth program at The North-South Institute.  She recently published the report “Reflecting on the MDGs and Making Sense of the Post-2015 Development Agenda”.