Towards an overarching Post-2015 Framework and a Decent Life for All by 2030

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    The Millennium Development Goals and the follow-up to the Rio+20 Conference have been running on two parallel tracks. In a new Communication, the European Commission has called for these two interrelated debates to be brought together as soon as possible, with a view to the creation of a single, overarching post-2015 framework. The vision is for a Decent Life for All by 2030.

    Two of the most pressing global challenges facing the world are eradicating poverty and ensuring that prosperity and well-being are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. Tackling these issues is a fundamental part of the EU’s mandate for external action, as well as being equally important within its own borders. The Commission’s recent Communication “A Decent Life for All: Ending poverty and giving the world a sustainable future” (27 February 2013) addresses these two global challenges head-on and proposes a route towards a single, overarching post-2015 framework which could help bring about a decent life for all - men, women and children, no matter where they live in the world – by 2030 - the year in which children born today will start to reach adulthood. The Commission’s vision integrates the three pillars of sustainability and recognises the multi-dimensional nature of poverty, prosperity and well-being.

    Taking stock

    The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been successful in focusing both donor and developing countries on action in support of better basic living standards, and in particular in driving efforts to cut hunger, improve health outcomes and increase access to primary education and to water and sanitation. By their target year of 2015, it is expected that some impressive progress will have been recorded. Yet, millions of people worldwide will still be living below what should be considered a decent standard of living; in some countries and among some populations the situation is particularly difficult; no single MDG is likely to be reached in any fragile or conflict-afflicted state. There is therefore a need to “finish the unfinished business” of the MDGs if all people are to enjoy at least a minimally good standard of living by 2030.

    But the MDGs have also been subject to the criticism that they have not gone far enough. It is now undisputed that such fundamentals as inclusive and sustainable economic growth, access to modern energy services, a respect for the natural environment, good governance, respect for human rights, equity, equality, peace and security also have to be in place if living standards are to be raised and if people are to enjoy healthy, productive lives. These “gaps” in the current MDG framework must be addressed if we want the vision of a decent life for all to be realised by 2030.

    In parallel, and linked, is the debate on sustainable development. More specifically, the Rio+20 conference in 2012 confirmed a common global vision for an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for the planet and for present and future generations. Again, there has been progress, but challenges remain. Rio+20 set in motion various actions towards the achievement of sustainable development, including the formulation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

    Bringing the debates together

    The MDGs, their review and the debate on what will follow after their target year of 2015, on the one hand, and the follow-up to Rio+20, on the other, have so far been running on parallel tracks. But the two topics – poverty elimination and sustainable development – cannot – and indeed should not - be separated in the artificial way suggested by current international processes. To be tackled successfully, poverty eradication and sustainable development must be tackled together.

    Unsustainable patterns of development threaten to reverse the gains of recent years and make future gains precarious. Future action needs to bring together the three dimensions of sustainable development, with prosperity and well-being needing to be achieved within planetary boundaries. It is for these reasons of inter-connection and coherence that Commissioner Piebalgs, for Development, and Commissioner Potočnik, for Environment, joined forces to produce a Communication that advocates the bringing together of the MDG review and Rio+20 follow-up processes as soon as possible, thus allowing for the development of a single overarching post-2015 framework.

    Towards a decent life for all by 2030

    In terms of the precise shape of the future post-2015 framework, it is still early days. There is much debate to be held in the coming months – a debate which must involve all members of the international community: national and local governments and parliaments, international organisations, civil society, including the private sector, and academics and researchers. The Commission’s Communication suggests some principles for the framework as a contribution to this international debate.

    Firstly, the Commission recommends that the framework should be universal in its aspiration and coverage, with goals for all countries.

    Secondly, it should cover, in an integrated fashion, basic human development, drivers for sustainable and inclusive growth and development and the sustainable management of natural resources.

    Thirdly, the framework should also address justice, equality and equity, capturing issues relating to human rights, democracy and the rule of law, as well as the empowerment of women and gender equality, and peace and security; these are all vital for inclusive and sustainable development, but also important issues in their own right.

    In essence, what the Commission is advocating is a framework which covers: the unfinished business of the MDGs, dealing with basic human development needs and helping people lift themselves out of poverty; plus the elements missing from the current MDG framework, notably key drivers such as employment and decent work, inclusion, equity and social protection, sustainable agriculture and energy; as well as universal rights and values.

    Fourthly, we suggest that there should be a limited number of goals which apply universally to all countries, but which have targets respecting different contexts and which are tailored and made operational at the national level.

    Fifthly, the responsibility for achieving outcomes should be first and foremost national, but there should be a partnership among all countries and stakeholders to support action. While all countries should contribute their fair share towards reaching the goals and the goals should stimulate greater domestic accountability and resource mobilisation, including from the private sector, the EU recognises that some countries will continue to need support, including through development assistance.

    Sixthly, policy coherence for development should be strengthened both nationally and internationally.

    And finally, progress should be properly monitored, through measurable targets and indicators. Good monitoring should make use of the scientific and research base, but may also require the strengthening of the statistical base, particularly national systems.

    These principles will be debated with EU Member States in Council over the coming weeks, with a view to developing a common EU position for the various international processes and events later this year and next (such as the MDG special event in September and the work of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals). The Commission then looks forward to a fruitful and action-oriented dialogue with all stakeholders, in particular the EU’s partner countries in the EU-African and EU-ACP partnerships, in order to contribute to building of a new global consensus around a post-2015 framework that ultimately eradicates poverty, while also ensuring that well-being and prosperity are sustainable.

    As a further contribution to this international debate and dialogue on the post 2015 agenda, the European Commission, along with seven EU Member States, commissioned the European Report on Development (ERD) 2013. The ERD is an independent report, prepared by respected development researchers and academics. As policymakers, we expect that such analysis will inform and challenge us and thus help to enrich our policies. The recommendations are not binding, but we look forward to ideas and messages that can inform our own EU thinking on post-2015 as the international processes go forward.

    Klaus Rudischhauser is Deputy Director General, Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation, European Commission.

    This article was published in Great Insights Volume 2, Issue 3 (April 2013)

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