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30 January 2013

NGLS presents Consultation Report to the High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda


At the request of the Secretariat for the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (Post2015HLP), UN-NGLS facilitated a civil society consultation through 11 January 2013 to inform the Panel’s meeting in Monrovia, Liberia taking place from 30 January to 2 February.

The consultation synthesis report is available here.

The Executive Summary of the report, including short summaries of contributions received per consultation question, follows below:

Executive Summary of Consultation Findings

“The next framework should address the three dimensions of sustainable development in an integrated way and be universally applicable,” advocated WWF International, in line with the vast majority of contributors. There was nearly full consensus among submissions that what is needed is a global framework flexible enough to allow for adjustments according to regional, national, and local needs, priorities, and budgets. The inclusion of the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” is essential and would signal a major improvement over the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), according to several respondents.

Many contributors, including the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Social Watch, and the International Disability and Development Consortium, indicated that the new development framework must embrace a holistic, rights-based approach, and that principles of equality, equity, non-discrimination and inclusive participation must underpin its policies and practices.

The rights-based approach should be guided by the full range of human rights obligations already agreed to by UN Member States, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. This would enable the framework to be “truly effective in transforming the lives of all those living in poverty,” according to Amnesty International, and would help ensure that marginalized groups and others facing discrimination, whether in terms of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or other factors, are included in development gains. The submissions expressed much support for stronger accountability mechanisms in the post-2015 development framework, and advocated for constructive interaction between the existing human rights accountability mechanisms (at the national and international level) and the post-2015 monitoring, review and accountability infrastructure.

Human rights of participation were emphasized by many, not only for getting the framework right at the national and international levels, but also for quality implementation. Many respondents underscored that the design of the post-2015 framework should be an iterative process involving regular, meaningful, and inclusive participation of all stakeholders, particularly the poorest and most marginalized people whose needs and rights this framework must support.

Respondents insisted that the design of the framework must address structural and root causes of poverty, inequality, economic volatility, and unsustainable development, as well as “the core factors which exacerbate the vulnerability of impoverished and marginalized populations,” as specified by the Campaign for People’s Goals on Sustainable Development and echoed by the European Youth Forum and Save the Children. Particular emphasis was placed on ensuring that equality, non-discrimination and empowerment are incorporated consistently throughout all goals and targets in the new framework. Many organizations called for the new development framework to promote decent job creation, education, and social protection for the poorest and most marginalized people to build resilience.

Contributors called for the post-2015 framework to supplement income and economic growth measures of development with broader indicators of human well-being; many were highly critical of “economic growth” for its own sake. Examples were given from emerging economies where fast growth patterns translated in fast-rising inequalities, economic insecurity, greater marginalization, and accelerated environmental destruction. “Rethinking the prevailing economic model” was a recurring theme. Organizations called for the future framework to promote measures for financial reform, and emphasized the need to implement equitable measures to protect the environment.

Many organizations asserted that drawing a distinction between sustainability and development agendas is an artificial, misleading and even harmful division; contributors therefore called for a unified, inclusive and transparent process that leads to a single post-2015 development framework.

Below are short summaries of the contributions received for each of the consultation questions.

A. The shape and content of a post-2015 development framework

A1) From the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), what lessons can be learned about designing goals to have maximum impact?
The strengths and shortcomings of the MDGs have brought to the fore important lessons that – according to the respondents – should be considered when designing goals to have maximum impact. A number of organizations criticized the MDGs for creating a very narrowly defined and siloed development agenda, and asserted therefore that future goals should bring in a more comprehensive and coherent vision of development, which focuses not only on selected “ends,” but also addresses structural issues which may hinder development (e.g. issues related to macroeconomic policies, climate change, peace and security). Respondents stressed that future goals should be holistic, concrete, mutually supportive, easy to communicate, attainable, and aspirational but realistic. These goals should be relevant to, recognized and owned by all countries and take into account differing levels of development. Because the MDGs emphasize quantity over quality, they have failed to address problems faced by marginalized groups, and have concealed and perpetuated inequalities within and between countries, contributors stressed. Future goals, therefore, should be more than “just an accord between rich and poor governments,” and result from the needs of people experiencing poverty and its impacts. The post-2015 framework should be rooted in human rights and equality principles; reflect the root causes of and multidimensional nature of poverty; and promote good governance and democratic institutions, including through robust monitoring and accountability mechanisms.

