International Development CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by UNICEF UK


1. Key lessons learnt from the MDGs and recommendations for the post-2015 framework


1.1 The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have focused unprecedented attention and resources on human development and poverty reduction and helped to shift the development agenda beyond economic growth.1

1.2 Evidence shows that sustained investments in people, especially in children and the most disadvantaged, yield the greatest returns for poverty reduction and can be very cost-effective.2 Countries cannot achieve sustained growth and shared prosperity without investing effectively in their people, above all their children.

Recommendation: Economic growth and human development, including sustained investments in children, must go together in the post-2015 framework.

Values and principles

1.3 Although the MDGs were aimed at realising and promoting the values outlined in the Millennium Declaration, the Goals became too detached from the Declaration and the principles of equity, social justice and human rights.

1.4 The Millennium Declaration defined seven key objectives: peace, security and disarmament; development and poverty eradication; protecting our common environment; human rights; democracy and good government; protecting the vulnerable; and meeting the special needs of Africa. However, the MDGs focused primarily on ”development and poverty eradication“. The post-2015 framework must account for the importance of all these dimensions for truly sustainable development.

1.5 The post-2015 process provides an important opportunity to reconnect human rights, equality and sustainability with development. These principles should underpin the post-2015 framework.3

1.6 The Millennium Declaration, A World Fit for Children (adopted by the UN General in 2002) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child have already been endorsed by most governments and should be reaffirmed as guidelines for the pursuit of future, inclusive progress. The human rights principles of accountability, participation, universality and non-discrimination should be explicitly recognised for their central relevance to the practical policies and strategies by which development goals are pursued.

Recommendation: The post-2015 framework should reaffirm the Millennium Declaration, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and A World Fit for Children and be underpinned by human rights, equity and sustainability.


1.7 The lack of an inclusive process in developing the MDGs has been widely criticised. The post-2015 framework must be broadly understood and owned at both the national and local levels. To achieve this, participation should be central to the post-2015 agenda—in the process for agreeing the new framework, in its design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

1.8 The post-2015 agenda should strongly encourage countries to use participatory research and community-based monitoring to identify who the most marginalised and deprived are, and the reasons why their rights are not being met. Understanding who the most vulnerable populations are and where they reside is critical to being able to more effectively reach these populations with programming and policy instruments.

Recommendation: Participation should be a central principle in the design, implementation and monitoring of the post-2015 framework.


1.9 One of the key successes of the MDGs stems from their simple, concise, multidimensional, time-bound, measurable format, which has helped to focus and set development priorities and provided a common, shared agenda. This format has enabled progress to be monitored by robust indicators, which also result in an increased focus on strengthening data quantity and quality.4

Recommendations: The post-2015 framework should:

Emulate the simple, time-bound, multidimensional, measurable format of the MDGs.

Include a small core set of global goals which will be able to command widespread popular support. The goals should be outcome-focused.

Include a “menu” of targets, which can be adapted according to varying national context.

Incorporate a range of feasible, tested and cost-effective standard indicators in each goal area, for which data can be readily collected and compared across all countries.

Include guidance on the “means” to achieving the goals, based on global standards and international best practice.


1.10 The MDGs failed to integrate or address inequality. Furthermore, the focus on national and global averages to measure progress masked a highly uneven rate of progress within and across countries and regions. Substantial, and in some cases growing, inequities exist within and between countries, with the poorest and most marginalised often benefiting least from progress.5

1.11 The emphasis on national aggregates also meant that countries could be on track to meet goals, whilst the poorest and already most marginalised people populations fell further behind. In some cases this also led to efforts and resources being concentrated towards those who were easiest to reach.6


Tackling inequalities should be a central principle and objective of the new framework.

All the goals and targets should be universal, in accordance with human rights principles of universality and non-discrimination.

All of the indicators should be disaggregated, based on the most common forms of inequality in each goal area (such as gender, wealth, location, disability, minority status).

The new framework should include i) measures for sustained improvements in national statistical capacities, including to enable data disaggregation and analysis; as well as ii) measures to support and enable people to set their own goals and monitor progress and improvements in their own lives, at the local level.

Equity-focused approaches should be promoted as a means to achieving the goals.

