Key questions to guide the UN Post-2015 High Level Panel’s work and consultations on the future development agenda.
Suggested responses by Claudio Schuftan in a personal capacity.
I. Qs on lessons learned and context:
1. What have the MDGs achieved? What lessons can be learned about designing goals to have maximum impact?
The mix of MDGs achievements/shortcomings is by now well known. The question here is: Do we really want to set goals –in terms of outcomes? Or do we rather want to set (annual) benchmarks –much more related to processes (a central critique of the MDGs). Goals, in the past and in the present, aim at achieving national averages. By design, this leaves half of those affected below the average. To be consistent with the UN-sanctioned Human Rights Framework, setting goals will only make sense if these are applied at the sub-national level, i.e., district or municipality since only this allows focusing national efforts on those territorial units so far most neglected and discriminated. With this being accepted, the concept of maximum impact will have to be redefined in the new framework.
2. How has the world changed since the MDGs were drafted? Which global trends and uncertainties will influence the international development agenda over the next 10-30 years?
The world has changed plenty; but how much due to or despite the MDGs? Let us keep in mind that the selection of MDGs was arbitrary and top-down with many of us having complained about issues left out and about the lack of consultations when they were set. The global trends that will influence development are, for sure, peace, the progressive realization of human rights, and our success in making democracy more a local direct democracy (as opposed to the flawed representative democracy we, at best, have now). But keep in mind that the global trends will be made up of myriad local and regional trends –certainly not forgetting those due to both economic and climate-related migration– which the new framework will have to influence in a positive direction. The human rights framework is the most effective tool we have to achieve this. In the next development phase, let the human rights perspective, then, guide the deployment of human, financial and other resources.
3. Which issues do poor and vulnerable people themselves prioritize?
First of all, ‘vulnerable people’ I think is a euphemism. [It is the same as speaking of ‘people at risk’; we tend to think that people take risks but, beware, risks are also imposed!]. To avoid any sort of victimization, we must talk of marginalized people. Vulnerable has a connotation of ‘poor them…’; marginalized tells us our social arrangements have put them in that situation. Now to the question of which issues claim holders prioritize: The question has not been answered! Why? Mainly because we have not systematically asked them. Let us do that…and then heed their advice! I have great hope that this time we put this question at the very center of what we do in the massive consultation that has now been launched. Should I be optimistic? For people to influence priorities, development work cannot only continue focusing on service delivery, on capacity building and on (depoliticized) advocacy; what is needed is a focus on empowerment and social mobilization (the latter also called practical politics). It is not easy to say what is really empowering in community development work. Any attempted operational definition will (always) carry a certain bias depending on the conceptual glasses one is wearing. What is clear is that –in a mostly zero-sum game– the empowerment of some, most of the time, entails the disempowerment of others –usually the current holders of power. Empowerment is not an outcome of a single event; it is a continuous process that enables people to understand, upgrade and use their capacity to better control and gain power over their own lives. It provides people with choices and the ability to choose, as well as to gain more control over resources they need to improve their condition. It expands the ‘political space’ within which iterative Assessment-Analysis-Action processes operate in any community. That is what we need to pursue.
4. What does a business-as-usual scenario look like?
The business as usual scenario paints quite a grim picture, I’d say. Take, for example, the poverty alleviation discourse in the MDGs: it displaced the poverty debate worldwide: from a political discussion about its causes to a technical, risk management scheme. (N. Dentico)
Bottom line, I am not sure MDG achievements will all be sustainable. We have raced for the outcomes neglecting the participatory processes to get there, and what we see does not bode well.
An equally important question is: What does a business-as-usual mode foretell? As another example, take the following: if current trends continue, by 2015, 3.7 million more children in Africa will suffer from malnutrition than are today. My crystal ball tells me we will see more fundamentalism more ‘…springs’, growing frustration, more (understandable) explosive conflicts; perhaps some empowerment in the process, but empowerment in an unpredictable direction; some good, I’d expect. What this tells us is the urgency for the post-2015 agenda to address the real deep structural causes of widespread disempowerment of those that live in poverty/happen to be poor.
