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– by Gaspar Frontini
© Kim Hee Chul/picture-alliance/dpa
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took the approach of drafting global post-2015 goals with broad public participation.
Transborder pandemics and communicable diseases endanger health. Transnational crime such as drug and arms trafficking has impacts on many people. The governments of nation states are not able to ensure well-being and prosperity of their citizens on their own. The fact that human action in one part of the world can have immediate effects on other parts makes strong international cooperation indispensable.
The textbook definition of a global public good (GPG) is straightforward. A good is public when no one can – or should – be excluded from its consumption and when its availability does not diminish with increased use. Some of these goods transcend boundaries because this is their nature – for example clean air or a stable climate. Other public goods are global because the world community integrated in a way that they cannot be delivered by any single country anymore. Financial stability is such a good.
The notion that we need to ensure the effective delivery of GPGs is not new. In fact, the Millennium Declaration, which UN members agreed in 2000, put the challenge to provide for human development on the same level as the need to ensure GPG provision. The Declaration emphasised the issues of:
- peace, security and disarmament,
- development and poverty eradication,
- human rights, democracy and good governance and
- the protection of "our common environment".
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) emanated from the Millennium Declaration. They were a list of specific commitments to fight poverty. The MDGs were very successful because developing countries, donor agencies and non-state actors endorsed them and adopted them in their policy agendas. Results included more coherent poverty-reduction strategies, an increase in international development funding and a stronger focus on social sectors such as health, education and women’s empowerment.
However, the MDGs only partially addressed the ambitions expressed in the Millennium Declaration. Some fundamental challenges of universal concern remained on the backburner. Unlike the fight against poverty, the provision of GPGs was not followed up by action even though it was the Declaration’s other
major theme. Action is needed.
The MDG deadline is 2015. The process for defining a new set of global goals has been set in motion. It is broad and complex (see D+C/E+Z focus section 2013/07–08, p. 276 ff.). Not least due to proposals made by the EU, there is now an international understanding of the need to set a new agenda for doing two things: fighting poverty and making development sustainable (see D+C/E+Z 2013/11, p. 400 f.).
The EU identified its priorities for the post-2015 agenda early on. Based on a policy document submitted by the Commission (European Commission 2013), the EU member states drew some far reaching conclusions (EU 2013). The members stated that the objectives of poverty eradication and sustainable development are intrinsically interlinked. They want a single post-2015 agenda which must be relevant for each and every country. In essence, the EU stance embraces the fact that poverty eradication depends on the provision of key GPGs – and vice versa.
The European Commission and the EU member states emphasised five key themes. They are related to the four main issues raised in the Millennium Declaration. The Commission’s key themes are:
- Basic living standards for all: the MDG business must be completed and new, up-dated goals must be defined.
- Promoting drivers of inclusive, sustainable growth: policies must stimulate growth, create decent jobs and boost human development.
- More sustainable management of natural resources: action is needed to stop environmental degradation.
- Equality, equity and justice: these issues are not only values in themselves, they are fundamental for poverty eradication and sustainable development.
- Tackling insecurity and state fragility: without peace and human security, poverty cannot be eradicated and development will not become sustainable.
The underlying message is simple but fundamental: poverty eradication and human prosperity depend on the effective delivery of GPGs and vice versa. Global warming must be kept below a certain threshold, oceans and fish stocks must stay healthy, communicable diseases must be prevented. The world needs
a stable financial architecture. All societies need a peaceful and stable order. At the same time, we need to continue to strive to eradicate poverty through direct interventions such as the promotion of inclusive growth and minimum living standards. GPGs are indispensable if no-one – irrespective of gender, ethnicity or social circumstance – is to be forced to live in poverty. At the same time, the eradication of poverty is indispensable if GPGs are to be delivered.
International reactions and negotiations show that the EU position has had an impact on the international debate. At the special MDG event in New York in September, world leaders agreed that a post-2015 agenda should recognise "the intrinsic linkage between poverty eradication and promotion of sustainable development" as well as the need for a coherent approach that integrates the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental). Moreover, they stated that human rights, peace and security deserve attention.
Better global governance
To improve GPG provision, more effective modes of international cooperation are needed. This means nothing less than reconsidering the foundations of global governance. To some degree, global governance itself is a global public good. Three aspects of improvement are crucial:
We need better global governance based on a stronger multilateral cooperation. Trade wars or rising sea levels cannot be overcome as long as short-term interests prevail over long-term interests. Unless and until we prioritise the long-term benefits for all, it will not be possible to conclude the World Trade Organisation’s Doha Development Round. Nor will humankind get a new climate change agreement. The recent WTO agreement on a comprehensive package to reform global trade exemplifies that this change is possible.
As the world is changing, so are global responsibilities. In 1992, the international community agreed that developed nations had to contribute most to protecting the global environment since they had the biggest economies and were causing the greatest damage. Today, the situation is quite different. By 2015, middle-income countries will account for 50 % of global production. In 2010, foreign direct investment from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) was worth $ 146 billion, more than 20 times more than in 2000. According to the UN Environment Programme, the BRICS plus Indonesia and Saudi Arabia now account for 42 % of global carbon emissions, exceeding the industrialised countries’ share of 34 %. One consequence is that emerging economies matter for the provision of GPGs. For the international community to succeed, they must rise to their responsibilities.
The future development agenda will need more effective ways to practice development cooperation. The EU passed new guidelines for development cooperation in 2011 (European Commission 2011). Its "Agenda for change" has been commended as clear and innovative, not least because it emphasises that inclusive and sustainable growth as well as the respect for human rights and good governance are enablers for poverty eradication. The agenda also demands that the EU must focus its support on the countries that need that support most. Other relevant aspects of the agenda include concentrating efforts on a limited number of actions at the country level and better coordinating EU members. Moreover, the EU reaffirmed the need to ensure in a better way that all its policies are coherent with its development objectives. While it is true that the EU has still not been able to deliver on its pledge to spend 0.7 % of GNI on official development assistance, the EU is nonetheless the most important donor. The EU and its member countries invest € 50 billion in ODA every year – which is more than half of global ODA going to developing countries. This money matters to many countries and is a strong expression of international solidarity.
Building on the MDG effect
No doubt, the post-2015 process is an opportunity to prioritise the effective delivery of public goods. One must bear in mind, however, that only a clear and concise agenda will have the kind of political appeal that marked the MDGs. Accordingly, the future development agenda must be based on a limited set of goals and be spelled out in a convincing manner. It must be specific, measurable, ambitious, relevant and time-bound (SMART). It is promising that the post-2015 process has gained traction. Expectations are high – and that is necessary for creating momentum. Poverty eradication and sustainable development must stay high on the global agenda. That said, it needs to be accepted that no post-2015 agenda will solve all the world’s problems. The post-2015 debate must not distract attention from other relevant debates that take place elsewhere. Ministerial meetings of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and conferences of parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) were established to deal with trade and climate change respectively and must do their jobs and establish appropriate international regulations. They relate to GPGs and should make their own contributions to global governance.
Expectations regarding the post-2015 agenda must not become exaggerated. We want to achieve consensus. Ultimately, a post-2015 framework will have to be drafted in a way that everybody can subscribe to it. There must be a considerable outreach effort. The priorities and needs of our partner countries, of civil society and all other important stakeholders must be taken into account. And we will do everything we can to assume a proactive and constructive role.
Gaspar Frontini heads the Policy & Coherence Unit at the European Commission’s Directorate General Development & Cooperation. [email protected]
Helge Arends is a policy officer of the Policy & Coherence Unit. The opinions expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission.