UN Panel Outlines Recommendations for Post-2015 Development Agenda

6 June 2013

The world should aim to end extreme poverty by 2030, according to a report released last week by a UN panel tasked with advising on a post-2015 development framework. The report aims to advise on the direction of a global development agenda when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in two years' time.

The 27-member "High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons" that authored the report was formed last year by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and was co-chaired by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Along with holding multiple substantive meetings, the group also solicited input from a range of actors across several different forums, including internet consultations and face-to-face meetings, as it conducted its preparations. (See Bridges Weekly, 11 April 2013)

The report issued last Thursday outlines five "transformative shifts" that are needed for driving a post-2015 agenda, with one of the most ambitious being a goal to end extreme poverty - defined as the number of people living on less than US$1.25 per person per day - by 2030. The MDGs had attempted only to halve that number by 2015.

"This is something that leaders have promised time and again throughout history," the panel said. "Today, it can actually be done."

However, to reach such a goal, the panel stressed that sustainable development must be "at the core" of any post-2015 agenda, particularly given the potential for climate change to affect the world's poorest. "The cost of taking action now [on climate change] will be much less than the cost of dealing with the consequences later," they warned.

In order to meet the goals highlighted within the report, the panel also noted trade's potential to affect efforts at pursuing sustainable development. Inclusive growth, they said, must be supported by a global economy that encourages "development-friendly trade."

"More than aid is needed to implement sustainable development worldwide," the panel said, calling for increased engagement with the international trade system and faster trade-related reforms

Overall, the final report outlines 12 universal goals, with an accompanying 54 targets. The goals focus on topics such as poverty, gender equality, quality education, food security, universal access to water and sanitation, and natural resource management, among others.

Civil society response

The report has garnered a mixed response from civil society groups. While many have supported the report's goal of ending extreme poverty and the increased attention on the links between environment and development - which many had seen as lacking in the current MDGs - criticisms have been raised by some around the fact that no standalone goal exists on tackling inequality.

"The panel has failed to recognise the growing consensus that high levels of inequality are both morally repugnant and damaging for growth and stability," Oxfam Deputy Advocacy and Campaign Director Stephen Hale said in a statement. Development economist Andy Sumner, meanwhile, cautioned recently in remarks to The Guardian that the report's goal of ending poverty can only be met "if inequality falls," prompting questions concerning the absence of an inequality-specific goal.

Others have cited the report's perceived lack of detail regarding how to actually meet the specified goals and targets. The report's interaction with the current progress of the Rio+20-mandated Open Working Group (OWG) on the Sustainable Development Goals - a separate process also meant to feed into the post-2015 agenda - has also left some with fears over wasted efforts and duplication.

Next steps

While the release of the report marks the end of the High-Level Panel process, work still remains with regards to actually negotiating a concrete set of goals to succeed the MDGs.

The outcomes of both the OWG and High-Level Panel process are expected to merge either in September this year, when both groups report back to the UN General Assembly, or when the OWG programme of work comes to an end next year.

ICTSD reporting; "The good, the bad and the ugly in the long-awaited UN development report," THE GUARDIAN, 30 May 2013; "New UN goals call for end to extreme poverty by 2030," THE GUARDIAN, 30 May 2013.

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