UN panel on post-2015 agenda ticks the right boxes

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the publication of a major report on the future shape of the world’s development strategy after 2015, entitled “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development.”

May 31st, 2013

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the publication of a major report on the future shape of the world’s development strategy after 2015, entitled “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development.”

The , produced by a 27 member panel of eminent persons, marks the first substantive stage in the unfolding global debate on what happens after 2015 – the target expiry date for the eight Millennium Development Goals set by UN members in 2000. We at the have been making the case for including access to justice and the rule of law as central elements of the post-2015 framework, as well as .

So what is this report all about?
The 81-page report sets out what it calls “five big, transformative shifts” that it argues need to occur to ensure the future of a global population that will have gone from seven billion currently to eight billion by 2030.

These include: ending extreme poverty and making sure no-one is denied universal human rights and basic economic opportunities; ensuring sustainable development that halts climate change and environmental degradation; creating more jobs with inclusive economic growth and education; building peace with open and accountable governments; and a new spirit of global partnership, that we are all in this together.

What was idea four again?
Yes, as enthusiastic supporters of the rule of law, we like item four (although we like all the other ones too).

The panel writes: “We are calling for a fundamental shift—to recognize peace and good governance as core elements of well-being, not optional extras.” Governments, they continue, “should encourage the rule of law, property rights, freedom of speech and the media, open political choice, access to justice, and accountable government and public institutions. We need a transparency revolution, so citizens can see exactly where and how taxes, aid and revenues from extractive industries are spent.”

Yes, we do like item four.

Sure, but the old MDGs talked about human rights and governance, but there were no metrics to encourage governments to deliver. What’s different this time?
To flesh out the five transformative ideas, the panel proposes twelve ‘illustrative goals’, each with five associated targets. Think 5-12-5. Among these 12 goals, which are helpfully set out in Annex ii of the report, the rule of law and justice issues figure largely in Goals 10 and 11.

Now remember, these are ideas that the panel is putting before the UN Secretary General; he could ignore them, or he could recommend them to the members of the UN General Assembly when they start getting to grips with the post-2015 agenda this September.

And? What’s Goal 10, then?
“Ensure Good Governance and Effective Institutions.” The five targets lead off with “provide a free and universal legal identity, such as birth registrations” because without a legal identity it’s very hard to participate fully in any modern society. The four others are: ensuring “that people enjoy freedom of speech, association, peaceful protest and access to independent media and information”; increasing public participation in political processes; guaranteeing the public’s right to information and to access government data; and reducing bribery and corruption.

Excellent. Goal 11?
“Ensure Stable and Peaceful Societies.” The suggested targets include the idea of setting a target for the reduction of violent deaths per 100,000 people; ensuring justice institutions are accessible, independent, well-resourced and respect due-process rights; reducing external factors that lead to conflict, such as organized crime; and improving the quality and accountability of security forces, the police and the judiciary.

And the metrics?
It is true that for these goals, aside from legal identity, the proposed illustrative national targets are less specific than say, goal four, “ensure healthy lives,” which suggests setting a target for the percentage reduction in maternal mortality rates, and a target increase in vaccination rates. But the report suggest that for some targets there may be a case for setting a global minimum standard, which it says could be applied to ending gender discrimination, increasing personal safety or having access to justice. These are issues that will be debated in the months to come.

You said the Open Society was hoping for more ambitious targets on education, too?
Yes, Goal 3, “Provide Quality Education and Lifelong Learning”, recognizes the importance of education in delivering social, environmental and economic benefits. The four proposed targets here include increasing the percentage of children able to get access to pre-primary education, (something that is often referred to as and which is absolutely critical but wasn’t part of the MDGs); ensuring every child completes primary education and can read, write and count; increasing the number of children who at least acquire lower secondary education to a recognized standard; and increasing the percentage of young and adult women and men with the skills needed for work.

The framing of the goal in terms of quality education and the focus on pre-primary are encouraging signs. However, we had hoped that the targets for primary education would go beyond reading, writing and counting to include skills and competencies needed for citizens to participate in their societies and contribute to sustainable development.

What happens now?
The main debate begins at the UN General Assembly in September. People who like the rule of law, due process and human rights (like us) will be arguing hard that that the concepts set out by the high-level panel in goals 10 and 11 should be included  in whatever eventually emerges from the process, which will probably conclude in late 2015. The outcome matters to us all. 

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