Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

Post Millennium Development Goals: Testing the Inclusion of Vulnerable Sectors and Populations

Written by on . Published in Searchlight.

This article was originally drafted by Pasko Kisic and the FORO Nacional Internacional as part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Searchlight Process. For more Searchlight content on, please click here.

Since 2000, Latin American countries have been successful at reaching MDGs. Considering that MDGs were planned until 2015, governments, and international and civil society organizations are carrying out new consultations for a future set of development goals with a focus on vulnerable people and sectors.

MDGs represent a global effort to agree on a specific set of development results with 2015 in mind. But

2015 is near and the advances to achieve the eight MDGs have not been uniform. The UN member states requested a full report on the progress of the MDGs in 2010. All over the world, there is interest in evaluating the outcomes of this global effort. During the last two years, governments, UN agencies, and civil society organizations (CSOs) have joined this task. A major effort to forge a similar agreement post-2015 is under way, and the UN has started a new round of consultation in parallel with the High-Level Panel of eminent persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The United Nations building in New York City (By Ashitaka San via CC BY-NC 2.0)

As part of this new round of consultations, countries are requested to produce their own evaluations.[1] A UN report has assessed the progress and shortcomings of the MDGs (June 2012) and has reached the following conclusions.[2] First, the world as a whole has been able to reach the goal of cutting poverty by half compared to the 1990 levels. Second, this progress has been heterogeneous among regions, and vulnerable and poor populations now concentrates in South East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Third, progress has been made regarding access to drinking water sources, and now two billion more people have access compared to 1990. Fourth, the goal of equal access to primary education by gender has also been achieved and child mortality has significantly decreased. In contrast, there has been less progress in reducing vulnerable employment,[3] which has only decreased by 9 percent since 1990; maternal mortality and health still remain precarious despite improved water access in rural areas; and there are still 850 million people in the world still living in hunger.

Monitoring MDG progress not only focuses on quantitative results, but also on the effectiveness of the implementation process. This process has shown several structural weaknesses[4] that the new consultation process is trying to identify and avoid (table 1): (i) MDGs use international standards that sometimes have hidden and overlooked specific local development conditions and complexities; (ii) little attention has been put to identify and take into account the synergies between different goals and targets; (iii) advances in low human development countries tend to be overlooked due to a rigid “on-track” and “off-track” framework to measure progress; and (iv) there was emphasis on closing financial and economical gaps to the detriment of institution building, capacity creation and structural transformations. These criticisms have been present during the whole MDG implementation process. Nevertheless, this exercise of self-criticism should lead to a better formulation of the consultation processes that in turn leads to a consensus on new set of development goals post-2015.

Although there are some doubts that a post-2015 MDG implementation processes will emerge easily, and even concerns that continuing working under an MDG framework is feasible, MDGs will be present in the international development agenda after 2015. Because of the criticisms during the implementation process in each country, UN agencies are currently scaling up their consultation processes with vulnerable populations and groups, which have traditionally been excluded from high-level development debates. In order to obtain a representative voice of these groups, the UN is carrying out workshops to identify crucial post-2015 development factors.

The workshops in Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru and El Salvador utilize foresight exercises in order to identify desired future scenarios based on analyzing development factors, key stakeholders, and potential threats. What emerges is a list of topics and concerns that exceed the scope of current MDGs. In these workshops participants focus on inequality, governance, institutional capacity, environmental sustainability, the situation of youth, political legitimacy, mass media, and mental health, among others.

These wide consultations are possible because three key stakeholders (international cooperation agencies, governments, and CSOs) are working together to better address the needs, perceptions and aspirations of vulnerable populations and groups that they want to target. One challenge will be to synthetize the vast diversity of topics into a solid set of post-2015 development goals. The UN is already working over a consensus on five “guiding” development principles: (i) equality; (ii) respect for nature, food and energy security; (iii) solidarity; (iv) freedom and tolerance; and (v) shared responsibility. Moreover, any post-

MDGs should also consider the findings and resolutions reached in other international development agreements, such as those of the Rio+20 summit (United Nations 2011: 20).

One concern relates to how to finance a set of post-2015 MDGs. Clearly, Official Development Assistance (ODA) should play a role, but this role is not clear yet. The role of middle-income countries is also changing, since they now receive less ODA but have a large potential to provide funds and knowledge transfer. Thus, in a region of middle-income countries and large regional donors of South- South Cooperation, these countries should start playing a more decisive role than in previous MDGs. While the post-2015 international consultations are on their initial stages, little information regarding the workshops results is yet available. The debate on the post-2015 development agenda will enter into a crucial stage between 2013 and 2015. In this context, there are some possible 2015-2030 scenarios regarding how these consultations and implementation processes could work in the Latin American region:

In a positive scenario, post-2015 development goals are tightly linked to sustainability and the development principles that UN members agree to work as a framework for post-MDGs. The findings and results from the consultation process to vulnerable populations and groups is a key component of the new international development framework for post-MDGs. In this scenario, key stakeholders such as ODA agencies, CSOs and governments can forge a productive alliance to advance in agreed development outcomes and country-specific goals.

• In a second scenario, findings from consultation processes are only partially taken into account. Equality and sustainability are unable to cut the predominance of financial and economic issues in the post-2015 international agreements. ODA will continue providing key support to the most vulnerable developing countries, but the synergies with other countries in providing technical and knowledge cooperation, particularly from middle income economies, will not fully materialize. Collaboration between CSOs and international organizations will continue and improve, but not as part of an operative alliance to pursue post-MDGs effectively.

• In a negative scenario, vulnerable populations’ concerns and aspirations become marginal in the final version of an international development agreement, favoring development approaches focusing mostly on financial and economic issues. In this scenario, it will be hard to include agreements from other international summits such as Rio+20 and others. The reason is recurrent impasses between blocks and different countries with competing priorities. ODA will continue to reduce for middle income countries, and it will be difficult to take advantages of synergies with South-South cooperation initiatives. It is likely that, due to a narrow approach to this global agreement towards helping low-income countries, Latin America countries will only participate partially.

[1] See: United Nations (2011) “Accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals: options for sustained and inclusive growth and issues for advancing the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015” (A/66/126, July 2011).

[2] See: United Nations (2012) “The Millennium Development Goals Report 2012”. New York: United Nations.

[3] UN’s definition: “The share of unpaid family workers and own-account workers in total employment”. See: UN (2012), p.5.

[4] United Nations (2012) “Realizing the Future We Want for All”, Annex 2. New York: United Nations.

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