Guest Article #23

Looking Toward the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Adopted in September of 2000, the Millennium Declaration, followed by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), marked a transformational moment for the UN. The Declaration set out a bold vision of a world free from want and fear, and the goals sparked the world's first concerted global anti-poverty movement.

Together, these two instruments served to give greater emphasis to the basic tenet of the Earth Summit of 1992 that people are at the centre of development; they marked a shift in how the UN and the world approach development by focusing on the poorest and most vulnerable. The MDGs ignited a sense of hope and possibility, suggesting that globalization might become a positive force for all the world's people and that common solutions can be found to the major challenges facing humanity, such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which was rapidly spreading at the time. The aspiration to make poverty history truly came to life through the MDGs.

The 2015 deadline that was set for the eight MDG targets is now on the horizon. As we assess where we are, the world can celebrate notable successes such as surpassing the goal to halve global poverty, increasing primary school enrolment, improving water access and alleviating disease burden. In some countries the progress made in health and educating women and girls is to be lauded. Nonetheless, while some progress has been made, albeit uneven, we are still far from the vision of the world we want. More than 1.3 billion people still live in extreme poverty. With fewer than 850 days left to the MDG target date, we must do everything possible to accelerate action and get the job done by 2015.

Yet as we continue our work, we are challenged to build upon what we have learned and to chart another development course, now referred to as the post-2015 development agenda. The new framework we will adopt – a universal, shared development agenda, applicable to all countries with common but differentiated responsibilities – will need to address pressing global problems such as climate change and biodiversity loss, international conflicts, population demographics, inequality and job insecurity, all of which can potentially and seriously reverse hard-earned development gains. The post-2015 agenda must therefore not only tackle the unfinished business of the MDGs, but go further – leading to a great overhaul in how we approach the long-term well-being of our planet and its people.

As we begin the 68th session of the General Assembly, a significant portion of my attention will de be dedicated to the session's theme: 'The Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage!' Six multi-stakeholder events - three High Level Events and three Thematic Debates – are now being structured to help Member States define their priorities for the new agenda. The topics I have selected for further investigation each will play a critical role in our agenda's ultimate configuration, and ideally, these events will guide UN Member States as they narrow in on priorities.

In that regard, I am committed to hosting a High-level Event to discuss the role of Women, Youth and Civil Society in the post-2015 development agenda. My hope is that it will heighten dialogue and strengthen approaches intended to improve conditions and development prospects for women and youth, who, as the evidence clearly shows, have been further marginalised by the global crises in food, fuel and finance.

A second High-level Event will explore the contributions of Human Rights and the Rule of Law in the post-2015 development agenda, particularly looking at the appropriate framework to ensure that human rights, the rule of law, and good governance practices anchor the evolving policy platforms in a manner that empowers people to contribute to sustainable development.

The third High-level Event will look at the contributions of South-South, Triangular Cooperation and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for Development in the post-2015 development agenda. In the past two decades, dramatic global change and national and regional transformations have led to unprecedented and increasingly complex socio-economic and environmental threats, challenges and concerns. Responding to these new threats, as well as existing challenges, will require new forms of collaboration, innovation and partnership, which in turn can maximize the potential for ICT to contribute to reaching our development goals.

In addition to the High-level Events, three thematic debates will provide an opportunity for in-depth exploration of key issues in the post-2015 development agenda. Partnerships are the eighth and much overlooked MDG, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has placed renewed emphasis on this area. It is my intention to increase that spotlight by exploring the role of partnership and its contribution to the post-2015 development agenda. Technology and knowledge transfer, financing and innovative means of implementation will be critical parts of the coming debate.

Another thematic debate will examine how to work towards and ensure Stable and Peaceful Societies in the post-2015 development framework, including by creating an enabling environment for development and progress, diminishing external stressors that contribute to conflicts, ensuring accessible institutions of justice, reducing violence, and enhancing the capacity and accountability of good governance mechanisms and practices that benefit peace and sustainable development.

The third thematic debate will focus on the roles of Water, Sanitation and Sustainable Energy in the post-2015 development agenda. With some 1.4 billion people without reliable electricity, 2.5 billion without decent cooking fuels, 900 million lacking access to clean water and 2.6 billion without adequate sanitation, action is urgently needed to address these persistent challenges. Many initiatives in these fields are now underway but we must harness, share and scale up proven technologies and best practices in the areas of integrated water management, sustainable energy and sanitation services as part of any proposed post-2015 development agenda.

My hope is that ultimately the events which I propose to host, along with our other preparations, will produce clear guidelines and put us on strong footing for the start of the 69th session when the negotiations begin. With the post-2015 development agenda, we have an historic opportunity to expand upon the legacy of the MDGs and create another transformational moment for the UN, and ideally for the world at large. It is an opportunity to honour our planet and uplift its people as never before.

Each Outcome and agreement made by Member States – from Stockholm in 1972, to Rio de Janeiro in 1992, to the Millennium Declaration and MDGs in 2000, to Rio+20 in 2012 – has taken the global family further along the development journey. Yet we have not yet reached our destination, which must end with new opportunity for social and economic well-being for all members of the human family. One critical step in that process is to ensure that we embed sustainability into the way we plan, live, do business and seek recreation. It must be integrated into governments' policy and programming, as well as the way in which the private sector relates to stakeholders, generating profits and creating competitive advantage. Achieving this multi-sectoral approach is very much a challenge for the UN's 68th session and the way in which we define and approach the post-2015 development agenda.

My vision is of a world without poverty, the creation of the first generation of children to be born into a world where none of them will know hunger, the end to communities of people who are condemned to live without water, sanitation or energy, the elimination of marginalised groups who live without dignity and a recognition and preservation of the contribution of ecosystems to our quality of life. This is not new; it is the heart of the development agenda, and in this 68th session I will work with colleagues to ensure that these ideals are a sustainable part of the global development trajectory.