With less than 850 days to go until the 2015 development watershed, accountability mechanisms should be regarded as the most important part of the puzzle. Guest post by Savio Carvalho.
On 25th September 2013, the UN hosted a special event in New York to review progress and chart a way forward towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are, as we all know, the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, universal primary education, gender equality, the reduction of child mortality, improving maternal health, combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, encouraging environmental sustainability and global partnership for development . World leaders in their outcome document speak of their urgency and determination to press on with the delivery of the current goals as well as renewing their commitment to a post 2015 agenda. They also say clearly that they will take into account the voices, concerns and priorities conveyed by the people world wide.
Well, if this is really true then put on your seats belts; we are in for a sudden, seismic change in pace and quality of delivery of the MDGs. With less than 850 days to go, something is going to have to be achieved very fast indeed. Of course, there have been some positive changes and achievements in relation to some of these goals in some countries, but the real success story is in the creation of a global narrative around development. The UN, the organisations of global governance and the MDGs, take the credit at least for shining a light on poverty, (ill) health, (lack of decent) education etc and, above all, unequal wealth and power concentrated in a few pockets between and within countries.
Fast forward to today, and it is striking how the challenge of localised wealth and power continues, albeit with some geopolitical changes. The economic growth in countries like India, China and Brazil has changed the landscape of the global South. But inequality and discrimination have also grown since the launch of the MDGs, manifested in income distribution, gender relations, health outcomes, insecurities and quality of life.
The real challenge in the post 2015 framework is to reduce this growing inequality. This is not just a moral imperative; it sits well within the Human Rights treaty standards – “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. There is an urgent need to ensure that macro economic policies, trade agreements and investment by state and non-state actors are judged from a human rights perspective. Principles of equality, non discrimination, participation, non- retrogression, sustainability and using the maximum available resources to fulfil social and economic rights must be at the very heart of all poverty eradication and development initiatives.
Our leaders must see this not just as a human rights imperative but something that works in their own interest. In the recent terrorist attack in Kenya, one could not stop but think of the number of (educated) unemployed youth in the country. Whilst Kenya is an economic powerhouse compared to its neighbours, power and wealth is heavily concentrated. Unemployment is high; the number of people living in slums and informal settlements is on an increase. Some statistics say that 10% of the population control over 40% of the income. Inequalities lead to conflict and violence. Highly unequal societies tend to go slower in terms of long term growth. For all these reasons, addressing the structural causes of inequality will be the key to success for a lasting change in the Post 2015 agenda.
Another challenge that really can’t be ignored this time is environmental sustainability and climate change. Special procedures of the Human Rights Council have addressed the human rights implication of climate change in their statements and reports. There is a growing volume of literature making plain the interface between climate change and human rights. As we progress towards post 2015 frameworks through the new Sustainable Development Goals (which would eventually replace the MDGs) the solution to climate change must be agreed between now and 2015. The recent landmark report released by the UN panel on Climate Change provides us with scientific evidence that humans beings are, almost certainly, the chief cause of global warming, and the burden of climate change falls most heavily on the poorest. There is an urgent need for a global agreement to limit greenhouse gases and global warming to 2C or below. This may even become a pre-requisite (or stumbling block) for successful negotiations of the Post 2015 agenda.
Finally, the post 2015 framework needs a well oiled mechanism to deliver change. The rule of law in its broadest sense can help create the much -needed enabling environment for progress and development. The rule of law and human rights can mutually reinforce each other, and, in so doing promote more effective development outcomes. A substantive and progressive interpretation of the rule of law and robust accountability mechanisms can act as two sides of the same coin. Effective accountability mechanisms create a fertile ground for every individual, including the most marginalised, to access social justice, participate in decision making and seek redress in case of violations.
In the next 850 odd days, we hope member states along with the UN are able to deliver on parallel tracks, viz. achievement of the current MDGs, developing clear and targeted sustainable development goals (Post 2015 framework) and reaching a FAB (Fair, Ambitious and Binding) climate deal.
Savio Carvalho, is the Director of the Demand Dignity Programme at Amnesty International, International Secretariat. He is also on the external advisory board member of Sheffield Institute of International Development (SIID). Views expressed here are of the author and the institutions are named only for the purpose of identification. @Savioconnects