Perhaps the most crucial element missing in the MDGs was a conceptual framework of the causes of underdevelopment (or maldevelopment). In the 1990s, UNICEF pioneered the now widely accepted conceptual framework of the causes of malnutrition identifying its immediate, underlying and basic or structural causes importantly showing that addressing each level of causality is necessary but not sufficient. This omission of the MDGs cannot be repeated by the new framework we are all trying to come up with. An adaptation of the already well accepted UNICEF framework is perhaps the best way to address this omission. Are we up to the challenge?
II. Qs on the shape of a post-2015 development framework:
5. How should a new framework address the causes of poverty?
Based on the new conceptual framework on the causes of maldevelopment I plead be arrived at by consensus, the post 2015 framework will importantly have to work on deconstructing neoliberal globalization –the latest incarnation of raw capitalism. Why? Because it is not about the alleviation of poverty (much less about the chance of eradicating it); it is about a quantum reduction of disparity the world over –among and within countries. It is about working out new mechanisms of redistribution of wealth and power. And such a redistribution will only come through empowerment and social mobilization from below; with people going from having voice to exerting influence. I worry that all the good intentions of the UN to address the structural causes of poverty in the conceptual framework will lead to another 10 years of failure if it does not politicize this issue. The rich have no intentions to give up their power and privileges; non-violent counter-power has to be organized and applied. Dialogue has to become a dialogue of equals.
6. How should a new framework address resilience to crises?
Ultimately, the common denominator of most of the man-made crises can be attributed to the excesses of capitalism. (It is not really the excesses of capitalism but capitalism itself that cause the problems; those excesses are only the inevitable result of raw capitalism, more systematically implemented). Decisive steps must be taken by the new framework to foster the social mobilization needed to make sure effective disparity reduction measures are launched nationally and internationally. [ Internationally, this means giving accredited NGOs a seat, voice and vote in UN and in government deliberations. Environmental crises have both natural and man-made causes. As Rio and Rio+20 have shown us, we can effectively address the latter. The new framework must depart from this premise and thus, as a minimum, incorporate Rio+20 recommendations.
7. How should a new framework address the dimensions of economic growth, equity, social equality and environmental sustainability? Is an overall focus on poverty eradication sufficiently broad to capture the range of sustainable development issues?
The economic growth model has been shown to be unsustainable, mostly (but not only) on environmental grounds. Does the new framework have an option not to deemphasize economic growth as the main development goal? It actually needs to denounce it in no uncertain terms.
Reaching equity and social equality inevitably points to the fact that both need the processes of empowerment and social mobilization I insisted-upon earlier.
For environmental sustainability, the roadmap has already been worked-on by the experts in Rio and Rio+20 so that the new framework has to adopt its recommendations.
As said, the focus ought not to be on poverty eradication, but on disparity reduction which has connotations for urgently needed actions both in rich and in poor countries including changes in many, if not most, aspects of ODA.
The disparity reduction approach is necessary, but not sufficient to capture the range of sustainable development issues. Rio+20 is clear about this.
8. What should be the architecture of the next framework? What is the role of the SDGs in a broader post-2015 framework? How to account for qualitative progress?
The broader architecture of the next framework must absolutely be based on the human rights framework. Enough of lip service. It is time for deeds (related, nothing less, than to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the UN Charter). From now on, we have to look at the development process from the perspective of claim holders and duty bearers in their dialectic relationship. This language must be adopted and both groups have to be made more confident and assertive in their respective roles, i.e., claim holders placing concrete demands/staking claims and duty bearers abiding by UN Covenants, Conventions and General Comments. The concept of progressive realization is another one to be given center stage.
The role of the Sustainable Development Goals is also key. We only have one planet! Heed the recommendations from Rio!
Also related to the architecture, there will have to be a global UN body with executive powers following up on the implementation of the new framework. (The MDGs did not really have this; it was left to countries to apply them; there was no global accountability). This body must be endowed with funding. It must have some kind of an executive ombudsperson role on issues of implementation and must work towards influencing international financing mechanisms being made available.