A2) How should a new framework address the dimensions of economic growth, equity, social equality and environmental sustainability? Is an overall focus on poverty eradication sufficiently broad to capture the range of sustainable development issues?
An overall focus on poverty eradication, while an essential dimension of the new framework, was widely seen as too narrow to address the broad range of sustainable development issues. Most contributions insisted on the need for an integrated framework and many suggested that the full range of human rights obligations provide the basis for a more holistic approach, especially if these can be expanded to include the rights of future generations and to a healthy environment. The prevailing economic model should be rethought to address the structural causes of poverty, inequality and environmental degradation, contributors stressed; proposals were made to transform economic and social systems for a more sustainable and equitable future, including through non-market based approaches.

A3) What elements should be included in the architecture of the next framework? How can the SDG process be aligned with the post-2015 process? What is the role of the Sustainable Development Goals in a broader post-2015 framework?
Contributors resoundingly called for the post-2015 development framework to be anchored in human rights, guided by the range of obligations already agreed to by Member States. Respondents contributed elements of an extensive, though not exhaustive, list of suggested dimensions to be included in the framework. These include: gender equality and women’s empowerment; disability support for people of all ages; risk management and vulnerability reduction; peacebuilding and non-violent resolution; education; social protection; decent work; access to clean and sustainable natural resources and basic services; and policy coherence for development, among other proposals. There was widespread agreement among the contributions that the post-2015 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) processes must be integrated; Save the Children, for one, suggested the September 2013 General Assembly Special Session on MDGs as an ideal moment for the combination of the two processes. Contributors see development and sustainability challenges as “intrinsically linked” – as the Population and Sustainability Network articulated – and accordingly want the UN processes seeking to address them to be unified.

A4) Mindful that poor and vulnerable people may not have the capacity to participate directly in an online consultation, the following question that the Panel is considering is also posed for individuals and civil society organizations who engage with these constituencies directly and regularly: “What issues do poor and vulnerable people themselves prioritize?”
Many submissions asserted that this particular question must be addressed directly to the poor and vulnerable people themselves, for example through mass grassroots consultations and other off-line means of facilitating citizens’ input. There was wide agreement on the crucial need to ensure that the voices of poor and vulnerable people and communities are heard, particularly in determining their needs and executing their rights. “It is essential that Southern voices lead the process for the creation of a new global development framework,” Health Poverty Action urged, while their “collective power, knowledge and resilience” must be acknowledged, the Association for Women’s Rights in Development underscored. The core priority issues that emerged include: decent productive employment opportunities; food and better nutrition; quality health care; affordable quality education; sustainable access to water resources, both for drinking water and sanitation; access to decent and affordable housing; efficient and affordable energy; a clean environment and equitable use of natural resources; security, both personal and community; access to land; combating the impacts of climate change; participatory governance and decision making; as well as access to information. Many contributors indicated that the new development framework must embrace a holistic, rights-based approach, and that principles of equality, equity, non-discrimination and inclusive participation must underpin its policies and practices. Such an approach, they argued, would ensure that the most marginalized can benefit from development and growth, and become active agents of change.

