Post-2015 Development Goals - International Development Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1.  The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were launched by the UN General Assembly in 2001 and cover such areas as extreme poverty (i.e. living on less than US$1.25 per day), primary education, child and maternal mortality, and HIV/AIDS. They have had great influence with policy makers in both developed and developing countries, as well as with civil society.[1] The MDGs will expire in 2015; what will replace them to be of fundamental importance.[2]

The Millennium Development Goals

2.  The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were launched in 2001.[3] Each MDG is supported by underlying targets and indicators: in most cases, the target date is 2015. The MDGs, together with some of the most prominent targets, are listed in Box 1; for a full list of the underlying targets and indicators, see Annex 1.

Box 1
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
  • MDG 1 - Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger (targets include halving, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day)
  • MDG 2 - Achieve universal primary education
  • MDG 3 - Promote gender equality and empower women
  • MDG 4 - Reduce child mortality
  • MDG 5 - Improve maternal health (targets include reducing by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio)
  • MDG 6 - Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • MDG 7 - Ensure environmental sustainability (targets include halving, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation)
  • MDG 8 - Develop a global partnership for development

Source: Official list of MDG indicators, effective 15 January 2008,

3.  The MDGs were themselves derived from the Millennium Declaration, a broad-based document adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 8 September 2000.[4] The key components of the Millennium Declaration are shown in Box 2.

Box 2
Key components of the Millennium Declaration
  • A declaration of fundamental values, including freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature, and shared responsibility.
  • Sections on the following topics:
    • Peace, security and disarmament;
    • Development and poverty eradication;
    • Protecting our common environment;
    • Human rights, democracy and good governance;
    • Protecting the vulnerable;
    • Meeting the special needs of Africa;
    • Strengthening the United Nations.

Source: adapted from United Nations Millennium Declaration, Resolution adopted by the General Assembly, 18 September 2000,

The UN High-level Panel

4.  In May 2012, the UN Secretary-General announced his intention to establish a High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda to be co-chaired by Prime Minister David Cameron, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia.[5] The Prime Minister is supported in his role as co-Chair by a cross-Whitehall Committee of officials, including representatives from DFID, DEFRA, DECC, FCO and the Cabinet Office.[6]

5.  Subsequently the Panel was established, and its full membership announced, in July 2012. The role of the High-level Panel is to present a report making recommendations on the nature of the post-2015 development framework—in other words, the successor to the MDGs.[7] The formal Terms of Reference for the Panel are set out in Annex 3.

'Sustainable Development Goals' process

6.  The importance of sustainable development has long been recognised. In 1992, eight years before the MDGs were launched, the United Nations held a major conference on the subject in Rio de Janeiro.[8] In June 2012, on the twentieth anniversary of that conference, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) took place. At this conference, separately from the post-2015 process outlined above, it was agreed to establish 'Sustainable Development Goals' (SDGs). The Rio+20 'outcome document' stated that an Open Working Group of thirty geographically representative members (nominated by UN Member States via the five UN Regional Groups) would be created with a view to drawing up SDGs.[9]

7.  This process, which is being overseen by the UN Permanent Representative of Brazil,[10] has encountered significant delays. The Open Working Group was due to be set up in September 2012,[11] yet its membership was not announced until December 2012.[12]

8.  The task of the Open Working Group will be to draw up the SDGs, and to report back to the UN General Assembly during its 68th session (between September 2013 and September 2014).[13] Amina Mohammed, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning, stated in her evidence to us that: 'We use the one secretariat to make sure that the inputs that go for both the High-level Panel and the support to the SDG working group will be given by the UN system.'[14]

Our inquiry

9.  This inquiry represents a departure from our usual work: rather than holding DFID to account for its existing work, we are seeking to contribute to a broader debate around future priorities. As a Committee, we regard the post-2015 debate as being of fundamental importance to the future of international development. This, together with the presence of the British Prime Minister in such a prominent role, was the key reason behind our decision to undertake this inquiry.

10.  Following this inquiry, we intend to remain engaged with the post-2015 development process. In the coming months, we will be publishing relevant reports on violence against women and girls and on DFID's programme in Pakistan, with a major focus on education. During the remainder of this Parliament, we will be conducting a longer-term inquiry into the future of UK development cooperation.

11.  Our report begins (Chapter 2) with a more detailed exploration of the processes by which the post-2015 development goals are being developed and the consultations which are being undertaken. In Chapter 3, we consider what the overarching purpose of the new goals should be, including consideration of the extent to which development should be integrated with issues of environmental sustainability. In Chapter 4, we assess the potential content of the post-2015 framework. In doing so, our intention is not to be prescriptive, but to set out some broad issues to be borne in mind when the framework is being developed. Finally, in Chapter 5, we assess the potential structure of the new framework, including a consideration of the role of targets and indicators.

12.  We received 82 pieces of written evidence from a wide range of individuals and organisations. Some submissions addressed the issues very broadly; others focused on particular areas of expertise (Action for Global Health UK, for example, focused on health issues).[15] We also held three oral evidence sessions. Witnesses at the oral sessions included Amina Mohammed, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning; Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, the Secretary of State for International Development; Michael Anderson, the Special Envoy to the Prime Minister on the Development Goals; and leading academics and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Finally, we are grateful to Claire Melamed, of the Overseas Development Institute, for serving as our Specialist Adviser to this inquiry, and for providing us with invaluable guidance.

1   Q 49 Back

2   Official list of MDG indicators, effective 15 January 2008, A small number of the underlying targets have target dates other than 2015: see Chapter 5. Back

3   Road map towards the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration, Report of the Secretary-General, 6 September 2001,  Back

4   United Nations Millennium Declaration, Resolution adopted by the General Assembly, 18 September 2000, Back

5   Secretary-General's briefing at Informal Meeting of the General Assembly, United Nations, 9 May 2012,  Back

6   Q 103 Back

7   UN Secretary-General Appoints High-level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda, United Nations, 31 July 2012, Back

8   United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), Earth Summit, United Nations: Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform,  Back

9   The Future We Want, UN Resolution A/RES/66/288, 27 July 2012,  Back

10   Q 11 Back

11   Q 109 Back

12   Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals: draft decision submitted by the President of the General Assembly, 20 December 2012, Back

13   The Future We Want, UN Resolution A/RES/66/288, 27 July 2012, Back

14   Q 11 Back

15   Ev w5-9 Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 22 January 2013