One size does not fit all

1.12 The MDGs were never meant to be a global agenda for human development to be pursued by all countries uniformly, but were widely interpreted as such. The emphasis on global targets failed to account for varying national contexts and starting points, which resulted in the perception that some countries have failed on the MDGs, despite making substantial progress.7 The adoption of the global targets without tailoring them to suit different national contexts also led to a lack of attention to, and failure to reach, the most deprived populations.

1.13 The post-2015 framework must not aim to be a one-size-fits-all framework. It should be flexible and dynamic, with targets that can be tailored by each country to suit varying local contexts and starting points. Furthermore, it must be innovative in tackling the particular risks and uncertainties faced by children and women in conflict-affected, disaster-prone societies and in countries with weak or fragile public sector capacities.

Missing issues

1.14 At the same time as mobilising and galvanising support for the issues included in the MDGs, the MDGs have been criticised for oversimplifying complex development issues, and being too reductionist. Many of the issues which were left out of the MDGs have struggled for attention and resources.

1.15 Issues such as inequality, climate change, urbanisation, peace and security, protection for vulnerable groups, child stunting, disability, reproductive health, vulnerability to disasters, malnutrition, changing population dynamics, and human rights were inadequately addressed in the MDGs. Many of these issues have undermined and even threaten to reverse progress towards the MDGs.

Recommendation: The post-2015 framework must address the most pressing development issues which were missing from the MDGs and which threaten to undermine, or even reverse progress.

Climate Change

1.16 Climate change is one of the greatest development challenges facing children. The unaddressed impacts of climate change could undo progress already made towards the MDGs—in health, child survival, education, water and more. In sub-Saharan Africa, climate changes have altered growing conditions for crops, which in turn has affected livelihoods, nutrition and child survival—all key development goals. Climate adaptation such as developing hardier crops is crucial to the development of sustainable, climate resilient livelihoods. Adaptation is not just a response to climate change; it is a means to development. The MDG Summit in September 2010 reaffirmed this point, stated that “addressing climate change will be of key importance in safeguarding and advancing progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.”

1.17 Bearing in mind that many existing development challenges still need to be addressed in the post-2015 framework, integrating climate will be essential if we are to achieve development that enables all children to survive and thrive. Climate change must therefore be considered in the context of any target and thematic area of a post-2015 framework- so that development will be truly resilient and able to withstand climate changes.

Recommendation: Climate change considerations (and in particular adaptation) should be mainstreamed within any post-2015 framework.

Disaster Risk Reduction

1.18 As a result of increasing climate change and trends such as increased urbanisation and land degradation, communities, and especially children, in developing countries are increasingly vulnerable to natural hazards and resulting disasters.

1.19 Humanitarian emergencies and preparedness for these were not addressed by the MDGs, despite its importance for communities to be able to withstand stresses and develop to their full core to any post-2015 framework, if such a framework is to truly deliver transformative change.

Recommendation: Disaster-resilient development—starting with poor families and communities—should be a core principle of any post-2015 framework.


1.20 The absence of a mechanism for citizens to hold their governments to account for progress towards the MDGs was a major omission. Although some governments incorporated the MDGs in national development objectives and allocated resources for programmes and monitoring accordingly, others did not. MDG 8 “Develop a global partnership for development” has been particularly criticised for its weak accountability mechanisms,8 and many of the targets remain unfulfilled which has impacted on progress towards the other goals.

Recommendation: Accountability must be a central feature of the post-2015 development framework, including in relation to development finance and the responsibilities of all countries. Accountability mechanisms for progress and performance monitoring must be built into the framework and should be based on transparency, and the involvement of families and communities themselves.9

Continuity with the MDGs

1.21 There is unfinished business with the MDGs in terms of goals not yet achieved, people not yet reached, and major commitments in the Millennium Declaration unfulfilled. Efforts must be accelerated between now and 2015 to meet the MDGs, and the new framework must aim to finish the job they started—for example to get to zero in preventable child and maternal deaths.

Recommendation: The post-2015 framework must deliver on the unfinished business of the MDGs, with a particular emphasis on reaching the most vulnerable and marginalised populations who have been left behind.

