TWN Info Service on Finance and Development (Nov12/04)
28 November 2012
Third World Network

High-Level Panel on post-2015 development framework quizzed by UN Member States

New York, 28 November (Bhumika Muchhala) – There are mixed reactions from UN member states to the ongoing work of the post-2015 High-Level Panel appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that is tasked with assembling a vision and set of core issues for the “Post-2015 development framework”.

This framework is to take the place of and evolve forward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that will be phased out in 2015. While the MDG goals will still be pursued, the role of the MDG in framing the development agenda, shaping the programmatic models and outcomes of aid disbursements and project-oriented development programs, will come to a closure as a post-2015 framework will take its place.

The High-Level Panel (HLP), chaired by the heads of state of the UK, Indonesia and Liberia, held its most recent briefing at the UN headquarters in New York on 7 November. Panel members John Podesta, Homi Kharas, Amina Mohammed as well as envoys of the UK, Indonesia and Liberia, shared the outcomes of their first two consultations with civil society and other external stakeholders.

The first consultation was held in New York in September and the second in London in October. The HLP’s final report to the Secretary General is slated for an early 2013 deadline, and will aim to coherently integrate a vast array of development themes and issues from various stakeholders.

Special British envoy to the High-Level Panel, Michael Anderson, said the Panel members have reached an agreement that a new framework should be centered on “ending poverty in our time while putting in place the building blocks of sustained prosperity.” This vision includes job-creating growth, environmental sustainability, peace and justice. However, he noted that detailed elements of this vision have not yet been finalized. Anderson said that the panel is very much in “receive mode,” and is very keen to receive good ideas.

Panel members aim to produce a report by early 2013, or within the next 6 months, that will serve as a key input to the UN Secretary General’s official report to the General Assembly. The next work agenda of the panel will focus on developing 24 framing questions, which will soon be on the HLP website. Consequently, a series of papers will aim to address topics raised in those 24 questions.

There is a strong interest emerging in creating an enabling environment for job creation and strengthening global governance institutions to facilitate growth and economic and social stability. On a macro level, the HLP is striving to produce a vision, philosophy and a strong narrative about the future, in particular by shaping and driving forward means of implementation (MOI) that go beyond official development assistance (ODA), beyond aid, and really considers the full range of partnerships involved in global development.

The post-2015 framework cannot risk being a framework that is only relevant to a small number of countries; it needs to be a global framework that also tackles the global economic crisis and other international challenges. This critical ownership can be strengthened by building connections between the global vision and global goals and nationally-set targets and priorities.

Anderson said the panel members have a strong interest in doing more for the rights of women and girls, as well as infrastructure creation and access to energy and renewable energies in particular. Inequality is also of utmost importance. Empowerment of the marginalized requires the guarantee of benefits.

Desra Percaya, Indonesia’s envoy to the High-Level Panel, said that at the last meeting of panel members, Indonesia’s President Yudhoyono underscored the importance of poverty eradication, standard of living improvements and access to key social services. This can be achieved in large part by creating and expanding job opportunities, providing accessible and affordable health, education, housing, clean water and sanitation.

The importance of decent work opportunities cannot be overemphasized, as inclusive growth rests on the principle that all people should have access to decent jobs and economic opportunities. However, in terms of the over-arching priority, Indonesia understands poverty eradication is the most important objective in the post-2015 efforts.

Indonesian envoy Percaya also stressed that the only way for the fruits of economic growth to be equitably shared is by incorporating “sustainable growth with equity” into the post-2015 agenda. The lessons learned from the MDGs present profound new challenges that underline the sustainability dimension to guarantee economic growth which does not jeopardize environmental sustainability or the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

A 4th meeting of the High-Level Panel is to be held in Bali in March 2013. This meeting will focus on the global dimension of development, particularly global partnerships and the means of implementation. Panel members attach great importance to global partnerships because the post-2015 framework can only be achieved through partnership.

The High-Level Panel has a 6-month time frame to finalize its report, during which time members will discuss ideas with stakeholders in order to ensure an inclusive process which creates a post-2015 development agenda that reflects the world’s real development needs.

Abdoulaye Dukule, Liberia’s Special Envoy to the High-Level Panel, said there will also be a meeting in Monrovia, Liberia from February 6-8, 2013. The Monrovia meeting will focus on State actors, governments, corruption, security, fragile states and ongoing conflicts in many parts of the world.

It will not be an Africa-centered discussion, but rather a part of the overall process to reach global consensus and ownership of process. Civil society participation is expected to be bold, creative, and at the same time realistic.

