Post-2015 development goals need to be backed by resources and systemic reform

28 November 2013

UNCTAD’s first policy brief on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda highlights the need to reform the global economic and financial system, if the goal of eradicating poverty is to become a reality.

The policy brief, published this week, argues for a change in the underlying development narrative with a much stronger focus on structural transformation. Making this change will require a rethink of the international development architecture, and the brief suggests targets for sustainable development, sovereign debt restructuring and multilateral finance to ensure that the post-2015 development goals are met.

To date, most of the discussion on the post-2015 agenda has continued the Millennium Development Goals focus on social deprivation, the brief says. However, “little attention has been given to the mobilization of resources needed at the national and global levels to meet any new goals, and almost none to the systemic constraints on inclusive growth and development.”

After the year 2000, relatively favourable external economic circumstances led to strong growth in some developing countries.

But projecting growth rates from the past 15 or 20 years is “likely to be misleading”, says the brief. The change in global economic conditions since the 2007–2008 crisis has confirmed the urgency of breaking with the “business-as-usual model of finance-led globalization”.

A “major re-orientation” of the distribution of the benefits of global growth is needed if the goal of poverty eradication, and other social and environmental goals, are to be achieved and sustained.

The brief sets out goals which, if met, would help developing countries to access long-term finance and build up their productive capacity, and would protect them from the effects of boom and bust cycles in financial markets.

One goal calls for establishing, by 2030, an international trade system that supports sustainable development and is designed to allow the economic rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be realized by 2050.

Another goal calls for: “A commitment to expand multilateral financial resources in line with the growth of cross-border transactions… sufficient to undertake countercyclical financing.”

The brief argues that it is time to adopt a “broader, developmental concept of sustainability”, rather than focusing on a narrow concept of environmental sustainability.If progress towards development goals is not underpinned by national strategies for sustainable development, or if the global economy is incompatible with such strategies, then “progress will not be sustainable beyond 2030”.

The brief also questions the relevance of the $1.25-a-day poverty line, and urges policymakers to adopt a higher poverty line in the post-2015 agenda, one which can realistically be seen as providing an adequate standard of living.

Reforms adopted over the past 30 years have not kept pace with the problems posed by growing global interdependence and climate change, says the brief. “The post-2015 negotiations provide an opportunity to address these problems in an open, frank and purposeful manner.”

On 29 November, UNCTAD is hosting the First Geneva Dialogue on the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, which will be steered by Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, and will feature an address by Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning.

Participants from international organizations, the private sector and civil society will address the role of trade and development in the post-2015 agenda, as an input to the processes taking place in New York.