Experiences, Learning, Platform

Post-MDG Roundtable: Business as usual is not an option

For the past three months, my internship has revolved around tirelessly tracking the Post-2015 Development Agenda. If you are in the development field, you most likely know what I am referring to (if not, for shame!) but just in case I will give a quick review. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a United Nations initiative that has become a central reference point for development efforts and aid, is set to expire in 2015. As the end date approaches, the world is asking “what should come next?”

That’s where the Post-2015 Development Agenda comes in. In an attempt to build on the momentum and (debated) success of the MDGs, the United Nations is calling for contributions to shape the Post-2015 framework. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is contributing to this process – international organizations, governments, private corporations, NGOs, civil society groups – you name it. This amount of stakeholder engagement and consultation is completely unprecedented, especially in light of the fact that the MDGs were formulated in a closed-door process. Although this level of outreach is welcomed, it has made following these debates complicated and quite frankly overwhelming at times.

So now let’s get down to business. Last week, my employer hosted a roundtable discussion with Dr. Homi Kharas, Executive Secretary and Lead Author of the High-level Panel Secretariat, and Molly Elgin-Cossart, Chief of Staff of the High-level Panel Secretariat, to speak with leaders from the Canadian civil society, business and research communities in an attempt to learn more about the HLP report, and discuss its implications for global and Canadian engagement on international development.

Dr. Kharas began this discussion by providing us with an overview of the HLP report outlining its vision, the consultation process, the proposed framework, and the importance of this agenda in light of the changing global context. My greatest take-away from this portion of the discussion: business as usual is not an option!

Populations are exploding, natural disasters are becoming more frequent, resources are becoming increasingly strained, carbon emissions are causing global temperatures to rise, and half of the world’s poor live in conflict affected countries. These can no longer be considered ‘developing country’ problems – in an increasingly interconnected world these are global problems that need global solutions. That is why the high-level panel (HLP) report proposed a truly universal post-2015 framework that is relevant to and actionable by all countries. They suggest that the post-2015 goals and targets should be embedded within the national plans of every country (both developed and developing), and that unique national targets should be developed through a national consultative process. This differs greatly from the implementation of the MDGs.

After Dr. Kharas completed his presentation, he engaged in a meaningful discussion with various members of Canada’s development community including representatives from the Aga Khan Foundation, Oxfam, Unilever, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and International Development – to name a few.

Below I will touch on three of the main issues that were discussed during this roundtable.

1. Is change in the face of uncertainty possible?

It is likely that the final Post-2015 Development Agenda will be significantly bolder, broader, and more transformational than its predecessor. Is such an agenda even possible in an age of such uncertainty and fragmentation? Economies are under stress, demand for resources is on the rise, and north-south relations are evolving – How can we ensure that the post-2015 process stays on track, and does not go down the same road as global climate change and international trade negotiations?

2. Potential of the ‘data revolution’

The HLP report calls for a ‘data revolution’ to improve the quality of statistics and information available to track development progress. In my opinion, this initiative is much needed and if executed correctly has the greatest potential to help people in developing countries achieve transformative and lasting change. However, this is only possible if the data generated through these efforts reaches people at the local level, who can then use this information to hold decision makers to account.

3. Political buy in

Strong leadership will be essential to realizing the post-2015 agenda. Some representatives questioned whether the post-2015 development agenda will be able to generate the necessary political support to provide such leadership. Dr. Kharas promptly responded “this train is already leaving the station, with or without governments!” Many non-state stakeholders – including businesses, civil society, philanthropy, international organizations – have already demonstrated strong leadership on this agenda, and will continue to do so. That being said, governments will be on-board: states are clearly recognizing that development and self-interest are increasingly aligned, and that such an agenda is in the best interest of all countries.

Overall, it was a fascinating discussion. Afterwards, we hosted a reception where I got to listen to some juicy stories about the HLP consultation process (which I unfortunately can’t disclose!) and got a chance to talk with Dr. Kharas. As an intern, I couldn’t engage much in the conversation, but just being in a room with HLP members and Canada’s development leadership left me star struck I probably wouldn’t have said much anyways. Even so, I was happy to learn more about what the post-2015 development agenda will mean for Canada, and I hope anyone who is reading this will look into what it means for their country and the future of development policy as well!

For more information on the evolution of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, check out this ‘Tracking Post-2015 Tool (http://cidpnsi.ca/blog/portfolio/tracking-post-2015/ ) that organizes, visualizes, and analyses global Post-2015 proposals as they are released.