The UN consultations on the post-2015 development framework are focused on what the UN Millennium campaign aptly calls, “The World We Want.” What do we want to achieve in a generation? What do we want to achieve in our lifetime?
With so many voices and opinions, it’s not surprising that the gaps of the current Millennium Development Goals agenda are the central concern. But the focus in 2015 should not be only on the gaps. It should also be on the fact that we can achieve a more ambitious agenda and will – if we break the discussion out of development circles and make the post-2015 framework a top foreign policy priority for all world leaders when they meet at the UN in September 2015.
Did we achieve the MDGs in 15 years? No, but despite tsunamis, devastating earthquakes and the global financial crisis, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen in every developing region. We did meet the MDG targets on reducing poverty and safe drinking water five years ahead of schedule despite world population growth.
World Bank President Dr. Jim Young Kim has said that ending extreme poverty is possible by 2030. We agree. To put the dollar requirements in perspective: UNESCO calculates that US$16 billion annually is needed to achieve basic education targets in low-income countries – less than the $22 billion that Canada’s military alone spent in Afghanistan in 2011. For its part, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says US$30 billion per year is needed to end world hunger – that’s US$23 billion less than Americans spent on their pets in 2012, according to market research firm Euromonitor International.
Yes, ending poverty in all its forms is within reach. But to get there, we need a broader view of development assistance, one that moves beyond the idea of aid as charity to recognizing that aid focused on poverty alleviation in a globalized world is not only the right thing to do but a fundamental investment in our shared security, prosperity and growth. The recent CIDA/DFAIT merger is an opportunity to bring the federal government’s full comprehensive weight behind achieving these basic development goals.
So how can it be done? As a child-focused agency, we believe that the condition of children and young people is both a marker and a maker of community development.
First, as many aid experts advocate, the new post-MDG framework must tackle directly the inequalities of opportunity and outcome that persist within and between countries. Indeed, the post-MDG agenda should aim to reach the poorest and most vulnerable, especially children. Seventy-five years of development experience have shown that when you boost those at the bottom of the social and economic ladder, particularly girls, you unlock the key to benefits accruing to families, communities and entire nations.
Second, the post-2015 agenda needs to address violence against children, with specific targets for their protection and care. Even as we debate next steps in conference rooms, millions of girls and boys are trafficked on the streets, coerced into early marriage and sexually violated. Millions more are forced to work from early childhood in dangerous and hazard-filled environments. The post-2015 agenda must galvanize the development community to ensure all children live free from fear.
Canada, having carved out a leadership role in this area, can make a significant contribution by insisting that child protection be explicitly included in the post-2015 agenda, with clear targets and indicators aimed at strengthening child protection systems at the local and national levels.
Finally, we welcome Canada’s focus on aid accountability. Yet we must view accountability broadly, not just in terms of the value of taxpayer dollars spent, but through greater democratic participation by the poor themselves to hold all of us accountable. Any new framework should provide for locally led and transparent mechanisms to monitor progress on the ground.
Discussions to date suggest that we are getting some key pieces right: we strongly welcome moves for a standalone goal of gender equality, as well as the inclusion of specific targets to end child marriage and prevent all forms of violence against girls and women.
The work ahead will be more complex and challenging than when the MDGs were first established. Now, we are dealing with the poorest nations and the poorest regions within countries. Progress requires forceful commitment in 2014 to start making headway in 2015 toward the world we want and that everyone deserves.