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Metrics for success in the post-Arab Spring era

Omer Karasapan's picture
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An issue that often comes up both within the Bank and outside is how one identifies the metrics to measure whether our countries are on the path to “inclusive” and “sustainable” growth as they move away from the old regimes and their crony-friendly and often wasteful policies and programs.

Well, be careful (grateful?) for what you ask for…the metrics are on their way and spot on when it comes to issues around the transition in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. To paraphrase Jeffrey Sachs “Sustainable development means achieving economic growth that is widely shared and that protects the earth’s vital resources. Our current global economy, however, is not sustainable, with more than one billion people left behind by economic progress and the earth’s environment suffering terrible damage from human activity.” As to inclusive growth, Caroline Freund's Blog entry on "Building for Growth, Not Elites" provides a good entry into the topic in the context of the Arab Spring, while Elena Ianchovichina's “What Does Inclusive Growth Mean for the People of MENA"underlines the interest in the topic across the region.

Now to the issue of metric and indicators which are encapsulated in UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's new report  Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosingissued on January 31, 2012 outlining a framework for sustainable development in preparation for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil June 20-22, 2012.

The Secretary General states that "Sustainable development is a top priority…The reasons are clear.  Both science and economics tell us our current path is unsustainable.  Ecosystems are under stress.  Economies are faltering.  The human appetite for resources keeps growing. We need to chart a new, more sustainable course for the future, one that strengthens equality and economic growth while protecting our planet.  Sustainable development offers our best chance to change course."

To make a long story short - the Global Sustainability Report calls on world leaders to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and provide a framework for global policies following the 2015 target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Unlike the MDGs, largely about reducing extreme poverty, the SDGs will focus on the three pillars of sustainable development: ending extreme poverty, sharing the benefits of economic development for all of society, including children, women, minorities, and protecting the Earth.

In short they aim to neatly bring together issues that are at the heart of the Arab revolutions - economic growth, equity and inclusion, and policies that move us away from unsustainable use of natural resources (think water for MENA and subsidies on energy as well as other policies that misdirect resources).

For now, the SDGs remains a work in progress but the report states that any framework for sustainable development goals should be based on the following principles:

• It should be universal in character, covering challenges to all countries rather than just developing nations;

• Express a broadly agreed global strategy for sustainable development;

• Incorporate a range of key areas that were not fully covered in the Millennium Development Goals, such as food security, water, energy, green jobs, decent work and social inclusion, sustainable consumption and production, sustainable cities, climate change, biodiversity and oceans, as well as disaster risk reduction and resilience;

• It should be comprehensive, reflecting equally the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development and the inter-connections between them;

• Incorporate near-term benchmarks while being long-term in scope, looking ahead to a deadline of perhaps 2030;

• Engage all stake-holders in the implementation and mobilization of resources, including local communities, civil society and the private sector, along with Governments;

• Include progress metrics alongside absolute targets, in order to focus policy attention as a means of driving development outcomes and to reflect various development priorities and conditions across countries and regions; and

• Provide scope for the review of these goals in view of evolving scientific evidence.

Stay tuned - more on this will be coming your way sooner rather than later...

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