Nov 22, 2014

HLP Report June 2013



The High Level Panel Report on the Post-2015 Development Agenda–What it did and did not address 

On May 31st, the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 Development Agenda issued its report entitled “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economics through Sustainable Development”. The HLP was co-chaired by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, along with Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.  It consisted of a 27-member Panel of Eminent Persons (HLP) to make “recommendations regarding the vision and shape of a post-2015 development agenda”.  The Panel was set up by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and met four times, in New York, London, Monrovia and Bali.  It followed a highly consultative process and received inputs from more than 5000 civil society organisations and 250 chief executive officers of major corporations through a series of consultations, both in person and on-line. 
The HLP’s recommendations will be an input into the Secretary General’s report to the UN General Assembly in September 2013.  The inter-governmental process of negotiating and adopting new goals will start with that report and the new goals are scheduled to be adopted in 2015.
The Panel came together with a sense of optimism and a deep respect for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed to by all nations in 2000.  The MDGs helped to focus the worlds’ minds on eradicating poverty and the 13 years since the millennium have seen the fastest reduction in poverty in human history: there are half a billion fewer people living below an international poverty line of $1.25 a day.  “This unprecedented progress has been driven by a combination of economic growth, better policies, and the global commitment to the MDGs, which set out an inspirational rallying cry for the whole world.” (HLP Report).
But the report also recognizes the areas in which the MDGs failed and also how the world has changed in the last 13 years.  It recognizes that the new development agenda should carry forward the spirit of the Millennium Declaration, but also recognizes the need to go beyond the MDGs. It says that “business as usual is not an option and proposes “five big, transformative shifts”:

  1. Leave no one behind—After 2015, we should move from reducing to ending extreme poverty, in all its forms.
  2. Put sustainable development at the core—We must act now to halt the alarming pace of climate change and environmental degradation, which pose unprecedented threats to humanity.
  3. Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth—We call for a quantum leap forward in economic opportunities and a profound economic transformation to end extreme poverty and improve livelihoods.
  4. Build peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all—We are calling for a fundamental shift—to recognize peace and good governance as core elements of wellbeing, not optional extras.
  5. Forge a new global partnership—Perhaps the most important transformative shift is towards a new spirit of solidarity, cooperation and mutual accountability that must underpin the post-2015 agenda.

These are all necessary and important transformative shifts, though it would have been better perhaps to separate peace and better governance into two and outline six shifts above, since good governance is necessary for all countries, not just fragile, conflict-prone ones and there is no obvious reason to bundle the two.
The more important issue is of the four other necessary and important transformative shifts that the report does not highlight in this manner.

  1. Tackle rising inequality—The report highlights the fact that “inequality remains and opportunity is not open to all.  The 1.2 billion poorest people account for only 1% of world consumption while the billion riches consume 72%!” It however fails to make the link between the rapid rise in inequality, say in a country like India, and the slow progress that we are making in poverty reduction.  The goal of eradicating poverty by 2030 will be impossible to meet if we do not also look at what is happening to inequality during this period and take measures that ensure that growth is inclusive and that the poor benefit disproportionately from it.
  2. Close the gender gap—The report highlights the fact that “every year, one billion women are subject to sexual or physical violence because they lack equal protection under the law.” This statistic alone is shocking enough! In addition, there are also of course huge gender gaps in, inter alia, ownership of property, ease of doing business, and discrimination in political, economic and public life.  The Report recognizes these and addresses them in the form of Goal 2 (out of 12 goals) which says “Empower girls and women and achieve gender equality”. But can this be achieved by burying it under a goal?  Is this not one of the most transformative shifts that is necessary, to put gender equality and women’s rights at the heart of the post 2015 development framework?
  3. Adopt a rights-based approach—Much of what the post-2015 development framework is hoping to achieve--universal access to basic education, healthcare, food, water, sanitation, and so on--are basic human rights.  An approach that recognizes that, and puts the responsibility squarely on an accountable and effective government to help poor people realise their rights would be welcome.  This can of course be done in partnership with others—the private sector, civil society and so on—but the responsibility would lie squarely with the government.
  4. Tackling Social Exclusion—In India and elsewhere, those at the bottom of the economic and social ladder consist of socially excluded groups that face  discrimination on the basis of caste, religion, ethnicity, or gender and whose development would need to be tackled with different policies, rather than just focusing on secular economic growth as the sole means to eliminate poverty. The Panel has called for ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women. It has, however, has turned a blind eye to discrimination faced by other excluded groups. Without making a special effort to create an equal opportunity environment that levels the playing field for socially excluded groups, through affirmative action, quotas, and the like, the danger if that 15 years from now, growth would have lifted everyone above the poverty line except the socially excluded who would still be stuck in poverty as has happened with the current set of MDGs that did not pay attention to this issue.  The face of the poor in most countries is now unfortunately increasingly different from the face of the middle class.

To sum up, both in substance and process, the HLP report makes a huge leap forward, especially by putting the poverty and sustainability goals under one umbrella.  What is fails to do is bring in inclusiveness.  This presents a unique opportunity for India.  India’s 12th Five Year Plan is called “Faster, Sustainable and More Inclusive Growth”. The HLP Report focuses on the first two characteristics of growth.  This gives India a chance to seize the opportunity and drive the agenda on inclusiveness during the coming two years, both at the national and global level, as the global community coalesces around a new common framework and set of goals for the next 15 years till 2030. Through this process, India could begin to finally step with confidence on the world stage to share its particular model of democratic, participatory, and secular growth and development.


Story Credit: Nisha Agrawal, CEO, Oxfam India


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