International Development CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Save the Children UK

A. Summary

1. Save the Children is the world’s independent children’s rights organisation. Save the Children works in more than 120 countries. We save children’s lives. We fight for their rights. We help them fulfil their potential.

2. We have consulted widely across Save the Children’s international membership in order to bring as complete a response as possible to this consultation. As an organisation with children’s rights, values and principles at the core, we believe that a post-2015 development framework must be based on universal and equitable development, with the human rights principles of universality, equality and inalienability underpinning it. Furthermore, unlike with the MDGs, these principles must be visible in the objectives established. It is also important to note that Save the Children as a global organisation is in the process of formulating its official position on the most appropriate post-2015 framework. The views expressed in this answer reflect the current consensus among Save the Children members, and may evolve as we develop our official positions. Save the Children is a participating organisation in the Beyond 2015 campaign and as such this submission complements that of the campaign.

B. Lessons learned from the adoption of the International Development Targets and the Millennium Development Goals: in particular how effective has the MDG process been to date?

3. By focusing political energies and development resources, the MDGs have contributed to considerable reductions in income poverty and child mortality, increased primary school enrolment, and improved female attendance at school. Within the space of a decade, the number of out-of-school children has dropped by more than 38 million;1 meanwhile the number of children under five dying has dropped from 12.5 million to 6.9 million per year.2 MDG 6 on reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS and MDG 1 on halving extreme poverty are on track to meet their 2015 targets.3

4. Academics tend to attribute the success of the MDGs to their ability to focus political attention upon a few key development areas, like universal primary education or child mortality.4 As a result of this simplicity the MDGs have also demonstrated remarkable longevity. Ten years old, the MDGs are still on the global agenda, actively pursued by governments and a substantial part of the development dialogue. In a range of countries, the MDGS are the biggest point of reference that we use in our advocacy work and, in comparison to the past, probably the most effective framework.5

5. In spite of their achievements the MDGs have been criticised. The way in which many of the targets have been pursued has been contrary to human rights eg providing services and opportunities to the easy to reach (the “low hanging fruit”), rather than those most in need.6

6. Save the Children’s report, A Fair Chance At Life, argued that failing to consider equity within development approaches was hampering progress. If the 42 developing countries that account for over 90% of child deaths all took an equal approach to cutting under-five mortality, and made progress across all income groups at the same rate as for the fastest-improving income group, an additional 4 million child deaths could be averted over a ten-year period. In addition working to achieve aggregate targets, like a two thirds reduction in child mortality (MDG 4), whilst leaving the poorest children behind “violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the goal.”7

7. Broader critiques of the MDGs have been expertly summarised by Jan Vandemoortele:

The basic criticism against the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is that they represent a reductionist view of development. They are too limited in scope; their definition is too narrowly focused on the social sectors; their sectoral fragmentation leads to vertical silos; their emphasis on quantification is excessive; and that they omit fundamental objectives contained in the Millennium Declaration, such as peace and security, human rights, democracy and good governance, and the protection of the most vulnerable.8

8. Many human rights advocates not only point out the absence of human rights language but the fact that the highly selective goals and targets fall short of states’ pre-existing obligations under international human rights standards.9

9. Save the Children has expressed its concern about the absence of child protection in the current MGDs.10 There is evidence that the widespread violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation that children face is hindering progress against the current MDGs, and the sustainable social and economic development of countries.11 The continued prevalence of child labour for example is a significant obstacle to achieving universal basic education.

10. The MDGs have also been critiqued for failing to consider and monitor the unique challenge of poverty alleviation in conflict-affected and fragile states. Taking the definition of a fragile state used by the Department for International Development (DFID), fragile states account for only one-fifth of the population of developing countries, but they contain a third of those living in extreme poverty, half of children who are not in primary school, and half of children who die before their fifth birthday.

C. How should the “Sustainable Development Goals” being established following Rio+20 relate to the development goals being considered by the High-Level Panel?

11. Sustainability, of natural and financial resources, presents critical challenges to development progress and poverty eradication for the current and next generations and must be central to the post-2015 development framework.

12. As the HLP are expected to present their recommendations in advance of the Open Working Group process established following Rio+20, the HLP should consider sustainability issues in their report, which should form the basis of subsequent OWG recommendations on specific sustainable development goals. These two processes should feed into a single intergovernmental decision-making process within the UN to deliver a unified, comprehensive post-2015 development agenda, covering all issues of critical importance to development and poverty eradication beyond 2015, including sustainability.

D. The coverage of future goals: should they be for developing countries only or should progress be monitored in all countries?

