Embarking on a historic journey

Development Policy22 Aug 2013Andris Piebalgs

EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs outlines his perspective on the post-2015 agenda.

In less than a thousand days the world’s deadline for meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will expire. Since the turn of the century, we have seen the fastest reduction in poverty in human history: half a billion fewer people now live below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day.

As the world’s largest aid donor, providing over half of all development aid, the EU still plays a key role in contributing to the achievement of some MDGs. For instance, as a result of EU aid, 32 million people have gained access to drinking water, over 10 million children have enrolled in primary education and more than 600,000 families have been given access to electricity. We have also helped to immunize more than five million children against measles and provided antiretroviral combination therapy to around 800,000 HIV-infected patients, thanks to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

But the world has changed, and to fulfil our vision of promoting sustainable development, the next development framework must go beyond the MDGs.

I was a proud member of the UN High-Level Panel that advised UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the post-2015 agenda. We still do not know how this framework will be put together, or how it will be structured in terms of goals and targets.

But, as the Secretary-General said after receiving the HLP’s report, “We are at the beginning of a historic journey”. Every journey must start somewhere and, for me, the starting point is clear: fighting poverty should remain our core business. I believe that eradicating extreme poverty within a generation is within reach. I am convinced that we can build on the amazing progress that the MDGs have enabled us to make. The only question we need to ask ourselves is: do we really want to work together to eradicate extreme poverty? The only answer, of course, is a resounding ‘YES’.

I also think that we should fix a set of minimum floors below which no one should fall, regardless of whether they live in a developing or a developed country. But this will not happen if we continue to live unsustainably. We know that climate change, land degradation, unsustainable consumption and production all threaten to destroy any gains made in the fight against poverty. The post-2015 framework should address the whole range of root causes of poverty and unsustainable development, including equality, equity, human rights, peace and stability, in a single and overarching agenda.

These new initiatives should be defined through clear goals to which every citizen can personally relate. Only then will we have a framework that will enable a decent life for all by 2030.

After looking at the content of the next framework, it is worth asking how it will all be implemented. Where will the money come from and how should it be used? We think that money should go where it is most needed, but we also need to use it in an innovative and effective way to ensure maximum results. Also, all players in a position to do so should contribute their fair share.

Different policy goals need to be mutually reinforcing, so every euro spent should aim to achieve several policy objectives simultaneously. For instance, better food security is essential for poverty eradication and can be achieved through better preservation of biodiversity and forests, which in turn helps to combat climate change.

I am aware there are no quick fixes in development. But world leaders should rise to the challenge and overcome the unacceptable scourges of the 21st century, like hunger and poverty, because tackling their causes, rather than their symptoms, is not only more effective but also cheaper. The EU will be on the frontline in this fight and I trust that others will join us.