After a year of consultations, the UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda have delivered their report. The report can be found here http://www.post2015hlp.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/UN-Report.pdf
Seven aspects of the report we can welcome
- Global consultation of 500,000 men and women across most continents. The report’s legitimacy rests on the breadth and depth of the consultations that have taken place.
- The bold optimism – far removed from reducing aid flows, intractable horrific violence in Syria, the European financial crisis and tensions between the new east and west competition for access and control of African resources
- Broadly coherent combination of aspiration, new normative standards and adaptive accountability framework
- Reinforces recently adopted key African Union policy standards and human rights instruments namely Democratic Charter, Women’s Rights Protocol, Mining Vision, Youth Charter, health and education goals. The report also advances new policy norms for Africa in terms of renewable energy, inequality (while weak) and extreme poverty.
- Report captures challenges that were glaringly missing in the Millennium (sometimes also called the Minimalist) Development Goals. The most important of these in my opinion were sexual and reproductive health rights, elimination of extreme poverty, capital flight and tax evasion, stand-alone gender and environmental goals.
- Greater appreciation of segmentation within the private sector (role of SMEs in job and livelihood creation)
- Gone are the % only MDGs targets, now some basic minimums and zero goals
Six aspects the reports seems to miss
- Realism on the success of the MDGs – Four out of the eight goals will not be met in Africa. A billion may have been lifted out of poverty, but these could be found in a few set of countries namely China and India. Extreme poverty is still rife in many parts of the world and especially Africa. The perceived gap between the rhetoric and reality is so large that this report risks itself being met with cynicism.
- Despite important language in the report, it is clear that inequality as the most critical threat to political stability was overstepped in the final instance. Inequalities has been largely dealt with as a national issue rather one fuelling complex phenomena such as conflict, terrorism, brain drain, “national springs” and social exclusion. As important for England as Kenya. Last decade, income of the top 10% richest saw their incomes raise by 37%, the incomes of the bottom dropped by 12% (Oxfam). 2008 post- election class violence took place in an economy recording 6%. Inequality is also an inefficient unjust economic system. Redistribution of just 0.2% of global incomes could lift 21% of the world’s poor out of poverty. (Oxfam)
- The report promotes market liberalization and regulation against capital flight and price-fixing which in the context of Africa will send to mixed signals to Governments that are bracing for private investment in new emerging extractive industries in mineral and fossil fuels
- Noticeably silent are elements of the UN Voluntary Guideliness on the Responsible Governance on Land Tenure (http://www.fao.org/docrep/016/i2801e/i2801e.pdf) that seek to deal with the grand raid on African land and water resources. Africa has over 60% of the world’s arable land. 134 million hectares over a decade has been bought or leased for other nations food or bio-gas needs, (Africa Progress Panel) sometimes for paltry sums for instance leasing 2,500 hectares at $300 a week, Gambella, Ethiopia
- While the human rights language is stronger than in Millennium Declaration and MDGs and this is appreciated, what is still absent is a clear statement of the right to effective enforcement and remedy mechanisms for rights violations
- The problem for Africa is not the lack of data systems per se but the lack of political incentives that would underpin an effective and resourced knowledge based governance system.
What’s needed next?
What the world doesn’t need any more of, is lofty declarations that lack implementation and impact on the reality of the lives of millions denied human rights.
The next stage of handing over the process to the UN Open Working Group and Member States leading upto the September Special Session on the MDGs requires vigilance. Champions both within states, corporate community and civil society need to galvanise a people to sign on and own this framework to ensure that the text does not get watered down. The axis of conservatism is alive and well from our recent experiences with UNCSW, UNFCC and the WTO processes.
Some immediate steps that could be taken would be to generate national policy and public debates on what implications would this report have nationally, regionally and continentally. What could Africa look like in 2030? In Kenya, Vision 2030 could do well to consider the targets it proposes. Are we a match for this vision? What needs to change in the behavior of states and non-state actors? After adoption, we as a Beyond2015 community needs to move to holding states and non-states accountable for an immediate set of actions that trigger long-term shifts in policy and public attitudes.
Irungu Houghton is a Senior African Policy Analyst. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @irunguhoughton. Extracts of this note was presented to Nairobi technical discussion After the Post-2015 High Level Panel Report: Responses from Around the World” which brings together speakers in Nairobi, London, Dhaka and Bogota to interact with High Level Panel Members and the Special Advisor to the Secretary General on Post 2015 Development Planning Ms Amina Mohammed.