Liberian envoy Dukule said that President Sirleaf greatly values the process of consultation. She has been talking to a wide range of actors in Europe and is now talking to people in Europe. The Liberian President is inviting both civil society and the private sector into dialogue, focusing on those who work daily on solutions to development problems.

Member States feedback

Feedback from member states in the General Assembly displayed varying opinions and positions on the post-2015 process and substantive outcome. Bangladesh said that an excellent set of goals does not translate into real results without an institutional framework consisting of concrete means of implementation.

While the panel members talk about an agenda that is ambitious, bold and creative, the problem arrives when developing countries want to convert these nice words into goals and real results. It is necessary to reconcile being ambitious while also achieving results.

Bangladesh also said that the MDG experience is marked by a lack of achievement of many of the goals by many countries due to problems that are well-known. The key question for the panel members is how they plan to correct or overcome the achievement-gap of the MDGs in the post-2015 framework?

Nigeria stated that the post-2015 goals should consist of measurable, attainable goals with deadlines for achievement. Before the goals are formulated, some sort of an audit of key priorities, defined by the international community, which are particularly relevant to development, should take place.

It is also vital that there be harmonization of action across the UN, international financial institutions, regional organizations and members states. This kind of coordinated action should dovetail with the aspirations of MDG Goal 8 towards international cooperation for a global agenda. (There is disappointment among many developing country governments and civil society groups that MDG 8 that should have led to actions in reforming the global trade and financial system, has remained on paper.) System-wide coherence of the UN, in particular the alignment of UN governance with UN development agencies, is also important.

Nigeria stated that in their opinion, it would help if economic groupings ranging from the G8, the G20 and the G15, as well as independent member state organizations, can integrate a new post-2015 framework within ongoing policy trajectories, for example by strengthening the combat of HIV/AIDS, supporting women’s empowerment and small-scale agricultural development, especially in rural areas. Nigeria said it would like to see the Office of the Secretary General organize positions on rural development issues.

India stated that the strong focus on poverty eradication is satisfying, especially because the Rio+20 deliberations recognized poverty to be the greatest global challenge, in connection with peace, justice, security and the rule of law. It is still unclear exactly how the panel members intend to link these issues to not only the framework but also the goals. India also said that details to what exactly transpired in the London consultations would be welcome.

Russia asked the panel if it has discussed the global financial and economic crisis and its implications for the post-2015 development agenda. Russia also asked for more elaboration on how exactly the panel members are going to delineate the work on SDG formulation and the post-2015 framework.

Egypt said it is important that the High-Level Panel deliver a smooth outcome that is complementary, and not a substitution, to the intergovernmental deliberations on the post-2015 framework. Egypt asked where exactly the intergovernmental discussions fit within the panel’s process? A specific track is not clear, and while this briefing marks a benign interaction at some point a more formal interaction is required, especially in order to integrate the SDG process which member states hope to kickstart very soon.

Egypt supported India’s comment that more detail is needed as to what transpired during the High-Level Panel’s consultations, and proposed that in the next briefing member states be provided with a paper that outlines the vision of the panel and specific issues identified.

Egypt welcomed the stress on youth and decent jobs, and suggested that in the next briefing to member states the panel produce detailed means of implementation in parallel to each goal, which would create a more action-oriented framework that would avoid creating a situation like that of the panel on climate change, which has identified useful and unconventional means of implementation, from which nothing has yet materialized.

Tanzania asked the panel members what exactly they have in mind when they make reference to ownership of process. The temptation at times is to imply that the objectives will be established by the experts, while member states will be allowed to define the goals or choose which ones will be acceptable to national contexts, and then be made accountable for meeting them.

Tanzania highlighted that a key challenge of the MDGs is the lack of concerted international support in meeting certain areas of the MDG goals. How will the post-2015 framework address this challenge?

Korea said that closer interaction between the panel members and other bodies, in particular the SDG open-ended working group, when it is finally established, will be very important. There is potentially a great role for the panel in supporting a member-state driven process. Korea asked if the Secretariat’s office has a specific plan to facilitate interaction between the High-Level Panel and the SDG working group?

Japan expressed hope that the panel will be able to produce a vision and a philosophy that will provide guidance to the discussions among member states in the General Assembly next year in 2013.

Key panel members’ response

Homi Kharas, lead author and executive secretary for the High-Level Panel, said that there is a strong emphasis by all panel members to ensure that MDGs are still pursued from the current time period until 2015. The questions that naturally emerge are to what extent the MDGs should be retained in its current form if the goals are not met by developing countries by the year 2015. The evidence from the MDGs over the last 15 years will need to be factored in to the practicalities of achieving new goals, with a recognition that goals can be both practical as well as aspirational.

