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The politics of post-2015

Time (GMT +01) 13:00 14:30


Amy Pollard -  Policy Officer, CAFOD

Mr Kudakwashe Dube -  CEO of the Secretariat of the African Decade for Persons with Disabilities

Dr Mukesh Kapila - Under Secretary General, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies


Claire Melamed - Head of Programme, Growth, Poverty and Inequality, ODI

As the last event in this meeting series on the Post 2015, this meeting focused on the process and politics of the post 2015 framework. Andrew Shepherd as chair, opened the meeting by giving a review of the previous meetings that have been held in this meeting series, which looked at what would happen to the development framework after 2015. The previous meetings had focused on content issues e.g., development progress, urban, chronic poverty, climate change and jobs.

Amy Pollard provided some insight into where CAFOD had come from and where they were going in terms of the MDG thinking, as well as, the “Beyond 2015” campaign which CAFOD and other organisations had been involved with. In 2010, CAFOD did a study called “100 Voices” which was a discussion that asked their partners questions about what should happen post 2015. Over 90% of CAFOD partners stated that they wanted a framework post 2015. On whether the MDGs were a good thing or not, most commented that they were useful despite their limitations and contributed to development and made international development more of a priority in country as well as advocacy. A post 2015 framework should be developed in partnership between the North and the South with a strong focus on partnership and consensus between the two with country contextualisation and a more focused involvement of national governments.  Climate change was also highlighted as an important issue to be considered.

Out of the Beyond 2015, 5 possible post-2015 scenarios have been developed:

1.       A clearly led, legitimate framework with the UN leading a process to ratify an official framework for beyond 2015

2.       A framework led from the inside out where experts (within the UN) draw up a framework  and gradually build formal structures

3.       A framework built from the outside in involving a coalition of outsiders (CSO, NGOs, academic etc) who agree a framework then gradually persuade governments to adopt it.  Or the UN could deliberately mandate civil society to take the lead?

4.       A new actor/institution arrangement (UN would relinquish responsibility of the post 2015 framework). Pieces of a new framework brokered one-by-one through the G20, G77, UNFCCC, and other international processes and then stitched together piecemeal.

5.       Nothing – the international community fail to agree on a post 2015 framework and the MDGs become a one-off initiative with no successor.

What was actually happening? It was likely all the scenarios would happen to some extent but not in a linear form, and therefore there would need to be a strategy that accounted for that uncertainty. The priority however was that the voices of the poor were engaged with and contributed in the debate.

Mr Kudakwashe Dube discussed the relevance of the post 2015 discussion on communities in Africa, and the importance of including persons with disabilities in the post 2015 discussion. The impact of the post 2015 framework was important in Africa as it has had a direct impact on the future of many communities across the continent. Africa, however, appeared to be lagging behind in these discussions and it was hoped that African governments, civil society and politicians will engage and take a position of leadership as the discussions take place. The most important consideration in the post 2015 discussion should be whether the villager on the ‘frontline’ has a say in what is being proposed and would be they be able to control the manner in which resources will be distributed by governments in the countries. To date, there has been a fundamental problem that has affected the implementation of MDGs and the PRSPs in Africa - the reliance of governments on donor financing for day to day operations. This had resulted in most governments primarily focusing on programmes that addressed this basic concern of keeping its operations ticking over to the detriment of the poor. To ensure these governments honour their commitments to poor people there would need to be some pressure exerted by external actors and stakeholders.

In terms of persons with disability in Africa, the movement is quite organised and was prepared to present to governments and political bodies an agenda that is coherent and relates to the UN convention on the rights of persons with disability. Mr Dube felt the post 2015 framework should relate to human rights treaties to ensure that the objectives of these treaties are achieved through the framework. Discussions over the next few months will be identifying the focus of the post 2015 framework with regards to persons with disabilities. Previously, there had been no engagement by persons with disabilities in the pre- MDGs discussions which resulted in their needs not being explicitly highlighted in the MDGs. Therefore, there would be greater involvement by persons with disabilities in the post 2015 discussions with a view to providing leadership and guidance on these issues.

