Post-2015 Development Goals - International Development Committee Contents

3  Post-2015 Development Goals: the purpose

29.  There is widespread agreement that the MDGs have been, broadly speaking, a success. At the same time, progress on some of the Goals has been limited, and there is a need to address additional areas which the MDGs neglected. This chapter addresses these issues in more detail.

Building on the MDGs

30.  It is generally accepted that the MDGs since their launch have provided a useful focal point for development policy:

a)  In his written evidence, Lawrence Haddad argues that the MDGs have led to an increase in levels of Official Development Assistance (ODA), and an increase in the proportion of ODA which is directed towards sub-Saharan Africa.

b)  He also argues that some donor countries—particularly Scandinavian countries—have placed great emphasis on the MDGs.[48]

c)  Moreover, the simplicity and measurability of the MDGs has enabled them to resonate with people and governments across the world (see Chapter 5).

d)  In her oral evidence, Eveline Herfkens, former Minister of Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, told us that:

It has been so important for the goals that they were signed on to by every head of state and head of government in every country in the world. The empowerment of civil society in developing countries comes from the fact that their own government, at the highest level, has signed on to it.[49]

31.  The MDG targets to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and to halve the proportion of people without safe drinking water have been achieved already; there has also been significant progress towards the targets for completion of primary education; and gender equality in primary and secondary education. It should be noted, however, that targets are global in scope, rather than relating to specific countries. As such, progress against MDG targets can mask significant inequalities between countries. Broadly speaking, progress has been strong in East Asia, the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean; less strong in South Asia; and weakest of all in Sub-Saharan Africa.[50]

32.  Moreover, progress towards some other MDGs is significantly off-track. In particular, progress towards the targets for infant mortality, maternal mortality and sanitation is lagging.[51] In these areas, there will be considerable 'unfinished business' to address after 2015.

33.  One of the key purposes of the post-2015 framework must be to build on the successes of the MDGs and where necessary to 'finish the job'. The successes of the MDG framework derived primarily from the fact that the MDGs had great resonance around the world: with governments, with civil society organisations and with ordinary people. If the post-2015 framework is to achieve similar success, it must retain these qualities.

Interaction with 'Sustainable Development Goals' process

34.  There is much discussion about the extent to which the new goals should differ from the MDGs. This debate has implications for the content of the new framework (see Chapter 4), but it also has broader implications. More specifically, there is a debate as to whether the post-2015 'development' agenda should be merged with the 'sustainability' agenda. This, in effect, would entail merging the post-2015 framework with the 'Sustainable Development Goals' (see Introduction).

35.  The Gates Foundation argues that the new framework should 'have extreme poverty as its core focus.'[52] It has been reported that some organisations are reluctant to see the agendas merged, for fear that this core focus might be lost. CAFOD, in spite of its own support for a merged framework, acknowledges that 'A lack of trust in the international system, coupled with successive disappointments at international summits, has left key governments with little confidence that an integrated process will deliver their priorities.'[53] Additionally, the Brazilian and Egyptian representatives at the UN have argued that there should in fact be two separate sets of goals.[54]

36.  However, the majority view is that the end result should be one combined set of global goals, covering both post-2015 and sustainability agendas.[55] Paul Ladd, Head of Team on Post-2015 at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), argued that:

From our perspective, we see very many occasions whereby progress on extreme poverty, which is what the MDGs were about, is now inseparable from many aspects of the natural environment, whether it is access to energy, access to water resources, or the use of ecosystems. Increasingly, it is becoming somewhat difficult to separate these issues for poor people living in poor countries.[56]

Furthermore, in his evidence to us Lawrence Haddad, Director of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), argued that:

we now [...] recognise that there are trade-offs between generations and we somehow have to deal with the inequality within generations, at the same time as we are dealing with it across generations. If you have two ways of reducing poverty that are equally effective and one uses less resources than the other one, you need to know which one is using less resources and do it.[57]

37.  Integration of the two agendas need not necessarily mean having a specific 'sustainability' goal within the post-2015 framework. Instead, it might mean including sustainability as a component part of all the post-2015 goals. Lawrence Haddad, of the Institute of Development Studies, suggested that resource use and emissions should be factored into each individual goal.[58] Others have suggested the concept of 'planetary boundaries'—i.e. 'the environmental limits which human activities should stay within.'[59] In its written evidence, the ESRC Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre argues that 'Planetary boundaries can be understood as defining a 'safe operating space' for humanity within which development goals must assist societies to steer.'[60] The Planetary Boundaries Initiative, in its written evidence, suggests a number of possible goals based on this concept, such as the following:

the goal could be an adequate supply of safe drinking water for all, achieved within the local and regional boundary for freshwater appropriation for each area. According to the recent 'GEO5' report (p97) the planetary boundary for human consumptive blue water use—hen used groundwater and surface water is not made available for reuse in the same basin—is estimated to be 4 000 km3 per year, with current consumptive blue water use estimated at approximately 2 600 km3 per year.[61]

38.  We recommend that issues of sustainability be incorporated into the post-2015 framework. Poverty reduction and environmental sustainability are intimately connected: the task of the present generation is to meet development challenges without compromising the interests of future generations. As such, we believe that the arguments for merging the two agendas are stronger than the arguments for having two separate sets of goals. One option would be to include one specific goal on sustainability issues in the post-2015 framework. Ideally, however, sustainability should be included as a component part of a number of the post-2015 goals.

48   Ev 55 Back

49   Q 73 Back

50   Ev 44 Back

51   Ev 44 Back

52   Ev w19 Back

53   Ev 77 Back

54   Ev w127-8 Back

55   Ev 72, w2, w132, w187 Back

56   Q 25 Back

57   Q 82 Back

58   Ibid. Back

59   Ev w137 Back

60   Ev w54 Back

61   Ev w138 Back

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Prepared 22 January 2013