A5) How should a new framework address resilience to crises?
Many contributors identified that the post-2015 development framework must include a focus on strengthening resilience to crises, including: failure of (financial) market mechanisms; environmental degradation including climate change; natural disasters; severe food shortages; energy shortages; and conflict. Save the Children called for the integration of the agendas of environmental sustainability, development and disaster risk reduction, and in particular the outcomes of the review of the Hyogo Framework of Action. Respondents expressed the conviction that the post-2015 framework must adopt a rights-based approach and promote equity to build comprehensive resilience. A number of contributions called for the future framework to promote measures for financial reform, including incentives, taxation, transparent financial regulation, banning speculation of food commodities, and the reform of international financial institutions. Organizations including Social Watch called for the promotion of decent job creation, education, and social protection for the poorest and most marginalized people. Many contributions highlighted the need to build environmental resilience, including by addressing the development challenges posted by climate change. Finally, respondents advocated building food security and food sovereignty as important elements of community resilience.

A6) How should a new framework reflect the particular challenges of the poor living in conflict and post-conflict settings?
As violence and conflict are rooted in human insecurity and deprivation, fragile and conflict-affected States face severe obstacles in reducing poverty and achieving development. The post-2015 framework, therefore, must effectively address the particular challenges of people affected by poverty in conflict and post-conflict settings, in part through promoting governance, justice, equity, and peace. Incorporating gender equality and implementing a human rights-based approach, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, was advocated by several respondents. Six international organizations referred to the Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs) of the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, agreed at the Busan Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, which identified five foundational conditions for development and aid effectiveness in fragile and conflict-affected countries: legitimate politics (a State for all); security (safety for all); justice (equity for all); economic foundations (jobs for all); resources and revenue management (services for all). The international community should provide targeted support and solidarity, contributions emphasized, through ensuring access to basic needs, supporting civil society, investing in youth, stabilizing health systems, and promoting restorative and/or transitional justice.

A7) How can we universalize goals and targets while being consistent with national priorities and targets?
There was general consensus among submissions that what is needed is a global framework flexible enough to allow for adjustments to regional, national, and local needs, priorities and budgets. Most submissions expressed that this global framework should be grounded on a set of principles derived from UN agreements and conventions signed by all Member States – specifically those on universal human rights – thereby guaranteeing consistency between global and national levels. A few submissions stated that a number of themes (e.g. eradication of extreme poverty) and cross-cutting development issues (e.g. gender equality) could also be included in the overarching global framework without undermining consistency between global and national goals, targets, and priorities. The inclusion of the principle of universality with “common but differentiated responsibilities” is essential and it would signal a major improvement over the MDGs, according to several contributors.

A8) What time horizon should we set for the next phase in the global development agenda (e.g. 10, 15, 25 years, or a combination)?
Respondents preferred various options from amongst the potential time horizons for the post-2015 development framework – ten years, fifteen, or 20 to 25, with the largest number advocating a combination of timeframes. Regarding a time horizon of ten years, Development Initiatives made the case that 2025 “presents a universally powerful, achievable and measurable” milestone towards the elimination of poverty. A fifteen-year horizon was advocated for adequate transformation (“time to change a generation”) while allowing meaningful progress to be measured and evaluated. Several organizations called for long-term interval or phased planning; specifically, Population Matters suggested a ten-year horizon for sectoral targets, and 25 years for “overarching sustainability ‘themes.’” The European Youth Forum wrote, “A long-term timeframe would provide direction to the long-term goals, offering more time to achieve them as well. Combined with intermediate targets, [this] would at the same time ensure greater accountability.”

B. Partnership and accountability for development

B1) How can a new framework tackle the challenges of coherence and coordination among the organizations, processes, and new mechanisms that address issues that are global in scope?
Contributions suggested tackling the challenges of coherence and coordination among the organizations, processes, and mechanisms that address global issues, primarily through: the UN system, providing adequate resources to civil society, and information-sharing. The World Youth Alliance, Oxfam India, and others advocated situating the post-2015 framework within the existing infrastructure, monitoring and accountability systems, and the range of obligations already undertaken by States in the international human rights framework. The UN system – through the General Assembly, individual agencies, the High-Level Political Forum, or a new Sustainability Council – was positioned as central in leading efforts towards a coordinated and effectively-implemented post-2015 agenda. According to several organizations, an important element of achieving consensus is the “serious reform” of international financial institutions, including the IMF and World Bank, towards “advancing human rights and international solidarity as part of a more equitable and appropriate global governance system.” Other suggestions for ensuring coordination and coherence included effective cooperation between countries over the sustainable management (including transboundary management), use, and protection of shared natural resources, and the clear alignment of the Panel’s work with the intergovernmental process on SDGs.

