Published on Let's Talk Development

Five fundamental transformations to end poverty

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On May 30, 2013, the High Level Panel of eminent persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, a group that had been asked for advice by the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, issued its report, ‘A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development’.  Even though this is not the first report on the topic of what the sequel to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) should be (and it will certainly not be the last either), it is perhaps the first comprehensive report that links voices from around the world with some of the political realities facing the General Assembly as it looks to find a consensus agreement on the post-2015 agenda.
The Secretary-General established the High-Level Panel (HLP) in July 2012, right after the Rio+20 conference. It consisted of 27 persons and was co-chaired by the President of Liberia, Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Indonesia, Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and the Prime Minister of the UK, Mr. David Cameron, MP.  The HLP was tasked to provide bold yet practical thinking for the post-2015 development agenda.  Its report highlights the need for a single agenda that brings together social, economic and environmental issues, and for a universal agenda that is relevant to, and actionable by, all countries.

The report argues that it is right, smart and necessary to develop a post-2015 development agenda with the goals of eradicating extreme poverty in all its forms in the context of sustainable development by 2030, and having in place the building blocks of sustained prosperity for all.  It calls for these gains to be irreversible.

To achieve this, the report argues for five fundamental transformations that, if implemented, would imply a sharp change from business as usual in every country and internationally. It is a call for all countries to:

  1. Leave No One Behind. Ensure that no person – regardless of ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race or income status – is denied basic economic opportunities and human rights.
  2. Put Sustainable Development at the Core. Make a rapid shift to sustainable patterns of production and consumption and act now to slow the alarming pace of climate change and environmental degradation which pose unprecedented threats to humanity, most especially to people living in poverty.
  3. Transform Economies for Jobs and Inclusive Growth. A profound economic transformation can end extreme poverty and improve livelihoods by harnessing innovation, technology and the potential of business. More diversified economies, with equal opportunities for all, can drive social inclusion, especially for young people, and foster respect for the environment.
  4. Build Peace and Effective, Open and Accountable Institutions for All. Freedom from violence, conflict and oppression is essential to human existence and the foundation for building peaceful and prosperous societies.  The Panel is calling for a fundamental shift – to recognize peace and good governance as core elements of wellbeing, not an optional extra.
  5. Forge a New Global Partnership. A new spirit of solidarity, cooperation and mutual accountability must underpin the post-2015 agenda.  This new partnership should be built on our shared humanity, and based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.

In conjunction with the five fundamental transformations, the HLP report calls for the post-2015 agenda to be embedded in national plans and strategies, as well as adopted at the global level.  To monitor progress, the report calls for a “data revolution,” saying that data has enormous power if it is open and accessible, and arguing that data in a far more disaggregated form is necessary to ensure that no marginalized or excluded group gets left behind. Importantly, the HLP calls for partnerships of national and local government, business and civil society to help implement and monitor commitments.

Taken together, the HLP believes that the five fundamental transformative changes can remove the barriers that hold people back, end the inequality of opportunity that blights the lives of so many people on our planet and move forward in developing sustainable patterns of consumption and production that can allow billions of people to become prosperous. They can, at long last, bring together social, economic and environmental issues in a coherent, effective, and sustainable way. Above all, they can inspire a new generation to believe that a better world is within its reach, and act accordingly.

But their impact will depend on how these five areas are translated into specific priorities and actions. The vision would be incomplete unless focused on a set of goals and targets to show how these transformative changes could be expressed in precise and measurable terms. The report includes illustrative goals and targets (Annex I), with more detailed explanation of the evidence and issues in Annex II. In some places, especially on institutional issues, it acknowledges that quantitative indicators are weak, but argues that it is up to the research community to develop good proxies, rather than avoiding important topics. I hope the report will stimulate debate in The World Bank about the priorities for the whole international community in supporting sustainable development in the post-2015 world!

An abridged version of this post was first published in the June issue of the MDGs and Beyond newsletter, produced by The World Bank’s Development Prospects Group.


Homi Kharas

Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution

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