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Italy, 26 June 2012: Research watch: Post 2015: What Next?

© UNICEF Innocenti video
A lively debate with Amina Az-Zubair, former Special Assistant to the Nigerian President on MDGs; Naila Kabeer, Prof of Development Studies at SOAS; and Claire Melamed, Head of Growth, Poverty and Inequality Programme at ODI.

By James Elder

As world leaders gathered in Rio seeking to address the interrelated problems of poverty, hunger, and the environment - and with the Millennium Development Goals set to expire in 2015 – UNICEF’s Office of Research asked more than 15 global experts their thoughts on what the next global development agenda should look like.

FLORENCE, Italy, 26 June 2012 - The Millennium Development Goals have caught the popular imagination like no other development tool. Never before has a group of global goals so galvanized the world to fight poverty, disease and hunger.

Child mortality has seen record declines, the number of people living without sustainable access to safe drinking water has halved, more girls are in primary school than ever before, and HIV and TB are on the decline.

At the same time, many argue that the concrete, focused, but somewhat narrow MDGs didn’t properly focus on quality, equity and accountability.

Whilst countries and UN agencies maximize the remaining two and a half years to accelerate progress to the goals, discussions have begun on a successor framework that needs to capitalize and build on existing successes.

A framework that prioritizes essential health and nutrition services for the world’s children, whilst bringing equity and human rights to the fore. A framework that many argue must also deal with sustainable development, governance and security, while being formulated in a more inclusive way than its predecessor.

It is an ambitious aim that reflects our age. How it may look, and how we get there, is the subject of the latest edition of Research Watch  - the e/TV magazine of UNICEF’s Office of Research. More than a dozen global experts shared their thoughts, whilst three specialists debated  the big issues around any new development framework.

Merely agreeing a raft of new SDGs at Rio+20 “will not be enough to deliver progress on sustainable development or to realise a transition to green economy,” writes Barry Dalal-Clayton, Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development.

Instead “Rio+20 must push for urgent and proactive steps to ensure environmental mainstreaming, that is, the informed inclusion of environmental concerns into the decisions and institutions that drive development policy, rules, plans, investment and action”.

Amina Az-Zubair, the former Special Assistant to the Nigerian President on MDG believes all sides have vast room for improvement: “The global compact hasn’t worked as it should have.  Not only did it not come in amounts that were promised, but even when it came it didn’t come at the right time.” And, “we need to equate corruption, not just with the stashes away in the different bank accounts, but in the loss of lives, because those investments could have been made to save our women who are dying in childbirth, our children who could have had their immunization.”

The instability that affects many developing countries, particularly Africa, together with the importance of permanent formal sector employment in reducing mass poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, and in stemming economic migration and political and social instability, are issues discussed by Louis Kasekende, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Uganda and Alfred Nhema of the Pan Africa Development Center. Writes Nhema: “Without political stability and durable peace, the continent will continue to lag behind other regions of the world.”

The next agenda must be inclusive, argues Jan Vandermoortele, one of the original planners of the MDGs, “The process that was followed for creating the MDGs should not be repeated. Experts and technocrats should not set the new agenda. This time, it should be formulated through a participatory, inclusive and bottom-up process.”

Poverty is likely to remain at the heart of the post-2015 framework, though there is strong consensus that its links to inequality need to take a central place. Claire Melamed, Head of the Growth and Equity Programme at the Overseas Development Institute, would like to see Governments “forced into thinking about those tricky issues of equity … of who are the people hardest to reach on whom you really have to focus to reach that target, perhaps without putting the politics in the target which makes it harder to negotiate.”

Where children fit into the next development agenda is an issue covered in both the Debate and Commentaries. For instance, Naila Kabeer, Professor of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, recommends a framework around the life course of a child. UNICEF’s Richard Morgan and Shannon O’Shea look to technology in enabling the poor, and transparency and accountability as complementary to real empowerment.

At a time when a growing global population competes for finite environmental resources, all amid a global financial crisis, the debate on the ‘next MDGs’ offers the chance to become “a unique momentum to address systemic threats to equitable and sustainable development” writes Charles Abugre, Africa Regional Director of the UN Millennium Campaign.

The challenge, argues Rob Vos, coordinator of the UN Task Team for the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda, “is to translate that vision into a new operational agenda providing a framework to integrate human development goals more explicitly with those of inclusive economic development, environmental sustainability and security.”

It’s no small task. With no greater incentive.

To read the Commentaries in full, go to
To watch the Debate, visit



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