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Post-2015: “Not as easy as pulling a rabbit out of a hat”

12 February 2014
As discussions about a post-2015 framework are getting louder, universality appears as the key element of an effective agenda.

In early 2014, the clock is ticking loudly. Discussions about the successor framework to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are heating up. Considerations are in progress, as Civil Society Organisations team up within Beyond 2015’s European hub to design and propose a strong successor framework that addresses the key global challenges.

Intensive deliberations among members of the CONCORD-Beyond 2015 European Task Force (ETF) over eighteen months led to the position paper “Putting People and Planet First: Business as Usual is not an Option” being published last year. As well as proposing a number of principles that should be respected in the post-2015 framework, it put forward a series of 21 aspirational, global goals across four areas: inclusive social development; economic transformation; environmental sustainability and just governance. In the ETF’s opinion, those goals should contribute to realising the vision of a just, sustainable and equitable world in which every person can realise their human rights, fulfil their potential and live free from poverty.

Seizing the momentum of this important year, the EFT gathered for two days to brainstorm and fine-tune its position on the future framework. The aim was to take the paper to the next level, reducing the number of goal areas and adding targets for each one.

Topical discussions, though by no means straightforward

The EFT has identified four main topical issues: what universality means; how to integrate a human rights-based approach throughout the framework; what role the private sector should play; and how to mainstream policy coherence for sustainable development.

Participating organisations have a wide range of constructive views regarding the potential content of a post-2015 framework. But giving it shape is not straightforward. Indeed, in the words of the members of the taskforce, designing a truly inclusive, participatory, transformative and sustainable post-2015 framework that goes further in tackling the root causes of poverty is “not as easy as pulling a rabbit out of a hat.”

During the two days, ETF members were asked to get out of their own organisational silo in order to think as holistically as possible, and to imagine designing a whole framework. Participants were asked to integrate cross-cutting issues like human rights, equality, participation and empowerment and respect for planetary boundaries.

Universality: when the rubber meets the road, is the EU up for it?

The four main topics were then examined on the second day of the meeting, during a panel discussion between representatives of the European Steering Group of the ETF, the European Commission, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the South Centre, a think tank based in Geneva.

Designing a universal framework to which every country in the world commits will be key to creating a transformational agenda and addressing the global challenges we face. Universality is complex. How, for example, do you best address within a universal framework the fact that one size doesn’t fit all? Countries are not the same – they don’t have the same priorities, they are not at the same stage of development, and they don’t follow the same path to progress. But, all agreed, universality will be the game-changer.

So the universal goals must pertain to all countries, and all countries must contribute to making progress on them in their own context. That said, it became clear during discussions that not all EU Member States might accept a truly universal framework. So does that mean that they want an opt-in, opt-out framework? Everyone concurred that that would be a show-stopper. But, as someone rightly said, “the devil will be in the details”.

But what the EFT’s members were sure about is that it is no longer possible to imagine a framework which is designed predominantly for implementation by developing countries, given the nature and scale of the global challenges the world is facing.

The Steering Group of the ETF will take the recommendations from the two days forward and write a number of papers to propose creative solutions to help the EU design its position for negotiations in the UN. The fear – and the hope – is: will the EU Member States make bold commitments to deliver on the twin challenges of poverty reduction and sustainable, equitable progress within planetary boundaries?