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Europe: MDGs: the Case for Collective Global Action
Source: www.guardian.co.uk
Source Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Focus: E-Procurement
Country: Europe
Created: Apr 29, 2013

The millennium development goals have been one of the most successful attempts ever to encourage global action for development and poverty reduction in particular. Yet poverty is still widespread and major global challenges persist which make it difficult to overcome. What then should we learn from this experience and how can prosperous countries in future best support the efforts of developing countries to achieve progress post-2015?

The latest European report on development, launched in Brussels on Tuesday, looks into this issue and finds that there is need for more collective global action. In considering options for a new development framework post-2015, the research report – which the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) authored together with partners from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the German Development Institute (DIE) – looked beyond MDGs and beyond aid. Here is a summary of the report's main findings and what they mean for development professionals, particularly from the EU.

Elements of the new framework – looking beyond the MDGs

Our understanding of poverty has improved over the past decade. Research has shown its multi-dimensional and dynamic nature. Although eradicating poverty is the core concern, the new framework should not just tackle income poverty, but should also address social inclusion and inequality. Inclusive and sustainable development requires a new development agenda that is transformational. This entails a stronger emphasis on the promotion of structural economic transformation, in particular the creation of productive employment, the respect of environmental planetary boundaries as well as social transformation emphasising inclusiveness. Only then can poverty be eradicated for good and in turn feed into a sustainable path of development.

How to achieve the new goals of improving aid but going further

To achieve a wider set of goals and a transformative agenda, a post-2015 framework needs to incorporate three important features.

First, it needs to motivate greater international collective action through global policies. There are various global issues that affect the ability of individual countries to pursue development outcomes. Securing international agreements in areas such as international finance, trade and investment, climate change or on migration all help create this conducive environment and should be tackled in the new framework.

Second, the resources and tools to achieve post-2015 goals need to be greatly expanded and include sources beyond aid. Official development assistance is still needed and should be increased, made more effective and allocated in a way that maximises impact and leverages other inputs. Yet a range of other development finance sources will also be required.

Domestic financial resources are particularly important as they provide the greatest policy space for countries to pursue their own development goals. International action on illicit financial flows can help countries improve their fiscal revenue raising. Steps to encourage private investment, both domestic and foreign, such as improving the rule of law and better governance are crucial.

South-south cooperation should be encouraged as it increases choice and opportunities and challenges traditional donors to do better. At the same time the transparency and effectiveness of all types of aid need to be improved, so as to improve co-ordination and reduce waste. Policy coherence is also essential, as other policy areas have significant effects on development outcomes and need to be designed in a manner to support inclusive and sustainable development. For instance if poorly formulated European policies on trade, agriculture or migration can undermine international development. They therefore need to be designed to at least do no harm and ideally to support progress.

Third, and most crucially, developing countries need space to develop their own policies and choose their own development trajectories. Years of experience with development have taught us that externally imposed solutions rarely work. So a new framework should be sufficiently flexible to cater for diverse national circumstances and accommodate a diversity of development trajectories.

What Europe can do to support developing countries

The EU has promoted the MDGs in its development policy, by increasing and improving the effectiveness of its development assistance and through its willingness to co-operate with international partners. It is important the EU member states and institutions continue to build on this record and support a new global development framework.

There are four key roles for the EU to play in a post-2015 context. First, increased financial resources are needed. Despite current difficulties to achieve their commitment to the 0.7% development assistance target, EU donors must continue to increase aid levels. The EU must also further improve the effectiveness of its aid to maximise impact.

Second, for a transformational post-2015 agenda to materialise, promoting policy coherence for development is crucial. Other policies such as security, trade and migration should not thwart development prospects but rather reinforce positive inclusive and sustainable development outcomes. Progress on policy coherence may not be easy, but these efforts are increasingly important in the post-2015 context and it is here where the EU's potentially most valuable contribution to a new global framework lies.

Third, the EU has considerable weight in international negotiations on global policies. Notwithstanding the increasing complexity of global relations and the absence of easy solutions, the EU is still in a relatively strong position to set an example and persuade others to undertake development-friendly reviews of current and potential international agreements.

Much of the success of a new global framework will depend on whether a post-2015 framework will be able to strike several difficult balances. Learning from the experience of the MDGs, it is important to avoid producing a long list of good intentions, but rather restrict the number of goals and indicators to focus efforts. At the same time, to achieve the overall objective of inclusive and sustainable development, various complementary agendas, such as climate change or international trade, often discussed in isolation, need to come together and reinforce each other. The danger of overload is real. A post-2015 agreement may thus be best conceived as a framework that brings together a series of interlocking and mutually dependent and supportive agendas.

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