World leaders will renew pledge to meet 2015 targets on child mortality and gender imbalances, while setting future agenda
World leaders will this week recommit to meeting the millennium development goals (MDGs) and formally begin the process of designing a set of future targets after they expire in 2015.
The UN general assembly (UNGA), meeting in New York until the beginning of October, will turn its attention to addressing global poverty over the next three days.
While the MDGs have been credited for galvanising global action to reduce poverty since they were launched in 2000, and have led to significant achievements (the target to halve the number of people who don’t have access to safe drinking water has already been met), many countries are still off track to meet them in two years. The 2013 progress report on the MDGs, published in July, pointed out that progress had been uneven among regions, countries and within countries.
MDGs three, four and five, to address gender imbalances and reduce child and maternal mortality rates, are the most off track. Last week, the UN’s children’s agency, Unicef, said that despite the significant progress made in cutting child deaths since 1990, the MDG to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015 would not be achieved until 2028 without greater effort.
The 2010 deadline for universal access to antiretroviral treatment, contained in MDG six, was missed and will be unreachable by 2015 unless more action is taken. There is speculation that announcements of more money for the Global Fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, will be made in the coming days.
The UN general secretary, Ban Ki-moon, will urge member states to meet their commitments to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on overseas development assistance (ODA) by 2015 to accelerate efforts.
In a report published by the UN in August, Ban expressed concern at the drop in ODA over the past two years, as governments felt the strain of the global financial crisis. The UK is expected to meet the 0.7% target this year, joining Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands, which have already met the decades old commitment.
Perhaps more significantly this week, member states will discuss what should follow the MDGs, and put in place the process that will establish a future set of goals from 2015 to 2030.
Debate around the future development agenda began in earnest last year, after the Rio+20 confernce that called for the creation of an open working group to formulate a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs).
In August, the UN general secretary set up a high-level panel of eminent people to devise an framework for future development. The panel was chaired by Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, and the presidents of Liberia and Indonesia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono respectively.
After a series of talks in London, Monrovia and Bali, which included meetings with civil society, the panel reported back in May with 12 draft goals and 54 targets. Reflecting the themes of the MDGs, the goals included ending extreme poverty by 2030, ensuring food security and access to water, women’s empowerment, sustainable energy and protecting nature, and improving sanitation, access to education and health. But the panel took things further by including goals on access to justice, safeguarding peace and security and good governance, which have emerged as major concerns from public consultations.
The UN is holding a series of consultations to canvas public opinion on future priorities, and avoid accusations that any new goals were dreamed up by officials.
Over the past year, more than a million people have taken part in national consultations, the online My World survey, face-to-face interviews and thematic meetings. So far, the overall message is people want a new set of goals that are underpinned by the principles of human rights and universal values of justice, equality and security.
Separately, the Participate Initiative is gathering perspectives of some of the world’s poorest and marginalised people to ensure their experiences are reflected in the post-2015 debate. Participate, co-convened by the Institute of Development Studies and the Beyond 2015 campaign, will be launching its report during the UNGA that highlights the limitations of the MDGs in reflecting the reality of life for the poorest.
Key questions over the next few days will be whether future goals are universal or more targeted at poorer countries – the MDGs were always billed as anti-poverty goals that needed funding, rather than implementation, by countries in the global north – and whether there will be a single track process to formulate them, which will tie in the recommendations of the SDG working group, due to report back next year. Ban is believed to favour universal goals and a single framework, views expected to be endorsed by member states this week. A communique is expected on Wednesday.
The outcome of the following three days will be a mark in the sand for development. Hundreds of civil society groups, aid agencies, academics and representatives from the private sector are expected to be in New York to lobby members. Collating these views and coming up with a set of goals that are universally agreeable, and include universal targets on tricky issues, such as climate change, peace and security, and women’s reproductive rights, as well as finding new models to fund them, will be the challenge of the next two years.
• While member states gather at the UN, further uptown a host of celebrities and high-profile leaders will be speaking at two conferences in New York this week. The Clinton Global Initiative is holding its annual meeting in Manhattan, looking at effective ways to leverage resources for greater development impact. Guest speakers include Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, Bono, entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim, and Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF. Meanwhile, the Social Good Summit will explore ways in which technology can address global challenges.
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