B2) How can we build and sustain global consensus for a new framework, involving Member States, the private sector and civil society?
On process, the submissions reflected wide agreement that to build and sustain a global consensus, the new framework must use a multi-stakeholder, genuinely participatory approach that includes all groups and individuals that will be affected by this development process: governments, the private sector, civil society, and particularly marginalized groups that have been most hard hit by poverty and that were left out of the formulation of the MDG framework. This all-inclusive multi-stakeholder approach should be used at every stage of this initiative: wide consultations should be held with all stakeholders beginning with the formulation of the framework and its policies, and meaningful engagement must continue during implementation, monitoring, evaluation and review of programmes under the new framework. Furthermore, the process should be open, transparent, and fully participatory. On substance, several submissions called for the inclusion of issues that are key to the UN’s development work, but that were not included in the MDG framework in 2000: governance, respect for human rights, international norms and standards for labour and environmental protection.

B3) How specific should the Panel be with recommendations on means of implementation, including development assistance, finance, technology, capacity building, trade and other actions?
Participants expressed highly diverse views as to how specific the Panel should be with regard to recommendations on means of implementation. Some argued that it was essential to be as specific as possible in order to have a meaningful framework, while others felt that too much integration would be either unrealistic or counterproductive. Contributors distinguished between means of implementation that support an enabling international environment (such as tax cooperation and a financial transactions tax) which should be specific, and national-level recommendations which should focus on strong participatory rights to ensure local people are involved in deciding the most appropriate means and how these should be implemented.

B4) How can accountability mechanisms be strengthened? What kind of monitoring process should be established? What elements would make it effective? How to account for qualitative progress?
Overall, the submissions reflected much enthusiasm for stronger accountability mechanisms, and several recognized that this would constitute a major improvement over the MDGs. Many submissions proposed a system of “multiple accountability” that would include all stakeholders – donors, governments, civil society, the private sector – and all beneficiaries, with particular emphasis on the inclusion of marginalized social groups (including women, youth, persons with disabilities), that would be operational at all levels (local, national, regional and global). Accountability mechanisms should be tailored to the needs and capabilities at each level and for different groups of stakeholders, contributors emphasized. CIVICUS and the International Planned Parenthood Foundation highlighted the valuable role of civil society as an independent agent in ensuring effective monitoring. A well-functioning monitoring process, according to respondents, is transparent and makes information freely available to all stakeholders at all operational levels (local, national, regional, and global). Oxfam India suggested that process indicators be used to improve qualitative evaluations. The International Movement ATD Fourth World recommended another essential tool for qualitative evaluations: reports from beneficiaries, in particular from the most socially marginalized, on how development programmes impact their lives.

B5) How can transparency and more inclusive global governance be used to facilitate achievement of the development agenda?
Contributors regard openness as most essential to increase the probability of success of the post-2015 development agenda, including in terms of access to information and reports by and for all stakeholders; governance; and participation at every stage of the development process, from priority setting to decision making, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. Openness was advocated as critical for the meaningful inclusion of those that the framework intends to benefit so that they can provide inputs at every stage. To boost transparency and improve the inclusiveness of global governance to better serve the post-2015 development agenda, respondents advocated an expanded role for civil society organizations as independent agents and partners in planning, implementation and monitoring of government policies. Submissions also reflected specific, concrete suggestions to build transparency and effective governance for the post-2015 development agenda.

Additional information

From 19 October-7 November 2012, NGLS carried out its first online consultation for the High-level Panel. To access the in-depth report of this consultation, click here.

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