Guest Article #21

Leaving No One Behind: Towards a Post-2015 Development Agenda

The world today stands at the threshold of significant opportunity – to realize our quest for dignity, peace, prosperity, justice, sustainability and an end to poverty. This comes on the back of the progress made since the turn of the millennium, when UN Member States agreed on a bold vision for the future that reaffirmed the fundamental values of freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for the planet and shared responsibility. That vision, enshrined in the Millennium Declaration and rooted in the UN Charter, recognized the need to combine efforts towards development, peace and security, and human rights, and it pledged to spare no effort to free all women, men, girls and boys from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of poverty.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) gave expression to that resolve. Since their adoption, governments, partners and an inspiring constellation of groups and individuals around the world have mobilized to tackle the many dimensions of poverty and advance human development. Significant progress has been made. At the global level, poverty and hunger have been reduced significantly. In developing regions, the proportion of people living on less than US$1.25 a day fell by more than half, from 47 per cent in 1990 to 22 per cent in 2010. The MDG target of halving the percentage of people suffering from hunger by 2015 is now within reach.

However, the prospects for achieving all of the MDGs continue to differ sharply across and within countries and regions. Indeed, much of the progress made on poverty and hunger has been made in a few large countries. More than 1 billion people still live in extreme poverty. Far too many people continue to face serious deprivations of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, and education, with progress hampered by deep inequalities linked to income, gender, ethnicity, disability, location and age. The global economic downturn and increasing conflicts of recent years have worsened poverty and inequality, while climate change threatens to reverse achievements and undermine future gains.

As we approach the MDGs target date of 2015, the international community is galvanizing efforts to accelerate their achievement. Fulfilling existing commitments and promises on the Goals must remain our first priority. Additionally, using effective partnerships and mechanisms like the MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF), we need to focus on those Goals that are most off-track and on countries that face particular development challenges, including the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and countries affected by conflicts or disasters.

On the other hand, there are growing concerns that even if the MDGs will be achieved, much remains to be done. Major new challenges have emerged, while existing ones have been exacerbated since the year 2000. Inequality has deepened. Environmental degradation has increased. People across the world are demanding more responsive governments and better governance and rights at all levels. Migration challenges have grown, and young people in many countries face poor prospects for decent jobs or livelihoods. Conflicts and instability have halted or reversed progress in many countries. Our future challenges are becoming more than ever cross-regional, intergenerational and transformative.

In designing a Post-2015 Development Agenda, the international community has a unique opportunity to integrate economic growth, social justice and environmental concerns by putting sustainable development at the heart of a universal agenda. Significant progress has been made in this regard with contributions from groups including the Secretary-General's High Level Panel on Post-2015, the UN Task Team, the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the UN Global Compact. In addition, more than 1.4 million people have shared views on the world they want through UN-led consultations.

In his recent report entitled ‘A Life of Dignity for All,' the Secretary-General provides the broad contours of his vision for the post-2015 development agenda, including key recommendations for Member States to consider as negotiations get under way. The report highlights a growing consensus on a universal agenda – one applicable to all countries and leaving no one behind – with sustainable development at its core. It stresses the need to tackle interlinked challenges and focus on inclusive economic transformation, peace and governance and a new global partnership. The report also calls for Member States to provide coherence and clarity on the roadmap to 2015.

The MDGs Special Event to be held on 25 September 2013 provides the opportunity to set a course to 2015. Member States can respond to global expectations by providing a clear roadmap that pulls together all related work steams leading up to the final agreement on the new framework in the year 2015.

Defining the post-2015 development agenda is a daunting yet inspiring and historic task for the United Nations and its Member States. Business as usual will not work for achieving the future we want and leave no one behind. It is therefore with a sense of urgency that the international community must go beyond existing geo-political and ideological divisions to shape a bold and ambitious agenda. This can be the first generation to end extreme poverty and put our planet on a course for sustainable development.