Bookmark and Share

Work in Progress

The Hewlett Foundation Blog




Friday Note: Whither Post-Post-2015? 

July 10, 2014 — By Ruth Levine

I’m starting to worry about post-post-2015. 

In the world of global development, a remarkable amount of intellectual energy is being expended trying to influence the post-2015 development agenda, the set of goals to be agreed by the member states of the United Nations in September 2015. Those goals are seen as important because their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals, affected how donors and national governments allocated money. They also stimulated policy change at national level. For instance, governments in East Africa eliminated school fees to dramatically increase primary school enrollment. So a lot of people are paying attention because they think a lot of more powerful people will pay attention.

Deliberations leading up to the final agreement of a post-2015 framework, a classic “action-forcing event,” have focused attention on truly fundamental questions: Should international goals apply to all countries, rich and poor? How can the perspectives of resource-poor countries and people be reflected in the goals? How can social and economic development aims be reconciled with environmental limits? What matters more: the right orientation in health, education and agriculture, or governments that can effectively respond to citizens’ needs and wants? What’s the relationship between how we collect data and how we design inclusive social policy? How much should donor nations shoulder the responsibility for paying to progress toward ambitious targets?

It’s a rich discussion about poverty and inequality, problems and solutions. It is also a surprisingly inclusive discussion, informed by many local and national consultations, public opinion polling, and innovative work by Southern think tanks. To get a flavor for the quantity and quality of the commentary, just tune in to the Overseas Development Institute’s Post2015.org website, which serves as a hub for a grand (and not bland) conversation.

That international conversation – in meetings, blogs, research papers, politicians’ speeches and more – has been novel not just in its depth and breadth, but also in the extent to which people interested in one set of issues have listened to others. Everyone paying attention to the construction of the post-2015 development agenda knows there will be tradeoffs and negotiations; we all are conscious that broad-based coalitions will gain more purchase than single-issue advocates. As a consequence, we all have an incentive to listen to and understand what people with different agendas and perspectives are saying. We’re even seeing a growing appreciation of how different issues – health, water, climate – interact with each other.

This is why I’m starting to worry about post-post-2015. Once the goals are agreed, there will be a tremendous temptation to return to whatever silos we crawled out of. Health people may stop paying attention to gender or inequality people, those working on reducing poverty may cease being interested in climate change, and progress toward defining problems shared across all countries may fade away. This would be a major loss.

Tell me: Is there a way to keep the dynamic post-2015 conversation going in the post-post-2015 era?