To account for qualitative progress, yearly benchmarks have to be set by each country (especially for the poorest districts/municipalities) based on processes that must be implemented en route to the progressive realization of the different human rights. Civil society organizations are to be appointed as watch dogs for the achievement of these benchmarks; they need to receive funds specially earmarked for this.
9. Should (social, economic, and environmental) drivers and enablers of poverty reduction and sustainable development, such as components of inclusive growth, also be included as goals?
The word enablers is a rather vague one. So is inclusive growth. I had already suggested a) that we need to deemphasize economic growth as the main development goal, b) that the selection of outcome goals is likely to be less useful than the use, inclusion and of yearly processes-achievement benchmarks, and c) that disparity reduction, and not poverty reduction, is the term to be used from now on.
Indeed, the three drivers mentioned in the question need to be tackled --but absolutely not forgetting a fourth one, namely the political driver. Each is necessary, but not sufficient. [The UN being non-political is to be understood in terms of non-political-partisan, but, by God, it needs to act more decisively on issues political in nature it strongly stands for; therefore, when needed, calling a spade a spade. Some agencies do it more that others].
10. What time horizon should we set for the next phase in the global development agenda (e.g., 10, 15, 25 years, or a combination)?
I am more inclined for five years with yearly-interval benchmarks as yardsticks of progressive realization. Yearly achievements/shortcomings can thus be assessed and adjustments made accordingly, as needed, in a participatory manner. With the world changing as fast as it does, I am sure that major adjustments are justified every five years –at least at the country level.
11. What principles and criteria should guide the choice of a new set of goals?
The human rights principles of non-retrogression, universality and inalienability, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness, equality and non-discrimination, participation and inclusion, and accountability and rule of law are, once and for all, to guide the new framework. The assessment of these principles being respected is to be built-in into assessing annual benchmarks.
The main criterion that must go with this is for countries to be mandated to participatorily draw-up long-term and annual plans for the progressive realization of human rights Human rights are all closely related to the development process. (Such plans could be a requirement for ODA as well). The new framework must demand these progressive realization plans be drawn up.
III. Qs on themes and content of a new framework:
12. To what extent can we capitalize on MDGs achievements and failures in developing our post-2015 development agenda?
To a great extent and to begin with, the agenda can not again be drawn top-down –a challenge that I still see unresolved. Opening up the consultation to development workers worldwide reading this is only a variance of a top-down model. We not only can, but must capitalize on both the positive and negative lessons learned from the MDGs. Which lessons? Ask the recipients of MDG ‘benefits’! This calls for governments and local civil society the world over to jointly open, in the next year, a wide dialogue on post-2015 options. Seed funding is needed if we are serious about this.
13. What is the legacy agenda of the existing MDGs that will be inherited in the next framework? Which elements should be revised in the light of lessons learned, such as the importance of girls’ education and gender equality?
Positive points notwithstanding, the legacy of MDGs shortcomings, as I see them, is that they had donor over-influence; had a technical over-emphasis; paid no attention to acting on the underlying social and economic inequalities; they lacked a systematic long-term financial commitment; had a predominant focus on health and education; and overlooked the entire participation and political economy contexts. Furthermore, they did not quantify the obligations of the rich countries (this assumed that poverty is a problem of poor people only); actions to be taken in the rich countries must simply be part of the next framework.
Poverty was defined in the MDGs as a state in which people have to live in the equivalent of less than $US 1 a day (but inflation is likely to make the one dollar in 2000 worth around 60 cents by 2015); and China, Cuba, and Vietnam (where, by the way, I live, so I am in a position to know), have long focused on structural development concerns, but have not labeled them as ‘Millennium Development Goals’, i.e., not wanting to play the MDGs game.
These are all shortcomings we do not want to carry over to the next framework. Beware: the elements to be revised, such as the ones insinuated in the question, are not for us reading this questionnaire to decide! Additions and revisions are to come from consultations with claim holders and duty bearers down below in many little places giving this process the flexibility needed in terms of the participative selection of contents and the timing of their participative introduction.
14. Which issues were missing from the MDGs and should now be included? How to address inequality, jobs, infrastructure, financial stability, and planetary boundaries?
