SALO Meeting: Building National, Regional and International Consensus on the Post 2015 Development Agenda

photo 5

The ASC was invited to facilitate the discussion process at this important policy dialogue event held in Pretoria on the 29th of January. Professor Garth Le Pere, former Director and Founder of the Institute for Global Dialogue, Isabella Matambanadzo, feminist activist, and Carmen Smidt of the ANC International Relations committee all contributed useful perspectives on the issues.

Carmen Smidt provided an overview of the background of the Post 2015 development agenda, situating it against the backdrop of the 8 MDGs. She explored the history of the MDGs, and various critiques that identified both the gains that had been made, as well as the weaknesses that have shaped many of the discussions on building a stronger development agenda to follow from the MDGs. A significant critique was that while there was much high-level discussion about the MDGs, the people on the ground were not active participants in its formulation. There was also an uneven application of the MDGs, with some targets being pursued at the cost of others, and some countries making more progress than others. A major deficiency of the MDGs was the failure to address peace and security, without which it is difficult to imagine that the MDGs could have been attained on the African continent. Some of the key questions she posed were, “if we have not reached the minimum standards of the MDGs, is there an actual will to alleviate poverty, disease, and to develop?”, and “In the midst of the post 2015 debates, how do we shift from the one-size-fits-all model, to a model that can be utilized in each situation?”. She questioned the extent to which we are incorporating lessons from the MDGs into the Post 2015 development agenda.

Dr Garth Le Pere addressed the means of implementation and financing the Post 2015 agenda, and the question of how to define global partnerships for the SDGs, given the different challenges facing different parts of the world. As he put it, “the battle line concerns common but differentiated responsibilities”. He identified 3 areas of concern that should animate the debate: the challenge of absolute poverty, insecurity and inequality, and the provision of public goods and nexus of sustainability. Each of these areas disproportionately affects the developing world, and particularly the poor, women and the youth. However, the challenges are not limited to a North/South division, but exist within groupings as well. For example, the EU is still trying to recover from the 2008 economic crisis, and aid levels have declined far below their targets. LDCs want a much stronger emphasis on poverty reduction, which must also include a new paradigm for economic growth. The BRICS countries appear to be ambiguous about their roles, and there is a mood of introspection among middle income countries. Against this background is the challenge of financing the post 2015. He identified 3 important sources of finance: domestic sources of mobilization, international capital markets, and innovative sources of finance. He concluded that we need to define a Post 2015 agenda that is sensitive both to the poor of the world and the global unstable economic context.

Finally, Isabella Matambanadzo drew attention to key issues that the Post 2015 agenda will need to address if it is to deliver the transformation that it seeks. She approached the discussion from the framework of the Common African Position and Agenda 2063, seeking to engage with Post 2015 from an African and feminist perspective. Among her concerns were the voices of groups that may be excluded, or where gains may be accompanied by losses. For example, she spoke of the increased access that women have had to education and health services, that has been accompanied by a backlash of violence, such as forced sterilisation and violent interventions against girls’ education, like the kidnapping of school girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria. She also noted that youth are the voice of our future, but there is no reference to freedom of sexual choice in the Common African Position on Post 2015. She cautioned that although the Post 2015 agenda espouses justice for all, it is patriarchal in nature and does not use the language of an African Lens. She called upon “sites of African innovation” to inform and influence global partnerships and input on Post 2015.

The meeting was helpful in outlining the specifics of the current debate, especially where the differences in thinking lay. In each of the 4 Areas of Work identified by the UN General Assembly viz. The Political Declaration, Goals and Targets, the Means of Implementation and Monitoring and Evaluation there are very diverse perspectives that will need to be ironed out over the next few months.

While most participants at the SALO event agreed that the Post 2015 Development Agenda has the potential to be transformative, many are also skeptical about the reality of international multi-lateral negotiation processes and concerned about the underlying interests and agendas of the more powerful countries.

Currently there is a tendency to slip into a polarised set of lenses that suggests Post 2015 is about bridging the divide between the more developed OECD countries, who have an interest in maintaining the current status quo, and the less developed countries of the G77. The real potential of negotiating a new developmental agenda to replace the MDGs will only be realised if we can all recognise the interdependence of people and nation states, and understand that poverty, underdevelopment and insecurity anywhere is in fact a threat to human security everywhere.

It is not out of some kind of patronizing benevolence that developed countries need to acknowledge and recognise their unfulfilled commitments and responsibilities’ to developed countries but because they have a direct interest in reducing levels of inequality and the contextual effects that underdevelopment have on global dynamics.