2. How should the “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) being established following Rio +20 relate to the “Development Goals” being considered by the High-Level Panel?

2.1 Sustainability has fundamental intergenerational implications at its core. It is about building pathways to development which safeguard the natural environment and provide the best possible outcomes for children now, as well as future generations.

2.2 If the post-2015 framework is to be truly transformative and ensure development outcomes for children everywhere, it must be based on strong sustainable development principles.

Recommendation: Sustainability considerations should be core to the discussions of the post-2015 High-Level Panel to ensure that sustainability is considered not just in the SDGs but in all aspects of the post-2015 framework.

3. The coverage of future goals

3.1 While the MDGs have generally been understood and interpreted as relevant for the poorest countries and regions, evidence shows that global poverty patterns have changed and the majority of poor people now live in middle income countries.10 The dichotomy between so-called donor countries and aid recipient countries which characterised the MDGs is also becoming less relevant.11

3.2 Furthermore, in virtually all countries there are significant groups among whom children are unable to realise their full potential and rights and inequality remains a global issue. Challenges such as child poverty, child protection against violence and adolescent development are evident in all societies.

Recommendation: The post-2015 agenda should be universal—relevant for all societies and about all people regardless of where they reside. This will require global goals, with shared responsibilities for all countries.

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

4.1 The process for agreeing the post-2015 framework must be inclusive, with special efforts made to listen to the views of those affected by poverty and the most marginalised.

4.2 Children and young people account for almost one third of the world’s population. In many countries, they constitute almost half of the national population. Furthermore, as creators of innovative solutions and as stakeholders in both present and future progress, children and young people must have a meaningful and continuous say in shaping the new development agenda for their world and in ensuring that governments meet their commitments.

4.3 Participation should be a central feature of the new framework: mechanisms should be established for civil society groups to participate in setting and monitoring disaggregated goals and targets and holding public sector agencies to account for their efforts and performance. These mechanisms should become institutionalised and should also be used to encourage and enable private sector accountability and partnership.

Recommendation: Participation should be a central principle of the new agenda and children and young people must be given meaningful opportunities to participate in the design, implementation and monitoring of the post-2015 framework.

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

5.1 The MDG “target-based” approach was a qualified success—it did tend to strengthen both results-oriented planning and national monitoring systems, and also helped to mobilise efforts and resources. However, there are a number of unanswered questions, such as the opportunity costs of this approach, which are difficult to address in the absence of detailed country case studies.

5.2 A goals, targets and indicators framework should be retained. These include the need to provide scope for adaptation of targets to national conditions; the need to promote and encourage disaggregation of targets to reveal and not mask disparities (this can be done using a core set of standard indicators); and the importance of keeping targets explicitly linked to norms, standards and principles that reflect human rights commitments and equity.

5.3 Progress should be monitored through a combination of two main approaches: firstly, retaining and strengthening existing national household sample surveys (MICS, DHS) and institutional information systems (eg in health and education), and associated capacities for data collection, disaggregated analysis and dissemination; and secondly, by promoting a much higher level of local and participatory monitoring, including on qualitative aspects of development, using innovative as well as standard technologies. At the global level, data compilation and analysis should continue to be done and coordinated by the United Nations.

6. Financing global goals: are new mechanisms needed?

6.1 In 1970 rich governments agreed to meet the UN target of 0.7% of Gross National Income to be spent on Official Development Assistance (ODA). Although the MDGs have galvanised aid pledges, only five countries have met the 0.7% target. The UK Government has promised to meet the target by 2013, which will be a welcome demonstration of the UK’s commitment to international development.

Recommendation: The UK Government should meet the 0.7% target and enshrine the commitment in law, and continue to encourage other donor governments to do the same.

6.2 There is an urgent need to mobilise new and additional climate finance to address the development challenges presented by climate change. In 2009, developed countries agreed in 2009 to mobilise $100 billion dollars per year of new and additional resources by 2020 for climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. This sum is roughly equivalent to the total current global flows of ODA. It is not as simple as “slotting” climate finance obligations into ODA budgets: there must be the guarantee of sufficient existing funds to meet the MDGs and beyond 2015 for vulnerable communities to survive and thrive in a changing climate.

