One hundred days on from the High-Level Panel report

16 September 2013 16:30 - 18:00 GMT+01 (BST)
Public event
Streamed live online
Speaker:
Homi Kharas - Lead Author and Executive Secretary of the Secretariat supporting the High Level Panel on the post-2015 agenda; Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Global Economy and Development program, Brookings Institution

Discussants:
David Hallam – Head of Post-2015 Development Team, UK Department for International Development
Neva Frecheville – Co-chair, Beyond 2015

Chair:
Claire Melamed – Head of Growth, Poverty and Inequality Programme, Overseas Development Institute

Description

Over three months on from the High-Level Panel report on the post-2015 development agenda, and with international attention turning to events in New York around the September UN General Assembly and to the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, this is a good moment to look back on the High Level Panel’s work and lessons.

We ask the question: 

What does the experience of the High-Level Panel, and the responses to its report, tell us about how to manage and influence the politics and processes to define a set of post-2015 goals? 

Homi Kharas- Lead Author and Executive Secretary of the Secretariat supporting the High-Level Panel on the post-2015 agenda - joins government and civil society panellists in London to share perspectives on this and gather views from participants. This conversation will give particular insights on stakeholder engagement, UN member state politics around the Panel, how the High-Level Panel’s report has been received to date,and the latest developments in New York and elsewhere on the post-2015 agenda.

Department for International Development, 22 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2EG
Participants agreed that it is important that the post-2015 development agenda combines poverty and environmental sustainability objectives. Although this view also featured strongly in the High Level Panel (HLP) report, Homi Kharas warned that it is by no means a guaranteed outcome, as some countries would prefer separate agendas – or simply an ‘MDG 2.0’ type of agreement that builds directly on the current MDGs. However Homi Kharas and David Hallam pointed out that there is a clear need to go well beyond the MDG agenda, to reflect that our understanding of poverty has changed, and that the MDGs left out important interrelated issues, such as sustainability, governance, peace and security. While the inclusion of these elements could make a future agenda harder for governments to agree on, they will be central to an effective future agenda to fight poverty.  Hallam stressed that through consultations such as My World it has become clear that issues of governance and freedom from violence matter hugely to people and should not be ignored this time round. Neva Frecheville, however, warned that while My World was an excellent tool, it had to be used to complement - not guide - post-2015 thinking, as it has not incorporated crucial priorities such as environmental sustainability. Homi Kharas made the point that poverty is dynamic – some people are lifted out of it, others fall back into to it, and the nature of poverty itself changes over time and the agenda needed to reflect this by including goals and targets on resilience.

Thinking about what comes next, Kharas underlined 4 aspects which weren’t fully dealt with in the UN High Level Panel report and still need attention:

-Implementation and accountability: How is the agenda going to be translated into practice? What are the mechanisms for responsibility and accountability? These issues still need to be clarified.

-Finance: The MDGs were cemented at the Monterrey conference on finance: developing countries saw an increase in donor pledges to finance development as a central benefit of adopting these Goals. Kharas argued that Post-2015 needs to go through a similar process to provide incentives for its uptake, but cautioned that it should not take the form of a pledging session like Monterrey. Instead, it should be a discussion on how to reform and improve development financing. He also pointed out that more work needs to be done to reform global governance as this was not strongly addressed in the HLP report.

-Data Revolution: Kharas stressed that the word ‘revolution’ is being used deliberately. There needs to be a rethink on how to collect and process data, preferably in real time, as currently time lags between data collection and processing are too long. Hallam argued that if MDGs could drive progress in data collection, post-2015 could help drive a data revolution. Frecheville, however, stressed that while the ‘data revolution’ offers great potential, it should not be seen as a panacea, as it is likely to do little to tackle structural inequalities, and risks marginalising those who are not digitally connected. Further, she pointed out that the data revolution is emerging as a very top-down initiative, requiring government and corporate investment, and therefore is not incorporating grass-root concerns.

Identifying related national level issues, Kharas stressed that the agenda will only be successful and truly universal if there is national ownership with national targets, and global minimum floors in order to encourage a race to the top. However, he cautioned that although national ownership will be key as many post-2015 struggles will need to be fought domestically, a global agreement cannot ensure that those countries which choose not to engage with its objectives are held accountable or forced to do so.

Frecheville discussed the role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), pointing out that they raise the level of debate by making certain issues unavoidable. She added that the HLP’s response to CSO consultations and engagement was positive, and efforts should made to prevent the debate form moving into a ‘black box’ phase without clear opportunities for CSO engagement now that the Open Working Group phase is under way. She added that there are still highbarriers to entry in the post-2015 debate for smaller CSOs, and for ordinary people – especially in terms of the time, resources and reach required to impact high-level conversations. These barriers would have to be addressed by making resources avaialbe to support further CSO engagement in the future.

Panellists noted that uncertainties remain around the next steps in the process. Hallam was optimistic about national engagement with the HLP report, which generated debate amongst national missions to the UN. However Kharas pointed out that it is still too early to expect strong country engagement, as most national missions are still in an information gathering phase. Kharas further stressed that conversations needed to move to national capitals, as the process was still far too New York / UN-centric.

Pannellists also noted that local authorities would be on the front-line of actually implementing the process and making sure ‘no one was left behind’. There was also substantial agreement on the need for more youth engagement. Frecheville stated that young people shouldn’t wait for opportunities or engagement to come to them, but should create their own. Kharas mentioned that youth engagement already had provided the HLP with a reality check, exposing how much work still needed to be done despite MDG progress.