Dr Mukesh Kapila proposed looking at the post-2015 discussion from the perspective of visions and paradigms and not as frameworks or goals. The debate so far appeared to be very reductionist, and focused on positioning, scenarios and processes and not enough about the content of the development we wish to see after 2015. Any discussions about ‘what the post 2015 agenda would look like’ and ‘who would take ownership of it’ etc would ultimately need to be determined by the discussions on the substance. Goals and targets would then be derivatives of this discussion. The focus on the technicalities of the post 2015 agenda could obscure the real questions and the real value of the debate in the coming years should be about whether the post 2015 agenda changes our thinking and unites people. To unpack this substance, there would be a need to define development looking at its vision and paradigms. Whilst the voices of the poor cannot be underestimated, there is a need for leadership at an intergovernmental level (through the UN ultimately) on these issues. The consultative process with the poor would need to be based on some hypotheses/theories or propositions that would then underpin the framework.

Dr Kapila then presented 12 aspirational goals, which were not simply an extension of the existing MDGs, but presented something new and inspirational. The goals are structured around 4 different categories:

- The first set is focused on wellbeing and the necessary endowments to ensure individuals achieve their potential (i.e. livelihoods, food, water, education, skills and health);

- The second set is focused on protecting and promoting collective human capital (gender equality, security, resilient communities in the face of disaster, connectivity in terms of access to information)

- The third set focus on the provision of public goods (empowerment in terms of civil and political rights, sustainable management of the biosphere – climate change, rules for running the world economy and global governance)

The idea would be that these goals would sit at a global level and countries would then set their own targets and indicators. It is important not to let the science of measure drive the goals that are selected, rather than the goals leading to innovation in finding ways of measuring them.

Questions from Audience


In terms of the politics of the process, where will leadership come from?

Who are the potential leaders?

What is the politics behind getting their points of view across?

What is the implication in the rise of China, India and South Africa in this process?

The world does not have a very good record in terms of North/South agreements (e.g. climate change, trade etc) – how can we avoid the ‘ lowest common denominator’ agreement that tends to culminate in these agreements?

With a rights-based approach – what are the politics behind that?


What is the role of the private sector and the trade unions in this new agenda? How would they be integrated into a new vision?

Women and Children First

How do we get governments in developing countries to fully engage and represent their poorest and most vulnerable?


Many have been saying this needs to be framework for the world and not just low income countries – if this is so, how do we start the conversations so this resonates for people beyond the Bottom Billion?

RICS Disaster Management Commission

On risk related issues, at policy and national level things have moved forward, but at the local level, there hasn’t been much progress – was this highlighted in the “100 voices” study?

MICA Challenge

With regards to Mikesh’s 12 goals and this idea of individual wellbeing, how does the rest of the panel view this as it goes beyond the economic value and looks at the more spiritual and social aspects? 

Women and Children First

Leaving governments to set their own goals and targets could lead to sensitive issues like sexual and reproductive health being left out. How would the global leadership deal with this?

Voluntary worker in India

The “vision” should come out of the work that has already occurred under the MDGs – have we learnt from what has taken place so far?


With other frameworks coming to an end at the same time as the MDGs e.g International Conference on Population and Development (climate change and sustainable development), have these frameworks been incorporated into the MDGs to make sure they are not forgotten?

Secondly, health appears to be dropping off the agenda based on discussions at the G20, OECD, in favour of sustainable development – how do we ensure that health has a place in the agenda? Finally, in terms of leadership, is there a way to plead with DFID to lead these discussions with other donors otherwise it could end up in a mess?

Sight Savers

How can we ensure a universal framework based on rights which are not always universally accepted but are accountable?


We already have a powerful vision that led to the MDGs - how does this vision resonate in a world that is now different from 20 years ago(different G20 leadership, social movements in North Africa)? What is the process and different ways of engaging with other players?

Responses from the panel

Kudakwashe Dube

-          With a rights based agreement, we would want to ensure we do not take away what we have already achieved; there has been a lot of investment in achieving instruments that enforce rights. Moving forward, we will be watching what has been agreed and whether it enhances what we have already achieved.

-          Trade unions need to be part of the discussions that take place in the different countries. Organised, apolitical trade unions have a role to play in terms of shaping the agenda.