It is not for us to decide these issues. They must come from dialoguing with claim holders and duty bearers at national and sub-national level importantly including women and youth organizations, trade unions, social movements, parliamentarians, local civil society organizations, organizations of migrants (who cannot be ostracized as non-citizens!)…
Inequalities are a result of power imbalances so, obviously, the organization of a counter-power is the answer for the next period; rights holders have to become de-facto claimants through processes of empowerment and social mobilization.
Employment issues must be discussed directly with trade unions for inputs.
Nobody knows better the shortcomings in infrastructure than their daily users (and/or those who need it and do not have it); we have to reach out to get their inputs.
Financial instability is a trademark of the cycles of boom and bust of capitalism and, as we now know better, is caused by the reckless behavior of greedy megabanks and financial institutions and individuals. Global and national regulation –including people’s audits– must keep them at bay making sure taxpayers never again bail them out for the disasters they bring about. A Tobin-type tax is an issue whose time has (belatedly) come. People’s audits also must be introduced to look into the issues of odious foreign debt in poor countries.
For planetary boundaries, we should fall back on work done by UNEP and in Rio; but what is needed for the new framework is to set aside funding to educate the public at large, all over the world, about these boundaries so as to make this an additional topic of their empowerment and mobilization.
All the above notwithstanding, remember the most crucial element missing in the MDGs was a conceptual framework of the causes of underdevelopment (or maldevelopment) alluded-to earlier.
15. How should a new framework incorporate the institutional building blocks of sustained prosperity, such as freedom, justice, peace and effective government?
I wish I understand what ‘institutional building blocks’ are. So I am a bit at a loss here. But anyway, first of all, the concept of sustained prosperity must be de-linked from the concept of economic growth with the latter having to be seriously questioned.
Freedom, justice and peace are all embedded in the human rights framework which will have to, once and for all, be the guiding framework for post-2015 development agenda. [It is a real pity (or a scandal? ) we are facing having to wait another 24 months for this to become true!].
As for effective government, I have always said that elected officers are as good as the people who elected them; electors deserve those they elect(ed). The problem is that (the often anachronistic and formal) representative democracy is made use of every 4, 6 or 8 years. “You made a bad choice? You are stuck till the next election”. Under these circumstances, nothing short of making the accountability/watch dog function a function of civil society (with commensurate funding) will be good enough in the new framework. Actually, the ultimate purpose of social mobilization is the application of local direct democracy to remedy the serious shortcomings of representative democracy.
16. How should a new framework reflect the particular challenges of the poor living in conflict and post-conflict situations?
I assume that by ‘the poor’ actually the question means ‘poor people’ (or people living in poverty). I hope I make my point…
If we are talking about ‘particular challenges’, can we expect the new framework to have general recommendations here? Is this a contradiction? Would global recommendations have any chance to work?
I strongly feel this is, par-excellence, a topic for South-South cooperation (with commensurate funding). Countries living in conflict and/or post-conflict can give better advice to others on what to do/not to do. The international community’s help should come in the implementation of the recommendations coming from such S-S cooperation –the help firmly based on the principles of their extra-territorial human rights obligations now recognized by ECOSOC.
17. How can we universalize goals and targets while being consistent with national priorities and targets?
The first question I have here is: Must we again universalize goals and targets? And then: Does the MDGs experience tell us universalization of national level targets was a good thing so as to follow it now? I have said that I personally prefer the setting of benchmarks over the setting of goals and targets (whatever the difference is between these two).
National priorities have to be based on a progressive realization of human rights long-term plan with annual benchmarks. The priorities must be disaggregated to the district/municipality level so as to first concentrate actions on the x% of the most marginalized ones. (Vietnam has done so with a hundred thirty some districts). [This applies equally to giving priority to marginalized groups in society; I do not need to name them here since they are well known]. This all is what the human rights based approach calls for! So, nothing new here. In this case, we are talking about a human rights principle that is not subject to progressive realization, but calls for immediate implementation, namely the principle of non-discrimination.
The only way another set of universal goals is going to get us further in the next phase is to mandate those goals be achieved in each district/municipality and not as a national average.
