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Why we need to renew the global development agenda beyond 2015

By Helen Clark
Admistrator, UNDP

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have helped to set global and national development priorities, and lift human development.

As we approach the MDGs’ end date of 2015, many targets created by the goals have been met or are well on the way to being met, and, with accelerated action, more can be reached in the next two years. The more that can be achieved on the MDGs, the more credibility the global development agenda beyond 2015 will have.

Since 2000, tremendous progress has been made on MDG targets, including on reducing poverty, improving access to safe drinking water, and improving the lives of 200 million slum dwellers. Most of the world’s children are being enrolled in primary school, with parity on enrolment between boys and girls. Infant and child deaths have dropped dramatically, and targeted investments in fighting malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis have saved many millions of lives.

The target of halving the percentage of people suffering from hunger by 2015 is within reach. The proportion of undernourished people worldwide decreased from 23% in 1990-1992 to 15% in 2010-2012. One in eight people, however, still go hungry.

While there have been remarkable improvements in the lives of hundreds of millions of people, the progress has been uneven, and our work will not be finished until we live in a world free of extreme poverty. Millions of people are being left behind – particularly the poorest and most marginalised, minorities, and women and girls. The disparities between and within countries – including between urban and rural areas – can be significant.

dev-undp-2A time for equity, inclusion, sustainability, and women’s empowerment

To accelerate and sustain MDG momentum, the focus needs to be on equity, inclusion, and sustainability. We need to reach those who have not benefited from their countries’ progress to date. Achieving the MDGs requires economic growth which is sustainable, inclusive, and equitable.

More determined steps need to be taken to shift to an environmentally sustainable path which protects the ecosystems on which we all depend. At the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, countries renewed their commitment to sustainable development, agreed to establish a set of sustainable development goals, and called for action on using natural resources more wisely.

Protecting the most vulnerable requires building resilience to shock – whether it comes from conflicts, natural disasters, or volatility in food and energy prices, or other cause – and assisting countries in or emerging from conflict to establish peace and security and to lay the foundations for long-term development.

To accelerate and sustain MDG progress, efforts should focus on actions with the greatest multiplier effects, such as promoting women’s empowerment and achieving gender equality. Ensuring equal access by women and girls to education, nutrition, basic services, health care, employment, economic opportunities, and decision-making at all levels is a powerful driver of progress across all the MDGs.

Seize momentum and build on MDG successes now

It is to be hoped that the UN’s Member States will agree on a single, universal, coherent development agenda for the post-2015 period. One set of clear, concise, and measurable goals could encompass the eradication of poverty and broader sustainable development challenges. It should be a transformative and equitable agenda which aims at a future where all can enjoy high human development.

The post-2015 agenda should build on the progress achieved on the MDGs, while also addressing both persistent inequalities and the new challenges facing people and our planet.

Worldwide feedback from more than one million people suggests that people want a global sustainable development agenda, backed by national policy action, which enables them to enjoy more empowered, more dignified, more secure, and more resilient lives. They want world leaders to take action to create the conditions for a more equitable, sustainable, and safe world.

Lifting people out of poverty and protecting the planet’s resources are two sides of the same coin. Both must be at the heart of the international community’s development agenda. Both should be based on a firm foundation of human rights, justice, and the rule of law.

Strong partnerships have been formed to advance the MDGs – bringing together governments with actors in the business community, foundations, academic institutions, NGOs, and other parts of civil society. South-South co-operation is making a strong contribution.

If promises on development assistance are kept and commitments are delivered on by all countries, the enormous progress we have seen on the MDGs can be expanded and deepened in most of the world’s countries and regions – both now and beyond 2015. There are fewer than a thousand days left before a renewed development agenda needs to kick in. In the time we have left with the MDGs, we must accelerate action and scale up what works – with contributions from national governments, the international community, civil society, and the private sector.

We can bring the dream of a world free of extreme poverty into the realm of reality – and we must to give hope to those still suffering the indignity which such poverty represents that they too will live in a more fair and just world.


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