At first glance, the resolution appears to be promising, with references to many of Plan’s priorities included. Human rights-based approach? Tick. Tackling gender inequality and eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls? Tick. Recognition of the multi-dimensional nature of poverty? Tick. Importance of good governance? Tick. So far, so good.
Certainly, there is a lot to welcome in the resolution. But dig a little deeper and it’s difficult to find the red line which draws the entire resolution together, or even identify the issues the Parliament thinks the EU should be prioritising.
While all of the major issues may be covered, there is little to indicate how these work together in a coherent manner. On the contrary, there is an inherent tension in a number of the points – how, for example, do environmental sustainability and economic growth realistically co-exist?
Taking a human rights-based approach
Let’s start with some of the positives. First, the human rights principles of equality, non-discrimination, participation and inclusion are well represented in the resolution. If the future framework is to succeed where the Millennium Development Goals failed and address the massive – and ever-growing – gap between the haves and the have-nots, there must be much greater focus on tackling the root causes and structural drivers of poverty, inequality and human rights violations, not simply addressing its symptoms. However, the EP resolution, while talking about the issues, doesn’t really come up with many of the solutions.
Gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment
Likewise, it is good to see the support for a stand-alone goal on gender equality as well as for gender mainstreaming across all goals. Despite some hard-won gains towards gender equality in the past 15 years, girls and women across the world continue to be disproportionately affected by poverty, injustice, violence and discrimination.
A transformative stand-alone goal on gender equality and girls’ and women’s empowerment, which challenges and addresses the major underlying causes of discrimination against them, is therefore crucial.
This could have been taken even further in the resolution by recognising the gender-age nexus – a girl of five, for example, faces a very different set of issues than a girl of 15. Both of these deserve equal attention, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Access to quality education for all
Girls face particular barriers – whether cultural, domestic or economic – in accessing education, notably post-primary education, when the risk of dropping out increases significantly. This is recognised in the resolution, which underlines the importance of enhancing girls’ access to all levels of education and removing gender barriers to learning.
It also stresses the need for quality, because as we know education is about more than just getting bums on seats. The future framework must therefore ensure all boys and girls benefit from a quality education in a safe and supportive learning environment, which includes looking at children’s schooling experience - how well they are taught, whether they are respected, encouraged and supported, how much they learn, and how learning helps them to be responsible and active citizens and prepares them for life ahead.
A global development framework?
If we turn our attention to some of the less positive aspects of the resolution, what is perhaps most worrying is something reflected in the very title of the resolution itself: the EU and the global development framework. The post-2015 framework is not and must not be a “development framework”.
Rather, it must apply to all nations, rich and poor. Given the number and nature of the global challenges we are facing, only a global response will suffice. Yet there is little in the resolution to suggest that the Parliament views the framework as being as equally applicable to the EU as it is to our partners across the globe. This approach undermines a fundamental objective of the post-2015 framework.
The multidimensional nature of poverty
Moreover, while the resolution acknowledges the multidimensional nature of poverty, it nevertheless claims that a target on ending extreme poverty based on an income-only assessment of $2 a day is necessary to ensure that the framework is truly transformational.
Let’s be clear that a target on ending extreme income poverty based on a $2 a day benchmark alone will not ensure a truly transformational framework.
Poverty is much more than a lack of money: it encompasses a shortage of resources, capabilities, choices, security and power. Therefore rather than focusing on income as a measure of poverty, it would have been far more welcome to see the notion of well-being – a composite indicator – given more prominence.
What can we draw from the resolution?
The Council of the EU is set to outline its position on the post-2015 framework later this month. This resolution was the Parliament’s opportunity to outline the direction it thinks the Council should take in defining the post-2015 framework. And while it contains many of the key words you might be looking for, we would have expected something a little more ambitious and visionary.