The Post-2015 Development Agenda: An Ambitious Goal or Imperative for Action?

by Laura Boyette and Teodora Mihaylova

mdgs

How effective is the current global development agenda? What needs to be done differently going forward? How can we set goals that are more attainable and sustainable?

In 2000, at the dawn of a new millennium, the United Nations laid out an ambitious global development agenda known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which seeks to resolve some of the most pressing international challenges of our time: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, improving maternal health, reducing child mortality and promoting environmental sustainability, among others. Happily, the world has made some exciting progress toward achieving these goals.

The MDGs will expire on December 31, 2015 and a new set of principles will replace them. In order to face these new challenges, the United Nations once again created a panel to debate the needs that face our world post-2015. In May of 2013, the panel released their report.

At a recent talk at Georgetown University, Chair of the Center for American Progress John Podesta argued that five fundamental shifts have taken place since the inception of the current standards in 2000.

First, new standards should be inclusive and leave no one behind by targeting the factors that perpetuate extreme poverty, such as corruption, lack of education and access to resources, inequality, and prejudice. Secondly, these goals should integrate the principles of sustainable development. Third, the new standards should transform economies for inclusiveness and job creation. Key areas of improvement will be tackling high levels of youth unemployment and ensuring that the benefits of economic growth are being shared among all members of society.

The fourth principle is that peace and stability are essential components of any development strategy and their absence hinders economic and political development. The panelists note that 40 percent of persons living in extreme poverty inhabit conflict-ridden countries. Finally, the post-2015 agenda should launch a new global partnership that is inclusive of and accessible to all countries.

The MDGs have been effective in reducing extreme poverty, but more work remains to be done. The percentage of people living on less than one dollar per day has dropped from 1.9 billion to 1.2 billion people since the launch of the MDGs and the hope is that extreme poverty can be eradicated in the next decade. The challenge that remains is to craft a new global development agenda that is inclusive and sustainable, and reflects the shifts that Podesta identifies. In a recent blog post, Anna Nadgrodkiewicz writes that the UN High Level Panel’s report emphasizes a broader set of themes that were not sufficiently stressed in the original MDGs, such as property rights, which are of paramount importance in eradicating extreme poverty, and empowering girls and women. The focus on traditional flows of aid from North to South also does not reflect the growing importance of South-to-South exchange of knowledge, expertise, and trade.

Measuring extreme poverty and understanding how countries compare to one another has become a lot easier with the advent of the data revolution. While rankings such as Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index and the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report enhance our understanding of countries’ political and economic progress, they lack nuanced portrayals of challenges facing people on the ground.  At a time when the West is embroiled in its own economic and political crises, the need for global leadership is paramount, and Podesta and the other panelists identified a need for the United States, the European Union, and China to lead the way on the important issues of the day.

Central to Podesta’s arguments is the issue of providing stable jobs to the youth of today, as in many countries the largest percentage of the population is under 30. Where youth are disenfranchised and unemployed, seeds of unrest are sure to be planted, and poverty and conflict will never be defeated.

CIPE has long recognized this need and worked toward engaging the world’s youth in economic and political reform, as well as instilling in them an entrepreneurial spirit essential to creating the jobs and economic welfare essential to their nations’ development. Furthermore, CIPE works in strengthening the business environment in order to stabilize economies and create the opportunity for more democratic processes of government. The panelists identified the important role the private sector plays in fostering economic growth and job creation, reflecting CIPE’s longstanding work on entrepreneurship-driven development.

As the panelists at Tuesday’s event all agreed, it is not enough to treat the symptoms of poverty — we must also address the root causes, which lie in global institutions and practices.

Laura Boyette is Program Assistant for Global Programs at CIPE. Theodora Mihaylova is Research Assistant at CIPE.

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