IV. Qs on partnership and accountability for development:
18. How will a new framework encourage partnerships and coordination between and within countries at all stages of development, and with non-state actors such as business, civil society and foundations?
If the framework should encourage partnerships and which partnerships is the first question to be asked here. We need to know which partnerships the question refers to. Partnerships with whom?
‘Partnerships’ between countries have a very sorry historical past in the realm of neo-colonialism. Partnerships in traditional ODA do not have much to show for either in terms of each partner wielding equal weight in decision-making (this includes partnerships with often non-transparent/non-democratic mega philanthropies and foundations).
South-South partnerships are an upcoming potentially promising avenue the new framework should definitely refer to, explore and foster.
A special worrisome ‘animal’ here are public-private-partnerships that have been plagued by devastating conflicts of interest and by claims of white-washing the conscience of participating TNCs. Quite a bit has been written about this and I will not go into more details. (I call your attention to seminal work done on this by IBFAN and by Judith Richter).
[It would be desirable the new framework calls for greater transparency of mega philanthropies with an opening-up of their internal decision making processes].
The new framework simply has to put in place mechanisms through which governments together with representatives of civil society have a controlling stake in all partnerships. Governments and civil society organizations have learned (and suffered) by now and are now up-to-the-job, from now on, to take this mandated role.
At global level, PPPs are also a big worry at the UN in general (Global Compact) and in UN agencies. The People’s Health Movement has been active in denouncing this state of affairs in WHO calling for concrete and definitive measures to be taken. The question also calls for coordination between countries and within countries. The latter, I understand well. But does ‘between countries’ refer to foreign aid? If yes, I have made my point. If not, this coordination will have to be further explained.
19. How specific should the Panel be with recommendations on means of implementation, including development assistance, finance, technology, capacity building, trade and other actions?
I would say the Panel should not be specific on such means, but perhaps propose a range of options. It is for the participatory country and sub-country level to work on them and gain full ownership of the ones finally selected. There should be a specific time period and funding set aside for this.
As regards development assistance, foreign aid has to be made to abide by the human rights framework and by the principles of extra-territorial obligations.
The transfer of technology is a key additional issue. At grassroots level, the technology has to be appropriate, as decided by its direct future users. Otherwise, we have witnessed how TNCs transfer second hand technology to developing countries –technology they have replaced by a more advanced one in rich countries. This perpetuates underdevelopment and must, therefore, be countered.
Capacity building: my experience is in health. I have seen the proliferation of aid-funded vertical programs, be they for TB/HIV/malaria or for family planning… They all duplicate in big part the training offered with the same service provider at the point of delivery being called out for yet another training. Add to this that often different donors repeat the very same training due to a total lack of coordination. The service provider attends mostly for the sitting allowance provided and returns home not applying what has been learned. I call this disease ‘workshopitis’. The remedy? In health, we need roving multidisciplinary provincial teams that go facility by facility, stay 2-3 days in each, observe how services and extension/outreach work to the community are provided, correct deficiencies, add new knowledge, leave a list of to-dos and return in three or six months to check on changes only to make yet a new round of recommendations, and so on.
Trade is also a big problem. Rich countries have stayed away from using WTO as a vehicle for their international trade deals and have opted for bilateral free trade agreements where they can better use their muscle to extricate more favorable conditions. The negative human rights consequences of most of these FTAs are nothing short of appalling. The rich in the poor countries may benefit, but not poor people. The new framework cannot possibly ignore this fact at the risk of coming up with a ‘robbing Peter to pay (rich) Paul’ agenda of development. [Not coincidentally, this also applies to poor countries servicing their odious foreign debt].
20. How can accountability mechanisms be strengthened? What kind of monitoring process should be established? How can transparency and more inclusive global governance be used to facilitate achievement of the development agenda?
The answer is: Through civil society organizations specifically funded to act as watch dogs.
The monitoring should be based on annual benchmarks so as to check if on processes set in motion to assure the progressive realization of human rights are on course. (This presupposes each country prepares a long-term progressive realization plan of action with a, say, ten years horizon. The new framework must explicit this).
