Update on Sustainable Development Conference 2012 (Aug12/02)
7 August 2012
Third World Network
plans new Development Agenda
Published in SUNS #7426 dated 7 August 2012
6 Aug (Martin Khor*) -- Following the Rio Plus 20 summit on sustainable
development held in Brazil in June, the United Nations is now laying
the ground for its next big move - the launching of a post-2015 UN
The contents, the events and the expected practical effects of this
Agenda are still hazy. But expectations are already building up that
it could galvanise the world to re-commit to promoting the developing
countries' quest for economic and social development.
In addition, it is important to re-define and strengthen the leadership
role of the UN in championing development with new ideas and concrete
programmes in developing countries.
A comprehensive UN development agenda is even more needed today as
the developing countries are facing severe effects and great uncertainties
arising from the rapidly deteriorating economic situation in the developed
It is possible that the Development Agenda process will lead to a
UN Development Summit in 2014 or 2015.
The move to consider a new UN development agenda is prompted by the
fast approach of the expiry date for achieving the Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs), which set targets to be met in 2015 for poverty alleviation,
education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental
stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a "Global Partnership for
Since 2015 is now so near, a review of the MDGs' success is needed,
and the associated question is what development framework and action
plans should be established as a follow-up to the MDGs after 2015.
In 2010, a MDG summit held at the UN requested Secretary-General Ban
Ki-Moon to come up with recommendations to advance the UN development
agenda beyond 2015. It also asked the General Assembly to hold a "special
event" in its 68th session starting September 2013, to follow
up on actions made towards achieving the MDGs.
One of the expectations is that at this special event, the General
Assembly will give the go-ahead for a Development Summit in 2014 or
2015, with the terms of reference of what that summit will discuss
and what it is to achieve.
Meanwhile, the UN Secretariat is already moving ahead on the development
agenda. It has embarked on three things.
First, a UN task team comprising 50 UN departments and agencies produced
a report at the end of June on what the UN system considers could
be the new development agenda.
The report proposed three fundamental principles (human rights, equality
and sustainability) and four core dimensions (inclusive economic development,
environmental sustainability, inclusive social development and peace
It also identified four sets of "enablers", or key factors
that are needed to enable progress to be made in the four dimensions.
Second, the UN organisations are moving ahead to organise eight global
workshops, each on a major theme. This will be complemented by UNDP-organised
consultations in 50 countries on what the governments and civil society
want in a UN development agenda.
Third, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon has convened a high-level panel to advise him
on the development agenda. On 31 July, he announced that the panel
will be co-chaired by three political leaders - UK premier David Cameroon,
President Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and President Ellen Johnson
Sirleaf of Liberia.
The other 23 panel members include Ministers, other eminent persons,
and experts from Benin, Brazil, China, Colombia, France, Japan, Jordan,
Kenya, India, Latvia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia, South
Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Timor-Leste, Turkey, USA, and Yemen.
The panel has been asked by Ban to produce a "bold yet practical
development vision" by the first half of 2013.
This will input into a report that the Secretary General will prepare
for governments to consider at the General Assembly's special event,
expected to be held in September 2013.
The Panel is to propose "recommendations on a global post-2015
agenda with shared responsibilities for all countries and with the
fight against poverty and sustainable development at its core."
The Panel is also asked to reflect new development challenges while
also drawing on experience gained in implementing the MDGs, both in
terms of results achieved and areas for improvement.
It is also asked to coordinate with a working group of experts from
30 countries now being set up to design Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs) as a follow-up to the Rio+20 conference.
As can be seen from the above, the Development Agenda is shaping up
to be the UN's major process of the next several years. That is good,
but it will have to address several issues soon.
One is the link between its own process and that of the Rio+20 follow-up,
including the establishing of SDGs.
Will the SDGs be the successor of the MDGs? How should the interaction
Second, will the development agenda be narrowly defined as just a
set of new goals and targets like the MDGs, or will it have a more
comprehensive framework, with principles, an analytical structure,
a plan of actions, with means of implementing them?
Third, when do the governments (the member states of the UN) get involved
in designing the Development Agenda, its action plans, goals and targets?
And through which process?
While the UN Secretariat and many UN agencies have already launched
their own preparations for the development agenda, the governments
are scheduled to join the action only from September 2013, with the
That is very late in the process, especially if countries are supposed
to own and drive the Development Agenda.
Finally, it is important that the development agenda gets its contents
right. It has to place the looming global economic crisis at its heart,
in order to be relevant, and include the social and environmental
crises as well.
It should address the structural factors that give rise to the crises,
and not only set up new goals and targets, as was the case with the
(* Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.) +