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London 18:34, 02 Jan 2013
New York 13:34, 02 Jan 2013

“A New Generation of Development Goals” - A day of informal discussions

26 November 2012

Remarks by Ambassador Sir Mark Lyall Grant on Panel 3: Ensuring Coherence — Bringing the Different Processes Together
Mark Lyall Grant

I’m afraid I can’t speak obviously for the panel as a whole, but I can speak on behalf of one of the co-chairs of the high-level panel set up by the Secretary-General on this post-2015 framework agenda. I think the danger of discussion at the UN, always, is that we discuss more process than we do substance. We love talking about process. But I’m hoping the high-level panel actually won’t discuss much process, but will focus very much on the substance, so I just want to say a few words about the substance first, before coming onto some process issues, because I think it’s important to look back at the MDGs and see what has been successful and why it has been successful and obviously there has been a lot of analytical work that has gone in.

I think that most people would conclude that they had been relatively successful, because their focus, their simplicity, their measurability, their relevance and their realism all made a difference, not only because it became a tool for communications, but it also had real life effects on the ground across the world, as developing countries in particular have adapted their development practises and policies to fit in with the MDGs so they had real impact on the ground and it’s that that we need to maintain for the post-2015 framework. That power.

Now, for us, we think that that means we need to maintain a very tight focus on poverty eradication. This is the “finish the job” aspect that was mentioned, because despite the global successes of the MDGs, we know that there are many countries that are suffering in terms of maternal child health, clean water, nutrition, food security. And it’s absolutely right that we should not abandon those in 2015 and leave those behind who have not managed to achieve the objectives by that date.

At the same time we have to recognise that there were gaps in the MDGs, we didn’t know everything that was going to happen in 2000 and we don’t know now, for 2015, what is going to be happening by 2030, which is the likely timescale for the next framework. And in particular the MDGs focussed on development outcomes, but did not address the causes of poverty or the drivers of sustained prosperity. And that’s why we think there should be included some consideration of the building blocks for poverty eradication, such as infrastructure, such as jobs, environment, sustainability, personal security, growth... What is it that makes sustainable and equitable growth possible? And what is the role of the framework in driving these enablers?

And also the new framework has got to be relevant not just in 2015, but also in 2030 at the end, and that’s where some of these new challenges come in. Now there’s a lot of expert work being done on that and the panel is outsourcing, as it were, some of that expertise to get as many ideas as possible, but it won’t come as any surprise that issues like urbanisation, environmental degradation, resource scarcity, feature strongly in some of those ideas that are coming forward.

That’s just a little snapshot on the substance and what we’re looking at. In terms of the methodology, if you like, or the outcomes, we see three major risks to this process:

1.     The first is, that we fail to agree any framework. Obviously that is a big risk. It would be very damaging for the UN and, I don’t think it will happen, but obviously it is a risk

2.     The second risk, which is more likely, is that we will end up with competing, or overlapping, frameworks and we’ve heard a lot of discussion about those different processes that are there. And there’s a big risk in those parallel processes as we know. If we end up with a set of MDGs and a set of SDGs, it’s not going to work. We need a single set of measurable goals in our view and targets and maybe they should be called GDGs – Global Development Goals - or something else, that embraces both sides of the equation.

3.     But perhaps the biggest risk of all is that we agree a framework which then looks unrealistic and can’t be implemented on the ground or has no connection with real life development priorities of the poorest countries around the world. And that can happen if we have a fudged compromise or set of ‘Christmas Trees’ and we know from bitter experience at the UN that that is a massive danger of any inter-governmental process. It’s virtually impossible to take anything away, everything gets added. So, you end up with a ‘Christmas Tree’ approach or you find drafting fudges because there are underlying differences of substance. Of course there’s also a risk that it doesn’t address some of the new challenges that I mentioned or that it looks entirely utopian when put into reality.

Now how do we avoid those risks?

I think the close coordination between what the High-Level Panel is doing and the Open Working Group (OWG) is obviously critical and that’s what was agreed at Rio+20. We’re hoping to support the establishment of the Open Working Group, have a sort of completely transparent relationship between the two. They’re working on different cycles, but whilst they’re working in parallel they should be completely transparent.

Secondly, and this is really important, we have to be brave and we have to prioritise. As mentioned, already there are 44 different suggestions for new goals and we’re only a couple of months into the process. There will be many more that will come forward, but I think there is certainly a determination on the part of the co-chairs of the High-Level Panel to make choices and to be bold, to recommend options for some of those very difficult choices that are going to have to be made in order to produce the right sort of prioritised realistic goals that have the power and impact that the MDGs themselves had.  

And so we’re looking for three very basic characteristics from the High Level Panel’s work.

  • The first is ambition, so that we set out a vision that really captures the imagination and what we’re thinking of, is something around eradicating poverty in our time and that’s the sort of ambition that certainly the co-chairs of the High-Level Panel have,
  • The second is around clarity and simplicity – as I say, making choices, being very clear. Having the same power to motivate that the MDGs had in 2000,
  • And thirdly, it’s partnership, because, as others have said, one has to have a compact, a top down and a bottom up, of the poorest countries, the big payers, and those in the middle. All of those have got to find some echo, some link, to the end product and to have that necessary buy in for that product if it is to have the sort of impact that we would like it to have.

Thank you very much.

You can watch a video of the event here and find out more about the Millennium Development Goals here.

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