GG2022 - Key Ingredients for the Post-2015 Development Agenda

By Clara Brandi - 29 November 2012
Key Ingredient for the Post-2015 Development Agenda

BONN – The clock is ticking: the international High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons has started its work on a new development agenda as a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which approach their target date in 2015. The panel will have to put forward suggestions for a new agenda before the next MDG Summit in September 2013.

The content of the new framework is highly contested. One essential question is whether the original MDGs should merely be improved or whether we should strive for more substantial changes and adopt a completely novel agenda. The MDGs have certainly been a success in putting a stronger spotlight on development aid. But a mere focus on aid is too narrow. We need a new approach for the post-2015 development agenda and we need one that takes global governance seriously – with a focus on policy coherence and the provision of global public goods.

The Millennium Declaration called for improved global governance – but, with the exception of fuzzy references in MDG 8, the Development Goals do not include global governance. MDG 8 calls for a global partnership for development which should comprise a number of issues, such as improving the trading and financial system, addressing the special needs of the Least Developed Countries (LDC), landlocked developing countries and small island developing states and dealing with debt problems of developing countries. Yet, the suggestions in MDG 8 remain vague and do not entail any clear messages on global governance.

As Rolph von der Hoeven, member of the UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda recently pointed out, overlooking global governance as a key ingredient has made it more difficult to achieve the MDGs. Climate change, the recent food price crises and the global financial crisis can all be linked to the lack of adequate global governance. The effects of global financial instability, for example, underline that policies beyond aid are crucial for development and that action at the global level is required to supplement national efforts for development progress to be achieved.

So what can be done? First of all, we need better coherence across economic, social and environmental policies at the national and regional but also at the global level. The European Union seems to be leading by example in that regard, having promised to push for Policy Coherence for Development, seeking to make sure that non-development policies, such as in trade, support development objectives or, at a minimum ‘do no harm’ to them. But to date, there are still a number of European policies that undermine development. For example, fishing is a major source of employment, food security and income in many developing countries. At the same time, European fishing quotas continue to contribute to overfishing. In the future, policy coherence should move beyond a ‘do no harm’ perspective, both in Europe and beyond, towards a more integrated approach where trade, environment and other issues are understood as global public policies that help to enhance global development objectives. Such a global public policy approach should be taken seriously across the globe – in traditional donor countries as well as in the context of emerging actors.

Moreover, it is also crucial to complement aid with the provision of global public goods. Official Development Assistance (ODA) is losing its importance for many developing countries. Today, huge amounts of capital are moving from the ‘East’ to the ‘West’ and Foreign Direct Investments are increasingly flowing from the ‘South’ to the ‘South.’ The sources of financing for development investments have thus become much more diverse. ODA from the public budgets of OECD countries has become only one, albeit still important, part of financial flows towards developing countries. At the same time, more and more countries have become completely or at least partially independent from aid. This is the case for a long list of countries in Asia and Latin America, including Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Turkey, China, India and Vietnam who have moved beyond the status of an aid recipient or have almost reached that point.

Development aid and adequate global, and also regional, governance should be regarded as going hand-in-hand. While the relevance of aid is declining in many countries, governance regimes and the provision of global public goods are gaining in relevance in light of the current threats to economic, ecological and political stability. The urgency of these threats underlines that resources should be targeted towards the provision of global public goods in order to respond to these threats. A post-2015 agenda for development thus needs to contain the various sets of essential global public goods, how they are financed, and which global institutions can be held accountable for their provision.

The underlying line of reasoning does not imply that the moral importance of tackling global poverty or suffering from treatable diseases has been reduced. Of course there is still a great need for humanitarian assistance in the poorest countries and for investments in education and health, which can only be financed though public means. Aid will still be vital in the future – above all for poor and fragile countries. But, in the past, the emphasis on aid has been too narrow and precluded putting the spotlight on issues beyond aid. Underestimating other big risks facing today’s world, including climate change and financial instability, will only lead to the latter problems enduring into the future and growing ever larger. In short, development policy should be understood as a combination of development aid, assistance for the provision of global public goods and policies for shaping ‘development friendly’ regimes for the global sphere.

Designing such ‘development friendly’ rules and standards requires adapting existing global governance structures in order to increase their capacity to respond to global challenges. In this context, it is important to prevent the development of a fractious multi-polar world where large advanced and emerging economies pursue their narrow economic interest. This would not only impede the provision of global public goods but also reduce the policy space of less developed countries. The recent history of multilateral negotiations, for example on trade and climate change, shows that it will be difficult to move the global public policy agenda forward. Traditional donors like the European Union and the United States but also emerging actors like China and Brazil could make a contribution by promoting an assessment of the development-friendliness of international regimes in various policy fields. The ongoing debate on the post-2015 development agenda offers an ideal occasion for this.

The G-20 might be seen as a good platform for enhancing policy coherence and improving the framework conditions of the global economy with a view to global public goods like financial stability. But the exclusive club approach of the G-20 lacks legitimacy. Experts and commentators thus propose creating a new institution with more inclusive representation mechanisms. The leading scholars José Antonio Ocampo and Joseph Stiglitz, among others, suggest establishing a Global Economic Council in the context of the United Nations system. Such a Council, or a similar body, should meet regularly at the level of Heads of State and Government to coordinate global economic policy and to tackle institutional gaps and other challenges, for instance, by creating a suitable framework for states going bankrupt or addressing social and ecological issues. Mixing the participation in decision-making of systemically important countries with representation of all members of the international community, such a Council would have more legitimacy than the G-20, and it would be a better forum to strengthen policy coherence and provide global public goods.

The objective ahead, in the post-2015 process and beyond, is to focus on identifying the challenges that threaten our future most in order to modify existing regimes accordingly and allocate aid resources to reducing the risks that they entail. This objective calls for including global governance as a key ingredient in the new development agenda – with a focus on policy coherence and the provision of global public goods. To be sure, the new list of global goals has to be backed up by broad agreement – or else it will hardly be possible to put the agenda into practice. The post-2015 negotiations needs to be open to and include the perspectives of emerging economies like China, India and Brazil. Rising powers should contribute to creating and shaping the new list of global goals – which should encompass a global governance dimension. Both old and new powers need to live up to their shared responsibility to contribute to reforming global governance by tweaking the existing multilateral institutions or creating new ones. We need to adapt multilateralism to today’s multi-polar world. The post-2015 development agenda provides the chance to push this agenda forward.

Clara Brandi is a fellow of the GG2022 program and researcher at the German Development Institute (Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik)

This column is part of a series from the GG2022 fellows. For more information on the GG2022 please see here.

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