A wheel of development for global governance

Development Policy17 Jul 2013Dorine van Norren

There seems to be general agreement that we should continue with the MDGs in some form after 2015. Although goal-oriented thinking is a very Western phenomenon, it does focus attention on the fight against global poverty.

Amartya Sen’s theory of ‘freedom is development’ offers a way of recasting the MDGs so that they better reflect the UN Millennium Declaration. This new classification also includes security and effective governance. That produces the following new goals for the post-2015 agenda:

  • Produce and share
  • Educate and alphabetise
  • Equalize
  • Care and cure
  • Protect
  • Build institutions
  • Act responsibly
  • Embrace in global partnership

These goals express shared values and are in verb form to show that they are part of a process. Together they form a ‘wheel of development’, which rotates around the axis of yin-yang: harmony and balance. We can find this balance by devoting equal attention to masculine and feminine values. Besides production, for example, we need redistribution and care for others and the environment; besides security and good institutions, we must acknowledge our interconnectedness and partnership.

Wheel of development

So how does this relate to the HLP’s proposals? The Panel proposed twelve goals, also formulated as verbs. There are two new goals, and separate goals for food security, water and sanitation, sustainable energy and employment. This reflects the Panel’s ambition to make sustainability goals an integral part of the development agenda.

Of all these new goals, however, only sustainable energy is new; the fight against hunger and unemployment were initially incorporated in Goal 1 (poverty), while water and sanitation came under Goal 7 (environment). The latter could, of course, just as easily be categorised under health. Personally, I feel we should stick with the original classification, so as to avoid confusing the public with new lists. The emphasis on food and water security may be in line with recent Dutch policy, but these are international guidelines, which should extend beyond the priorities of any single country. Another argument in favour of sticking with the original blueprint is that it will not be easy to achieve consensus on new indicators and targets in international negotiations. Emerging countries are already objecting to the sustainability goals, saying that they should not be allowed to interfere with their economies.

Governing the new world

We need a new system to govern the world. The HLP does not go into this issue in any depth, perhaps because answers are not so clear-cut. Now that the world has so many players in the international arena, we need to work together more than ever. In order to form effective alliances, we need a set of collective norms. The MDGs have a leading role to play in achieving these norms, but so do human rights treaties and environmental agreements like those reached at the Rio and Rio+20 summits.

To take action, we need concrete data to monitor progress on the various themes. However, this data has to be collected according to specific principles. Human rights offer the tools to achieve this: participation, non-discrimination and accountability. The HLP rightly says that much of the data should be divided up according to specific target groups to make real progress visible.

Nobel Prize winner Eleanor Öström identified several principles of self-governance for communities: (i) determining rules for resource claims, (ii) adequate conflict resolution, (iii) responsibility for maintenance reasonably proportionate to revenues from use, (iv) monitoring and use of sanctions by consumers themselves, (v) graduated sanctions according to frequency of violation of rules, (vi) democratic rule-making and (vii) explicit recognition of the principle of self-governance by authorities.

Lastly, we have to know how much money and other resources we need to attain these goals. A post-2015 agenda cannot succeed without all these elements. I have summarised them in the figure below:

Wheel of global governance

Here, too, governance requires a balance (yin-yang) between masculine and feminine values. To govern our new network society, we do not need a top-down approach as much as a consensus on the basis of which we can build a new world and govern to achieve effective alliances.

Click here for the AIV’s latest advisory report on interaction between actors in international cooperation (no. 82) and its 2011 report on the post-2015 development agenda (no. 74).

My full article can be found here