The question about the extent to which the panel has discussed implications for a development agenda of the recent economic crisis is important. Kharas said that while panel members have not yet had a full-fledged discussion regarding the causes of the crisis and what needs to be done, the panel does intend to discuss risks in the global economy and what impact they may have.

Kharas said there is a need to reconcile the ambition of goals with being practical and thinking about the realistic implementation for each goal. How do we actually get there, vis-à-vis jobs, livelihoods and opportunities in a context where many people are left out of general development processes.

John Podesta, member of the High-Level Panel, clarified that the highest priority for all the panel members is jobs and decent work, especially the assurance that all people, and in particulary the youth, enjoy a real measure of equal economic opportunity.

Creating decent jobs is not an easy task, there is no one magic bullet for their creation, said Podesta. It will be a spirited discussion on how best to actualize this goal into targets. Right now we know that it is essential to put an end to the isolation of the poor and to connect young and traditionally marginalized groups, especially through education, healthcare, infrastructure, energy, clean water, sustainable environment and access to justice. These are the building blocks that will take our world a long way, Podesta said, toward creating a virtuous circle of sustainable growth that will end poverty in our time.
Podesta also underscored Kharas’s comments, saying that importance is placed on building an empirical base from the MDG experience to guide the panel.

With regard to Nigeria’s comments on harmonization and UN system-wide coherence, Podesta said the private sector also needs to be brought in to the conversation, particularly on how to create mechanisms to enhance investment vehicles for finance. “That’s what I meant by thinking creatively about partnerships going forward,” said Podesta.

In response to India’s comments about the importance of peace, justice and the rule of law, Podesta said it is still premature to say what the panel will produce. However, the rich discussion taking place on these issues are contextualized in their relationship to poverty alleviation.

Podesta clarified that the post-2015 agenda is much broader than what any member state grouping or the UN system can produce. The focus on building partnerships that emphasize accountability and transparency will depend on the substantive promise of MDG 8 on global partnerships.

Podesta noted that the panelists appreciate that the post-2015 process is different than that of the MDGs, and they are deeply committed to engaging in a truly consultative process. He clarified that this doesn’t just extend to meetings, discussions and negotiations with Member States, rather, it means a real consultation with an open door to civil society, private philanthropy, young people, policy specialists, thought leaders, and most importantly to the voiceless including the poorest of the poor. Consultations need to occur not only through the formal UN process but through individual panelists and outside groups, and particularly through social media.

Podesta concluded by saying that the High-Level Panel has a responsibility to set very ambitious goals for the post-2015 agenda, but also understands that they will only be achieved if there is a collective commitment by nations across the spectrum, including the private sector and civil society.

Amina Mohammed, Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on post-2015 development planning, said the panel’s final report will be contextualized within the overall work on the Post-2015 framework, but it will also hold the highest profile of the Secretary General’s initiatives. There are two other platforms that will also be in the mix—the Global Compact, which provides opportunities for business, and the sustainable development Solutions Network for academia and science.

The Open Working Group of Member States on the sustainable development goals (SDGs), which was outlined in the Rio+20 outcome document, is not yet in operation. In the meantime, the Secretary General’s office is providing support to member states and waiting to see how both the SDG and post-2015 approaches can be coordinated and coherent.

Amina said there is widespread recognition that the topics involved in the post-2015 discourse are quite complex. The hope for the UN system at large is to “deliver as one,” she said.

Outreach is at the core of the panel’s process, not only with civil society but also with academia and science, as bringing empirical evidence into the conversation has been vital. There is a recognition that the substantial amount of work that has already been done needs to be reviewed carefully, so that the panel is not reinventing the wheel given the short timeframe ahead.

The other key process on the post-2015 framework in the UN system is that of the UN Inter-Agency Task Team’s report to the Secretary General, “Realizing the Future We Want For All.” The report’s key recommendation is that principles (human rights, equality and sustainability), broad objectives (environmental sustainability, inclusive economic development, inclusive social development, and peace and security) as well as specific goals and targets related to the objectives be embedded in an enabling environment which is characterized by elements such as a fair and stable global trading, macroeconomic and financial system, sustainable food and nutrition security, sustainable use of natural resources and democratic and coherent global governance mechanisms.

The UN Task Team proposes “a vision for the future that rests on the core values of human rights, equality and sustainability” that is “reorganized along four key dimensions of a more holistic approach: (1) inclusive social development; (2) inclusive economic development; (3) environmental sustainability; and (4) peace and security.”+