If a more inclusive global governance is to be understood as participatory governance, then the issues pertaining to governance transparency are included in the watch dog function.
What this question does not touch-upon is the issue of providing accessible redress mechanisms. The obligation of States is to take steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress any abuse through effective policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication. States must ensure that those affected by business-related abuses or other human rights abuses have access to a prompt, accessible and effective remedy including, where necessary, recourse to judicial redress and non-judicial accountability and grievance mechanisms. The new framework must address this issue.
It is well known that CSOs are active in many countries in preparing shadow reports for the UN Human Rights Council. The framework must explicitly encourage CSOs to participate. Once the Council engages in the universal periodic review of the human rights issues of each country it issues recommendations which, unfortunately, are not binding. Mentioning this fact, may help the new framework creating greater consciousness about this shortcoming which could result in some corrective action on this in the future.
21. How can a new framework tackle the challenge of coherence among the organizations, processes, and mechanisms that address issues that are global in scope?
[I saw the concept of ‘poverty of ambition’ being used in these post 2015 discussions; I think it fits nicely here].
Since Paris has, for all practical purposes failed, I think the in-country coordination of donors and local organizations should be made mandatory for multilateral and bilateral agencies and for non-governmental donors both on general aid and aid by sector. Central in the coordination process will be addressing the global issues that the new framework will suggest be prioritized worldwide with the specific mandate to adopt/adapt them to the local realities and priorities. Coordination meetings are to be chaired by two government representatives ideally from the ministries of planning and finance and must have a representative participation of CSOs. More human and financial resources have to be specifically allocated by donors for such a coordination function.
Underlying the actual willingness and commitment of all involved agencies to work in a coherent manner will, in many cases, call for a profound exercise of revisioning and remissioning of what they do based on an honest question: Are we part of the problem or of the solution? The new framework can no longer condone silo mentality, vertical programs, each donor for himself in development work. Service delivery work is not enough; technical capacity building work is not enough; advocacy work is barely enough. Remissioning is about these institutions funding and engaging in empowerment an social mobilization work in the countries they work in.
Globally, it would be highly desirable that the new framework proposes ways to be worked out for the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also to be involved in coherence, in processes and in mechanisms issues.
Furthermore, it seems indispensable that in the post-2015 period the UN special rapporteurs be allocated adequate budgets to allow them to have proper small staffing and more travel funds to do their (excellent) work.
22. How can we judge the affordability and feasibility of proposed goals, given current constraints?
Affordability is strictly a country by country matter. Being a cautious optimist, I think the current constraints will be overcome. Therefore, to be prominently kept in mind are the provisions of the extraterritorial obligations of rich countries. This means that countries showing well justified shortcomings to embark in the progressive realization of human rights will go to donor agencies for help. Given that the progressive realization is based on yearly progress marked by benchmarks –and countries will have ad-hoc plans– donors will be able to commit resources long-term, in tranches, based on the budgeted official progressive realization plan of each country. Coupling this with CSOs participation on accountability issues gives us some hope for (cautious) optimism on feasibility.
Affordability/feasibility issues can be and have been addressed successfully in several instances through participatory budgeting initiatives. These ought to have an important place in the post-2015 recommendations.
V. Qs on shaping global consensus for the goals:
23. How can we build and sustain global consensus for a new framework, involving member states, the private sector and civil society?
Global consensus has to be built from the bottom up, i.e., starting from the sub-national level up. This is why this consultation period up to 2015 is so crucially in need to go to the level of claim holders and duty bearers at district level. (Keep in mind that duty bearers to claim holders in the community are, in turn, claim holders to duty bearers at the national, often ministerial, level….and those, in turn, claim holders to duty bearers in the international context, i.e., there is a chain of oppressed oppressors). Thinking loud: Can a worldwide 1-2 weeks period of national debate be agreed upon and set sometime in 2014? Can we then imagine a global process of some kind of formal ratification of the new framework by parliaments, social movements, CSOs, private sector without conflicts of interest (?) and governments the world over?
