Post-2015 Development Goals - International Development Committee Contents

4  Post-2015 Development Goals: potential content

39.  As stated above, there are a number of consultation processes underway, of which full account should be taken when determining the content of the post-2015 framework. As such, whilst the evidence we received contains many suggestions for potential content, our intention in this chapter is not to be prescriptive, but to set out some broad issues to be borne in mind when the framework is developed.

The 'Golden Thread'

40.  David Cameron has long argued that successful development needed to be underpinned by a 'golden thread' of governance-related issues.[62] There has been some debate in the media as to whether, in his role as co-Chair of the High-level Panel, he will seek to incorporate the 'golden thread' into the post-2015 development agenda.[63]

41.  The Prime Minister has described the 'Golden Thread' in different ways at various different points. For example, addressing the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) on 13 June 2011, the Prime Minister said

The same conditions create prosperity the world over. They include access to markets, property rights, private sector investment… and they make up what I see as the golden thread of successful development.[64]

42.  By contrast, at New York University on 15 March 2012, he said:

I think there is a huge agenda here where we stop speaking simply about the quantity of aid, important as it is, and start talking about what I call the 'golden thread', which is you only get real long-term development through aid if there is also a golden thread of stable government, lack of corruption, human rights, the rule of law, transparent information.[65]

43.  It has been pointed out that descriptions of the Golden Thread tend to omit certain key issues such as empowerment, fairness and collectivity. During his recent evidence to the Liaison Committee, the Prime Minister agreed that these issues should be included, stating:

I think that is a very fair point... You will never, as a country, succeed unless you deal with the problems of conflict, injustice and rights. [66]

44.  We share the Prime Minister's belief that good governance is fundamental to development, and we believe that the issue must be included in the post-2015 framework. The Prime Minister has defined the 'Golden Thread' in a number of different ways. We recommend that the Prime Minster give a clear and consistent definition of what he means by the 'Golden Thread' in response to this report given its importance in his thinking on the post-2015 framework and goals. We also feel that the 'Golden Thread' would be strengthened by the inclusion of issues such as empowerment, fairness and collectivity. The Prime Minister should consider incorporating these issues.


45.  Under the MDG framework, health features in MDGs 4, 5 and 6.[67] It has been suggested that, under the post-2015 framework, there should instead be one overarching goal on health.[68] Such a goal could focus on the achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), which is defined as follows:

UHC is when all people have access to health services (promotion, prevention, treatments and rehabilitation), without fear of falling into poverty.[69]

46.  As Health Poverty Action argues, "the provision of and access to these services is a vital component of achieving the right to health for all. Universal health coverage, i.e. access to an essential package of quality health services without the risk of financial hardship associated with paying for healthcare, remains elusive to many."[70]

47.  There is a strong argument that post-2015 framework should include one overarching goal on health based on Universal Health Coverage, rather than the three health-related goals which feature in the original MDGs. This should be done is such a way that the current vital emphasis on maternal and child mortality is not lost.


48.  Employment—whether salaried employment or self-employment—is critical to development.[71] This is an issue of fundamental importance to poor people around the world. Based on household survey data from sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America, ONE argues that the poor in all these regions regard jobs as their most urgent priority.[72]

49.  Simply including employment in the post-2015 framework is not enough. Employment was, after all, included in the original MDG framework: one of the targets under MDG 1 is 'to achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people.'[73] This target suffers from two key problems: aiming for 'full employment' is somewhat unrealistic and—moreover—the target has not 'captured the collective imagination.'[74] As Michael Anderson, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister on the Development Goals, rightly argued, the task for the post-2015 framework is therefore 'to get a narrative so that the world mobilises around that [employment] with the same passion that they mobilise around maternal mortality and infant mortality.'[75] This will clearly be difficult (in the evidence we received, there was little detail as to precisely what form an 'employment' goal might take), but it remains fundamentally important.

50.  Job creation is one of the most crucial of all development challenges. Whilst the issue of employment was included in the original MDG framework, it was insufficiently prominent and failed to capture the public imagination. In the post-2015 framework, the task will be to design an employment 'goal' which captures the imagination of people around the world.


51.  Results UK argues that there has been excessive focus in many developing countries on the question of enrolment in primary education during the lifetime of the MDGs. This has led to insufficient focus on other issues: quality, completion, and transition to secondary education. Results UK argues that this was due to the underlying indicators for the MDG on education: the indicator for primary enrolment received far greater attention than the indicator for primary completion, whilst secondary education did not feature at all.[76] The importance of secondary education in developing countries is critical: we have discussed this issue at length in previous reports, whilst the Commission for Africa has also identified the importance of the issue.[77] We have also highlighted the importance of girls' education, particularly at secondary level.[78]

52.  Whilst primary education is important, this Committee has found in its work over several years in this Parliament and the last that secondary education is equally critical to development. Under the post-2015 framework education targets should cover primary enrolment, primary completion, secondary education and quality of education.

53.  Additionally, we received evidence highlighting the importance of tertiary education to development. At present only about 5% of Africans are educated to tertiary level, compared to a global average of 25%.[79] If poor countries are to build their capacity to grow their economies and provide public services, they will require more people with high quality technical and vocational qualifications and more graduates. Therefore, as the post-2015 framework is developed, the importance of tertiary education should be actively considered.

62   "Full text of David Cameron's speech", The Guardian online, 8 November 2005,; "Speech at Vaccine Summit", official site of the British Prime Minister's Office, 13 June 2011,; "Transcript of David Cameron Q&A at New York University", official site of the British Prime Minister's Office, 15 March 2012, Back

63   "David Cameron's 'golden thread' theory of development is a little too convenient", The Guardian online, 27 August 2012,; "Tax justice must be on the agenda for the post-2015 development goals", New Statesman online, 17 June 2012,  Back

64   "Speech at Vaccine Summit", official site of the British Prime Minister's Office, 13 June 2011, Back

65   "Transcript of David Cameron Q&A at New York University", official site of the British Prime Minister's Office, 15 March 2012, Back

66   Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence taken before the Liaison Committee on 11 December 2012, HC (2012-13)484-ii, Qq 80-1 Back

67   Official list of MDG indicators, effective 15 January 2008, Back

68   Ev w8 Back

69   Ibid. Back

70   Ev w65 Back

71   Q 123 Back

72   Ev 62 Back

73   Official list of MDG indicators, effective 15 January 2008, Back

74   Q 123 Back

75   Ibid. Back

76   Ev w159 Back

77   International Development Committee, Third Report of Session 2009-10, DFID's Programme in Bangladesh, HC 95-I, para 49; International Development Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2012-13, DFID's programme in Zambia, HC 119, para 44; Still our Common Interest, Commission for Africa Report 2010,, p 61 Back

78   International Development Committee, Second Report of Session 2010-11, The 2010 Millennium Development Goals Review Summit, HC 534, para 38 Back

79   Ev w135 Back

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Prepared 22 January 2013