After the post-2015 HLP report

Development Policy13 Jun 2013Paula Lucci, Gina Bergh

Last week the ODI in London connected partners in Bogotá , Dhaka and Nairobi to share reactions to the much anticipated post-2015 High-Level Panel (HLP) Report

Chaired by Claire Melamed, the event gave audiences from around the world linked by VC the opportunity to ask questions of those closely involved in drafting the report. Panellists included two members of the HLP, Betty Maina (Chief Executive of the Kenyan Association of Manufacturers) and Amina Mohammed (special advisor on post-2015 to the UN Secretary General), as well as David Hallam (Deputy Director on post-2015 goals at the UK Cabinet Office and advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron, HLP co-chair).

As reactions to the HLP report continue to stream in online, the event echoed much of the global sentiment, but offered panellists a chance to respond to both praise and criticism.

Three cheers…

The reaction to the HLP’s work was positive overall, thanks to the high bar of ambition it sets for future goals. In 9 months the Panel managed to produce practical yet aspirational recommendations including 12 illustrative goals and 54 targets – no mean feat. This reflects the fact that the Panel made a conscious effort to incorporate many of the views expressed through the consultations, showing the world that – in the words of Amina Mohammed – ‘outreach works… it works to listen’.

Panellists and participants outlined the key areas where the HLP report raises the bar of ambition: through its proposal of ‘getting to zero’ goals (such as eradicating extreme poverty), its emphasis on equality of opportunity (with the proposal that data should be disaggregated for different groups, and that targets can’t be considered met until all groups meet them), and in advocating for a new way of thinking that brings the economic, social and sustainability agendas together. Many participants also welcomed the HLP’s point on the need for a data revolution to help monitor future goals, in recognition that this could offer a critical basis for strengthening transparency and accountability.

Poor show?

But participants also raised serious concerns on both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of the High Level Panel’s proposal. On what had made it into the report, the main concern was over the things that hadn’t. The biggest omission – pointed out by those in Bogota and echoed by others – being the absence of a specific goal or indicators on inequality. Philipp Schönrock highlighted the fact that the Panel had distanced itself from the national consultations on this, and the UK’s David Hallam revealed that ultimately it was the result of disagreements among Panel members on how to approach the issue.

The audience also challenged the Panel on why access to universal health care, another area of seeming consensus during global consultations in the run up to the report, did not make the final cut. Why had the Panel followed a similar path to that set by the MDGs on health instead of going with the grain of global discussions? As with inequality, panellist’s responses revealed that there had been quite some debate behind their adoption of the less ambitious approach.

But it was perhaps questions around how future goals could be put into practice that were the most challenging. Participants in Dhaka asked whether finance and the ‘global partnership’ (akin to MDG8) would be an afterthought once again. Those in Nairobi made a similar point, stressing that while the report promotes a transformative economic, social and environmental agenda, with accountabilities for a range of actors, it does not go far enough in spelling out how this could work in practice. This concern arose from a recognition of the need for robust accountabilities spelled out for all actors to address such challenges as inequality, unsustainable resource exploitation, conflict and illicit financial flows, and the panel acknowledged that greater attention to the ‘how’ of any new goals will be essential.

What next?

Between now and September the High Level Panel will hold a series of outreach events and receive feedback on its report. But panellists cautioned that the HLP report is just one of several inputs into the process and the Secretary General’s report due later this year. Ultimately the credibility of a new set of goals hinges on finishing the job on the MDGs, so this will still be the main focus of the SG’s report. Along with its release in September 2013, the UN will host a special event on post-2015 to outline a roadmap for next steps in the process. But as Amina Mohammed pointed out, in the meantime it will be essential that countries and regions stay engaged to keep the momentum generated by the HLP report going.

Done right, Post-2015 could be a globally transformative agenda. But as a Nairobi participant put it, this would require truly transformative leadership… time will tell if the world has enough of this to make the HLP’s ambitious vision a reality.

These are some of the reactions to the HLP report. To watch the event or read the full report including responses from the speakers to the comments made, click here.