Sustaining the consensus will depend on progress being made. Annual benchmarks can give us year-to-year reports of progress as perceived by representatives of the wider society. This national annual taking of stock has the additional advantage of giving the new framework flexibility to change tactics within the same strategy (…or change strategy if needed).
24. How can our work be made coherent with the process to be established by the intergovernmental Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals?
All efforts have to be made to secure such a coherence. Moreover, in all issues pertaining the SDGs and pertaining to this post-2015 framework the principle of one country one vote is non-negotiable in all instances when such consultations are deemed necessary. We all are born to live in this planet as equals. [I see no problem in isolating the rich countries often voting in block against the poor countries and thus formally obstructing this or any coherence. They are already doing so! So what is left for the poor countries is to continue blaming and shaming them, remotely hoping for a future break through. In the meantime, as much as possible, the poor countries ought to act on issues as per their majority vote].
Having come to the end of this reflection, I know I have opened only a small additional window that adds to the equally important contributions of many many others. I am afraid I have often been normative (and even possibly wrong). There are too many shoulds and woulds in my comments.
The risk we face is coming up with a more radical new framework than the MDGs framework was only to see it watered down by the powers that be –as has always been the case in end negotiations.
I ask you: Why has consensus always to be pulled to the side of those who feel they have something to loose in this pathetically unequal and unfair world?
I was looking at the November 30 note the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda just made available and had a couple to-the-point short comments.
Is there a way we can get away from the use of the maligned term ‘stakeholder’? Stakeholders stake claims, right? The simple replacement of the word stakeholders by claim-holders or duty bearers, as appropriate (to use the correct HR parlance that we and the UN are finally trying to instill in post-2015), just might provide us with the hint of the sort of framework we are interested in fostering in the new era. Claim holder/duty bearer are in the original UN language. Stakeholders is originally business language. To have or to hold a stake in something is the same as having an interest or holding shares!!! (A. Katz)
As regards the section on human development, the second bullet talks of raising the bar and of several members focusing on the need for quality of outcomes. The MDGs have shown us that a focus on outcomes does not assure sustainability of the respective goal being kept up. It is not only the quantity and the quality of outcomes that counts; it is the participatory processes to achieve them that will matter in the long run. (Note that here sustainability is used in a different sense than in the environmental connotation of the term).
The fourth bullet tells us that many panel members pointed to the importance of rights and equity. I ask, do we have some panel members that ought not be there if this is not the unanimous outlook of the panel? Furthermore, there are still too many among us that consider HR and equity, gender…as crosscutting issues; they are not. They are core issues (!) and we have to build sectoral or other interventions around them.
As regards the section on jobs and livelihoods, the sixth bullet talks about safety nets. I feel strongly we ought, instead, to be talking about social protection mechanisms. Universal social protection is the new political and cultural horizon where health rights must be placed. Social protection is the fundamental measure to pursue redistribution of wealth. It includes social security, social assistance, labor rights, the right to public services and environmental rights. (F. Mestrum)
Safety nets take the issue of poverty as a fait accompli. So since ‘they’ are poor, we throw them a few crumbles of bread since it is morally reprehensible to us to let them starve. In reality, safety nets somehow come up with measures that avoid social discontent that could flare up into protests and thus a challenge to the status-quo. Or put another way: Safety nets are nothing but a way to manage poverty and ‘ill-being’ (as opposed to wellbeing) by attenuating social unrest. Am I very wrong?
The ninth bullet pertaining to providing accessible and affordable basic needs to the poor closely relates to what I say above. It just, in a way, replaces safety nets by targeting the poor (note the use ‘the poor’ in the bullet; should it not be ‘poor people’? We have to be careful with depersonalizing the billions of the affected). [I want to caution you that the same is true for when programs and projects speak of ‘targeting the poor’]. The bullet goes on to infer that nutrition, health, education, housing, clean water and sanitation will eventually cut the vicious circle of poverty. I thought the inter-generational vicious circle of poverty could only be uprooted for good with structural changes in the political and economic system that rules most of the world. Am I very wrong?
I want to take the opportunity to express my thanks for the excellent 24 questions the panel released on this same occasion. They have the right food for thought and I hope to be able to spend some quality time pondering over them.