6.3 The need for this money to be new and additional suggests that innovative finance mechanisms such as carbon taxes and private sector mobilisation will be essential for meeting climate finance commitments.

Recommendation: The UK Government should mobilise innovative finance mechanisms for climate finance now and from 2015 and beyond.

7. The role of the private sector

7.1 When the MDGs were agreed the development debate largely excluded the private sector. However, the last two decades have seen the reach and turnover of global corporations expand in an unprecedented manner and consequently the impact of the private sector on international development has intensified; from economic growth and productivity to poverty reduction, job creation, human rights and environmental issues. The private sector should therefore have greater involvement in the design and implementation of the post-2015 development framework.

7.3 Although the duty to protect human rights rests with governments, companies have a responsibility to respect human rights.12 The private sector’s approach to pursuing development outcomes must be underpinned by a commitment to human rights and an integration of rights into core business practices. The challenge for governments is to create a regulatory and policy framework that maximises the positive impacts of the private sector on development, whilst reigning in negative corporate behaviour.

7.4 Additional steps must be taken to ensure that companies respect children’s rights in their direct operations, in their supply chain and in communities they impact. Children and young people are hugely impacted upon by companies: as workers in their factories; dependants of their employees; members of the communities in which they operate and also consumers themselves. The recently launched Children’s Rights and Business Principles offer the first comprehensive set of principles to guide businesses on the full range of actions they can take to respect and support children’s rights.13


The post-2015 framework should require the private sector to integrate human rights (and specifically children’s rights) into core business practices.

The post-2015 framework should call for national regulatory and policy frameworks that enable businesses to uphold human rights and advance sustainable development initiatives.

8. Timescale: what period should the new framework cover?

8.1 Another 15-year framework would be acceptable. There are however some good arguments for a 25-year framework of aspirational goals, given the deep scope of the challenges ahead. These could then be complemented by shorter-term national targets (eg five to 10 years).

8.2 What will be most important, however, are arrangements for regular (35-year) in-depth reviews of progress across all goal areas and the underlying factors affecting progress, drawing on both national and independent sources of data and analysis. These reviews should take place at country level, on a participatory basis, and then be compiled for global-level discussions. Updates and adjustments of the new framework should take place, based on these reviews.

September 2012

UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, is mandated by the UN General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. UNICEF is guided by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and strives to establish children’s rights as enduring ethical principles and international standards of behaviour towards children.

UNICEF UK is the UK National Committee for UNICEF.

1 Hulme, D (2009). The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): A Short History of the World’s Biggest Promise Brooks World Poverty Institute BWPI Working Paper 100

2 UNICEF Working Paper 2012 “Right in Principle and in Practice: A review of the social and economic returns to investing in children”; Copenhagen Consensus

3 UN System Task Team on the post-2015 UN Development Agenda “Realizing the Future We Want For All”, New York June 2012

4 UN Task Team report “Realizing the future we want for all” June 2012

5 UN MDG report 2011; UNICEF Progress for Children: Achieving the MDGs with Equity, 2010

6 UNICEF, Progress for Children: Achieving the MDGs with Equity, 2010

7 William Easterly “How the Millennium Development Goals are unfair to Africa”, World Development, vol. 37, No.1, pp. 26-35; UN Task Team report “Realizing the future we want for all” June 2012

8 OHCHR “Human Rights: Key to Keeping the MDG Promise of 2015” New York, 20-22 September 2010

9 Richard Morgan and Shannon O’Shea, “Locally-led monitoring as an engine for a more dynamic and accountable post-2015 development agenda”, UNICEF 2012

10 Sumner, A (2011). The New Bottom Billion: What If Most of the World’s Poor Live in Middle-Income Countries?; Institute of Development Studies (IDS)

11 Ladd, P (2012). Goals for the bottom billion or goals for the whole world? UNDP, Bureau for Development Policy -- Poverty Practice Discussion Note.

12 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, available at:

13 The Children’s Rights and Business Principles, UNICEF, the UN Global Compact and Save the Children (2012). and accompanying workbook Children are Everyone’s Business, UNICEF, 2012

Prepared 21st January 2013