There is a great deal of optimism surrounding the so-called ‘post-2015’ agenda that will replace the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established back in 2000. Development organizations around the world are energized by the possibility of ending extreme poverty by 2030 thanks to dramatic reductions in global poverty over the last decade. What is getting left out of the discussion is the real lesson of the MDGs: When it comes to highbrow debates about global development goals, at the end of the day, it’s really all about the money.
To put things in perspective, let’s unpack the impact of the MDGs. More than anything else, the MDGs were a millennial branding opportunity. They succeeded in making global development and poverty reduction high profile international issues. To understand this we need to think back to the 1990s when spending on foreign aid had stagnated, as many donors, Canada included, underwent fiscal austerity.
Last month, the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel (HLP) on the Post-2015 Development Agenda released a report outlining the proposals for a new development plan following the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015. The report – which by its own admission is meant to be illustrative rather than prescriptive – highlights some of the broader themes and goals to be included in the new agenda. While much of the content included in the tentative agenda appears to be an extension of current MDG targets, the HLP’s report proposes several significant additions.
Based on the understanding that the post-2015 agenda must be universal in nature, the HLP proposes that the new plan be driven by five substantial and systemic ‘transformative shifts’:
1. Leave no one behind – In keeping with the spirit of the MDGs, this ‘shift’ aims to move from reducing to ending all forms of extreme poverty by 2030. The basic idea is that the new agenda should include goals that focus on reaching marginalized groups, placing a greater emphasis on providing broader social protection, ensuring universal human rights, and securing widespread access to basic economic opportunities for individuals across income levels and social groups.