It's here. It's solid. And that is OK.
Some quick reactions on the High Level Panel's After 2015 Report "A New Global Partnership"
1. It is Universal. Lots of talk about "a single agenda", "this is a challenge for every country on earth", "shared humanity" "mutual accountability", "mutual benefit", "mutual respect" and "solidarity". This universality is inevitable given the collective nature of the challenges we face as a planet, but it was good to see that it was embraced by the report rather than grudgingly accepted.
2. It tries to bring together the development and environmental issues and communities around sustainable development. It argues that prosperity is needed to tackle the environmental issues and without tackling the environmental issues, poverty will not be eliminated. This is also an inevitable coming together but I would have liked to have seen the sustainability agenda be about more than environment, economics and social aspects, but political sustainability too. I also wonder if the attention to sustainable resource use is sufficiently embedded in the non-resource use Goals proposed.
3. It aims to fill in the "missing middle" between the Millennium Declaration and the MDGs. These are the 5 "Transformations": Leave no one behind, Put sustainable development at the core, Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth, Build peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all, and Forge a new global partnership. Of these, the mindset shift from "reducing" to "ending" poverty and hunger seems the most radical (and there are other candidates specified for zero indicators in the 12 illustrative Goals below).
The Global Partnerships Transformation seems the most fluffy (echoes of MDG 8?), but I do think there are many more tangible examples of how and why the international development community must "put its own house in order" (and the Goal 12 is full of specific aspirations). And it is good to see the acknowledgement that these partnerships should include people living in poverty, those
with disabilities, women, civil society and indigenous and local communities, traditionally marginalised groups. Indeed one of the 7 principles behind any Goals proposed is that they be "grounded in the voice of people" (Echoes of Participate). The messaging around the need to go beyond aid and embrace whole of government/whole of society approaches is clear.
4. The report teases us about the goals, targets and indicators. The 12 Goals come at the end.
1. End Poverty. 2. Empower Girls and Women and Achieve Gender Equality. 3. Provide Quality Education and Lifelong Learning. 4. Ensure Healthy Lives. 5. Ensure Food Security and Good Nutrition. 6. Achieve Universal Access to Water and Sanitation. 7. Secure Sustainable Energy. 8. Create Jobs, Sustainable Livelihoods and Equitable Growth. 9. Manage Natural Resource Assets Sustainably. 10. Ensure Good Governance and Effective Institutions. 11. Ensure Stable and Peaceful Societies. 12. Create a Global Enabling Environment and Catalyse Long Term Finance.
The goals, indicators and targets are illustrative. They are an expression of the 5 Transformations. They do not volunteer numerical targets.
This is a way of trying to frame the debate for the next 2 years without being seen to be too directive. The Goals tidy things up from the MDGs. Health is grouped. Food and nutrition are separated from poverty. There are 12 Goals, which is a lot, but frankly it is difficult to think of fewer unless you have cross-cuts for sustainable resource use. There are 54 sub goals, with national targets. Evidence is provided for why each goal should be included. Not quite a theory of change, but a much better justification than for the MDGs.
5. Cross-cutting issues are highlighted: peace, inequality, climate change, cities, concerns of young people, girls, and women, and sustainable consumption and production patterns. These are issues that do not fit within a single goal. The truth is that most issues do not fit within a single goal. This is partly a way of reconciling the SDGs with the MDGs. The SDGs highlighted cities and sustainable consumption as separate goals. Some will be disappointed that inequality did not get its own goal, but there is plenty within the other proposed goals that drills down on equality and many indicators recommended for disaggregation to uncover inequity. Is the report too technocratic? I think these types of reports tend to be, but this one does highlight politics, political economy and political processes quite frequently, but probably not enough.
6. IDS-centricity. From a parochial point of view I was pleased to see that a lot of IDS work contributing strongly to this agenda: the STEPS work on pathways to sustainability, work on tax, organised armed violence, conflict and peace, new (and existing) forms of participation, inequality, women and girls empowerment, business and development, climate adaptation, social protection, sexual rights, sanitation and nutrition to name a few examples.
7. Nutrition. I was particularly pleased to see nutrition as an equal partner with ending hunger (by the way, it is good to see a focus on smallholder productivity in agriculture).
Stunting, wasting and anaemia for under 5's are the nutrition specific indicators. This is in line with much thinking of the nutrition community, although I would like to see a tighter focus on the 0-2 or 0-3 age group and much more of a focus on the nutrition of girls and women. In addition to these 3 indicators, there are plenty of other nutrition relevant indicators to be found in the education, women's empowerment, health, poverty and water and sanitation goal buckets (see recent IDS Brief on this). Nothing on obesity or overweight. A step too far perhaps for the panel.
All in all something for everyone without getting too lowest common denominator about it all. And I think that, for now, is OK.
As we all have a chance to study it further over the coming weeks no doubt we will find things we don't like and possibly some things we really don't like. Nevertheless, my view (and it is not an IDS view necessarily) from a quick read is that this is a good basis for further discussion, negotiation and contestation over the next 2 years. There will be lots of twists and turns in the road ahead, but I think this is a good solid signpost to where we want to go.
Congratulations to the High Level Panel.