Dispatch from New York: Thinking about development after 2015

A display at the June 2012 Rio+20 conference refers to the
global conversation on post-2015 development. ©IFAD
By Zak Bleicher

The “post-2015 development agenda” has become a hot topic in development circles in New York. This agenda refers to a potential framework to replace the Millennium Development Goals upon their expiration in 2015, as well as the articulation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) envisioned at the Rio+20 conference last year.

In terms of agenda-setting, 2013 is going to be a critical year. At this stage, it is reasonable to expect that the post-2015 agenda will have a far wider scope than the current MDGs, potentially incorporating peace, security and good governance, along with strengthened environmental and human rights dimensions. Through this expanded orientation – and the deeper legitimacy gained from a process of extensive consultations – the new framework will carry significant implications for the flow of resources and the alignment of international institutions and other actors in the development arena.

Nearly the entire UN system, mobilized by the Secretary-General, is contributing to the post-2015 dialogue. Other major institutions, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, are working on the topic as well. Civil society, the private sector and academic organizations are heavily engaged too.

All of these voices have combined to create a veritable cacophony of ideas and debates trying to answer some core questions:
  • What has and has not worked with the MDGs?
  • What issues need to be included in the post-2015 development framework, especially accounting for those that are under-represented in the MDGs? (Take a look at some interesting ideas on Post2015.org, a hub for dialogue about what comes after the MDGs.)
  • How can a new framework help to drive implementation, supported by partnership, accountability and finance? 
A global conversation
The MDG experience showed that it can take quite some time to raise awareness, get buy-in and build support and alignment for development objectives. This time around, there is a commitment by UN Member States and the Secretary-General to take advantage of the significant lead time by conducting a global conversation about post-2015 development.

The process has evolved into a massive undertaking involving multi-stakeholder consultations at all levels – most of which will feed into a report the Secretary-General will deliver to Member States this September, containing his initial proposal. The report will be discussed at a High-level Meeting to coincide with the opening of the 68th General Assembly session. That meeting will be an important milestone and stage-setter on the path to agreeing on a new framework, likely sometime in 2015 itself.

The core of the current process includes the following elements:
  • The Secretary-General has formed a High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on Post-2015. This group, co-chaired by the Heads of Government of Indonesia, Liberia and the United Kingdom, has stated that its members plan “to focus on the elimination of poverty in all its forms and to put in place the building blocks for prosperity for all.” Their report should be released around the end of May. 
  • Within the context of the United Nations Development Group, various UN entities – including IFAD – are conducting a series of 11 global thematic consultations; supporting 66 national level consultations with ambitions to push that number to 100; and supporting regional consultations in cooperation with the UN’s regional commissions. Each of these outputs will inform both the High-level Panel and the Secretary-General’s report.
  • The UN Global Compact is conducting consultations within its network, and Jeffrey Sachs, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the MDGs, has launched the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
  • Civil society organizations are able to provide input into each of these channels and are undertaking their own processes of consultation. (Vote on your own post-2015 priorities by completing a global citizens’ survey.) 
Perhaps most important, Member States have followed up on the mandate they gave themselves at Rio +20 by forming an Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals. As agreed at Rio, these goals should be “universal” in their orientation. For now, this process is on a separate track and will not deliver its recommendations until sometime in 2014. The UN system will support the Open Working Group through a UN Task Team, an inter-agency technical exercise in which IFAD is participating. It’s worth looking at the Task Team’s report from last year.

Far-reaching impact
There is so much involved (and it seems to keep growing) that it’s tempting to call all of this the “post-2015 industrial complex.” However, the fact remains that the results of this discussion could have massive implications for the work of all actors in the international development sphere. The outcome, should it ultimately be endorsed by Member States, would likely represent a new, far-reaching compact on global development priorities and resources. It could also have an impact on the architecture of international development, which some may seek to align with implementation of the post-2015 framework.

No matter the precise nature of the outcome, it is sure to affect IFAD’s work. At the same time, IFAD can be an impactful voice in this conversation on behalf of its mission and core constituents. And IFAD will seek to ensure that the voices of rural people, especially smallholder farmers and, in particular, rural women and indigenous peoples, are heard and accounted for in whatever outcome is agreed.

As noted above, IFAD is already engaged in this effort. In fact, an IFAD-wide group has been established to bring together the expertise that exists in various parts of the organization for an internal discussion. Together with colleagues in the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme, we are identifying areas where the agencies can add value to the debate by speaking in a common voice. IFAD will also participate in an FAO/WFP-convened meeting of the UN Committee on Food Security in the context of the thematic consultation on hunger and food and nutrition security.

You, too, can contribute to the conversation in various ways. Just take a look at the actions listed on TheWorldWeWant2015.org, an online platform for post-2015 awareness and action, to see where you can plug in.

Zak Bleicher is the Partnership Officer at IFAD’s Liaison Office in New York.