-          Binding agreements versus visionary agreements – there is a need to look at what other visionary agreements have been in place and have they caused governments to act to benefit poor people?  Broad frameworks are open to interpretation.

-          For accountable governments, you need to have governments that respect the electorate; the way to do it is to empower poor people so that they vote wisely.

-          We need to listen to the voice of the villages and understand how the village works and what prioritised. Most is often, their voices are not heard over the voices of governments and that is where the problem is.

-          In terms of the rights based approach and legislation, implementation and measures put into constitutions has been very low and not progressing as fast as one would have hoped. They tend to remain trapped on paper

Mukesh Kapila

-          Dichotomy between the visionary approach and the targets-based approach: in reality you cannot do one without the other (e.g. USA and social inclusion came from a vision from Martin Luther King). History shows that every great change has been through a non-binding visionary framework (e.g. UN Charter, Human Rights Declaration, and International Humanitarian Law) and not narrow binding agreements (which may be important for accountability). Important not to give up on the rights based approach.

-          Politics of the process will be dictated by the real events over the next few years (e.g. war of terror, rising powers, financial crises, trade discussions etc).  Need to ensure the frameworks are dictated more by the good politics and less by the bad politics. A way to ensure this would be to educate members of governments in their responsibilities

-          Engagement of developing country government can be done through their electorate who vote them in

-          Timescale for the goals – is it necessary? Maybe a decade renewable timelines might be more sustainable than defined dates which have huge opportunity costs greater than the investment put in.

-          We need to look beyond the MDGs and not remain trapped in the thinking of 20 years ago. It is time for a new vision. The idea behind the MDGs was to have a fund that addressed global issues of human security and survival and this was the vision of development. This cannot be the same for a future vision. The future of development is not about relying on aid – if it is equated with more aid giving from the rich to the poor, that is not the vision of development we are after

-          With leadership, it is dangerous to assign leadership to one set of leaders (whether it is one institution (UN), one country (DFID) or one category of people. There should be collective leadership

-          Reproductive health and population are extremely important and they must have visibility in any framework e.g. under gender equality. To ensure governments don’t ignore these issues, there could be a Minimum Global Norms which all countries, regardless of where you are should achieve.

Amy Pollard

-          A key question would be “how could we design the post-MDG framework in such a way that it solves the problem that the MDGs were good at solving?”

-          On the trade unions question, Beyond 2015 are looking to engage with trade unions; in terms of private sector and working conditions  goals, Christina Weller at CAFOD has some potential goals on these issues

-          In terms of leadership, the UN are the only institution who can legitimately lead this process and it is understandable that at present they do not want to distract from the MDGs. To get governments in developing countries to engage with these issues, it would have to come from the UN or a from civil society pressure

-          National level accountability was explored briefly through the consultations with participants in the study but there were no strong conclusions

-          Health will have a place – in the MDGs it is represented in 3 different places and that was due to the 3 different UN agencies being represented. In future goals/targets, health may only be mentioned once but this not an indication of it losing its place.

-          In terms of leadership, there is an idea that Lula (Brazil) could lead the discussion leading up to Rio 2020.

Andrew Shepherd

-          On the role of trade unions, the scope of work done by trade unions worldwide has changed and they are having to deal with increased insecure working conditions – something poor people have always had to face, so their interests are now more in line with workers interest in general across the world which is a good move

-          In terms of this being a world project rather than just a developing world project, there has not been much thinking along this line. But there are proposals about looking at Millennium consumption goals both North and South (see Background Note on Climate Change presented in an earlier meeting in the series)

-          With rights based frameworks, within the CPRC, we have looked at the application of rights based frameworks, although the rhetoric and laws are clear, there is very little evaluation of what happens when you try to apply rights based legislation. Not enough is known about what actually happens


In the United Nations, and in a number of bilateral donors, conversations are being had about what should be kept and what should be added to the current framework.  However, the eventual shape of a post-2015 international agreement on development will be shaped as much by the politics as by the analysis of current poverty problems.  What will those politics be? The world today is very different to the one in which the MDGs were agreed in 2000.  New global powers, with their own aid programmes and development objectives, will take a much more active role in any negotiations, private foundations are increasingly influential, and the citizens of developing countries themselves will, quite rightly, want a much stronger voice in any discussions.