13. First and foremost, the post-2015 framework must focus on the needs of the poorest people, wherever they live. In this regard, high and middle income countries have obligations towards low income countries in their trade relations, their financial, energy, agricultural policies and so on, to “do no harm” to the development prospects of other countries. And all governments have similar obligations towards their own populations to ensure equitable progress between income quintiles, population groups, gender etc.

14. The scope of the new framework must therefore be global if it is to truly address the global challenges faced by the poorest people in the world, wherever they are. It should be guided by the principle of common-but-differentiated responsibility whereby every country has obligations, but those obligations may differ to reflect the country context and the nature of what is being achieved.

15. A global framework will enjoy greater legitimacy and acceptance than one which is not. It would ensure global recognition of global responsibilities, and contribute to ending the antiquated “North-South dichotomy”. Mechanisms will need to be established to this end including a monitoring mechanism and a means for redress.

E. The process: are the right voices being heard? What are the opportunities for and constraints to global consensus?

16. To ensure legitimacy, the development of the post-2015 framework must be completely open and transparent, participatory, inclusive and responsive to voices and expertise of those directly affected by poverty and injustice. While we welcome the different strands of consultation planned by UN agencies, including national level consultations, we are concerned that the current process may fail to adequately seek out and respond to the voices of the poorest and most marginalised people and those that will be most affected by a next generation development framework, including today’s children. As detailed in the Beyond 2015 submission, Save the Children is working within Beyond 2015 on a research initiative called Participate.

17. Achieving global consensus will be a complex political task and will, we believe, require commitments from all global players to deliver a truly cooperative effort to advance development and the eradication of poverty after 2015. The HLP must establish its global legitimacy by seeking out the voices of those in poverty and truly represent the views they receive, including from developing country governments and the vocal G77 +China group.

F. Targets: was the MDG “target-based” approach a success? Should it be retained? How should progress be measured?

18. The specificity of the goals, targets and indicators of the MDG framework was one of the strengths of the MDG framework and has facilitated focused and coordinated effort and greater accountability of governments and development actors. While the positive aspects of the concrete, measurable and time-bound goals, targets and indicators of the current MDG framework need to be retained, a future framework must reflect our greater understanding of the complexities involved in achieving development objectives, including the risk of increasing inequalities.

19. In line with the principle of common-but-differentiated responsibility, the more detailed layers of the framework—such as targets and indicators—should be differentiated according to country context and needs (and further differentiation as appropriate). In this regard, attention also needs to be paid to increasing disaggregation according to vertical inequalities (eg, income deciles) and horizontal ones (eg, age, gender, geographic location etc).

20. To ensure accountability for progress and suitable commitments from governments, interim targets should be set (eg, every 2–5 years).

G. Financing global goals: are new mechanisms needed?

21. International aid has been vital in delivering the progress achieved against the current MDGs to date, and will continue to play an important role in achieving development objectives in the post-2015 period, particularly for low-income and fragile states.

22. International aid is, however, only one part of a balanced approach to development. A combination of different types of financing, depending on the country context, will be the most appropriate solution. A comprehensive financing strategy which considers the role of the various forms of financing—domestic tax revenues, ODA, south-south cooperation, private sector investment, innovative financing and so on—will be crucial to the success of the future framework.

23. The development impact of aid allocation should be improved by adequate rules for procurement, untying development assistance, etc. It should recognise that, looking to the future, domestic resource mobilisation should be strengthened in developing countries, as well as addressing illicit capital flight from countries and the mispricing practices of large multi-national companies.

24. Adequate funding for a comprehensive sustainable development framework also implies a reallocation of resources and rebalancing of economic and social policies to address disparities, inequalities and specific challenges such as environmental sustainability.

H. The role of the private sector and other non-state organisations

25. It is critical that a future development agenda engage and involve the private sector. But the private sector is not a monolithic bloc and ranges from micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through to large multinational corporations (MNCs).

26. While many MNCs are beginning to accept that producing in a sustainable manner, using local producers and relying on responsibly sourced raw materials is in their longer-term interest, sustainability is yet to be embedded in all core business operations. There is currently no coherent framework to steer private sector efforts towards agreed goals. Businesses can also have negative impacts on development.

27. Standards and principles tend to be voluntary and fail to capture broader economic and social impacts and issues, such as tax avoidance and evasion, which are best addressed through legislation on transparency. The new framework should help to focus private sector energies towards the contribution they can make as well incentivise legislation to limit the negative impacts of business activity.

I. Timescale: what period should the new framework cover? Was the 15-year timescale for the MDGs right?

28. Many of the current challenges to global development, particularly environmental challenges, will take many years and decades to adequately address, while political cycles dictate short timeframes in which governments can deliver commitments. To account for both factors, we propose the framework set goals to be achieved “within a generation”—by 2030–35. To ensure accountability for progress and suitable commitments from governments, milestones for every 2–5 years or so should be considered for each target.

J. The content of future goals: what would be a good set of global goals? What continuity should there be with the MDGs, and how should the unfulfilled MDGs be taken forward?

29. Save the Children is currently working across its international membership to develop a detailed post-2015 proposal. There is a clear view across the organisation that, in designing a global framework which will necessarily focus on issues of global concern, it will be important to retain a focus on human development via the social sectors, such as health, education, food security and nutrition, with clear, measurable targets. A clear focus on livelihoods, including decent work and supportive measures such as social protection, should be included in the future framework.

30. The post-2015 framework should build on the successes of the MDGs on human development, but extend the goals to ensure that we not only alleviate poverty, child mortality, poor educational enrolment and so on, but actually eradicate these unacceptable conditions. Critical will be ensuring an equitable approach that specifically addresses the vulnerability and deprivation of marginalised and excluded groups. Some proponents are referring to this approach as “getting to zero”.

31. Our detailed proposal is currently being developed. An indication of our preliminary thinking is included in the table below:

Goal cluster

Some example goals and targets (all tbc)

Human Development, with sensitivity to environmental sustainability

Poverty reduction through inclusive growth and decent work

Reduction of income inequalities (and commitment to monitoring of equitable progress throughout)

Eradication of preventable child deaths

Quality education learning target

Food and water security

Targets related to child protection from conflict and sexual violence

Disaster resilience

Sustainable energy for all

Governance & Peace Building

Transparency (eg, global transparency initiatives, such as EITI, IATI, and budgetary transparency)

Accountability, including for implementation of human rights obligations

Participation targets—population able to and participating in electoral and budgetary processes

Peace building (eg, conflict resolution, access to justice)

Global Partnership for Development

Commitments related to sustainable and responsible global financial system, including ODA targets

Policy coherence for development


32. Save the Children believes that a number of overarching principles should guide the development of a meaningful, global framework:

(a)Putting human rights principles at the heart of the framework, to deliver equitable results, focusing particularly on the most marginalised communities and groups of people. An “unequal distribution of development outcomes is neither inevitable nor acceptable.”12 In addition to being more subject to inequality, children are also more vulnerable to inequality than adults owing to their unique life stage: even short-term deprivations can have lifelong consequences (such as a poor diet).13

(b)Improving security and protection—violence and abuse, insecurity and conflict blight the lives of hundreds of millions of children every year. To be meaningful, a future framework must address the interlinked challenges of conflict, insecurity and poverty.

(c)Increasing sustainability—the future development agenda must ensure the sustainable management of scarce resources, sustainable consumption and production patterns, promote domestic resource mobilisation and tailor the allocation of resources and economic and social policies to address inequalities and people’s well-being and quality of life.

(d)Ensuring the participation of all stakeholders, including children, in decision-making processes as well as in the monitoring of the implementation of the future framework will be fundamental for improving governance and accountability and transparency.

(e)Ensuring accountability and transparency. The future framework must include accountability mechanisms which hold governments and all other actors (such as the private sector) to account for the full range of commitments and for their future actions, as we have outlined in response to Question H.

October 2012

1 UNESCO (2010) “Education Counts: Towards the Millennium Development Goals”, Education for All, Global Monitoring Report, UNESCO: France.

2 UNICEF (2012) “2012 Progress Report on Committing to Child Survival – A Promise Renewed”.

3 United Nations (2011) “The Millennium Development Goals Report 2011”, The United Nations: New York.

4 Manning, Richard, (2010) “The Impact and Design of the MDGs: Some Reflections” IDS Bulletin, Volume 1, Number 1, January.

5 Save the Children (2012) “Aspirations for a post-MDG Framework based on the Experiences and Perceptions of Save the Children”, unpublished internal research.


7 Save the Children (2010) “A Fair Chance At Life: Why Equity Matters for Child Mortality”, Save the Children: London.

8 Vandemoortele, Jan, (2011) “If not the MDGs, then what?” p. 1.

9 Centre for Economic and Social Rights (2010) “The MDGS A Decade On: Keeping the Promise, Fulfilling Rights”,

10 Save the Children (2012) “Aspirations for a post-MDG Framework based on the Experiences and Perceptions of Save the Children”, unpublished internal research.

11 Save the Children, EveryChild et al (2010), “Protect for the Future, Placing children’s protection and care at the heart of achieving the MDGs”, Save the Children: London.

12 After the Millennium Development Goals: setting out the options and must haves for a new development framework in 2015, Save the Children, April 2012.

13 Growing gaps, narrowing opportunities: Tackling inequality to give our children a better future, Save the Children, forthcoming 2012.

Prepared 21st January 2013