President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is in New York with an important mission for humankind. He, alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, will be co-chairing the United Nation's High Level Panel (HLP) of Eminent Persons.
Appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the HLP consists of 26 prominent figures including former heads of government and representatives of civil society, youth, academia and the private sector.
To successfully perform this important and noble job, Yudhoyono is assisted by a national committee, which was recently formed through Presidential Decree No. 29/2012 and is chaired by Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the head of the Presidential Working Unit for Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4).
One of the President's tasks is to lead the HLP in advising the UN Secretary-General on the vision and shape of a post-2015 development agenda, responding to the global challenges of the 21st century and building upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with an aim of eliminating poverty.
Having been agreed upon by all 193 UN member states and at least 23 international organizations to achieve by the year 2015, the MDGs consist of eight global development goals. They are: 1) eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; 2) achieve universal primary education; 3) promote gender equality and empower women; 4) reduce child mortality rates; 5) improve maternal health; 6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; 7) ensure environmental sustainability; and 8) develop a global partnership for development.
Nearing the deadline set for MDGs accomplishment in 2015, the panel therefore is tasked to advise the UN Secretary-General on building and sustaining broader political consensus on an ambitious yet achievable post-2015 sustainable development agenda around three pillars: economic growth, social equity and environmental sustainability.
Learning from the uneven progress toward reaching the MDGs and criticisms from development practitioners, experts and civil society, the HLP should rectify the drawbacks and deficiencies of the MDGs implementation in 2001-2011. According to the 2011 UN MDG Progress Report, some countries have reached many of the goals, while others have failed or have struggled to achieve any. Progress toward some goals and targets has disappointedly been stagnant and even regressed. For example, the proportion of hungry people (goal 1) has increased by 16 percent since 2000/2002.
Criticisms that beg the HLP's response can be classified into two categories (Fukuda-Parr, 2012). First, those that relate to the composition of the goals, targets and indicators of the MDGs. Under this category, the critics have spoken out against poorly designed development goals; the narrow composition and dimensions of development; a lack of attention to equality, important norms and principles, in particular falling short of human rights standards; an unbalanced international political economy; and a distortion of national priorities.
Second, critics have raised concerns about the process to formulate and implement the MDGs. These criticisms include the lack of broad consultation in formulation; the national adaptability of the global goals; criteria for success and methodology of measuring progress; and an aid-centric process.
But why have some of the MDGs not or unsatisfactorily been achieved? First, those goals are unrealistic and unattainable. They do not truly represent the interest or policy priorities of some countries. Moreover, these countries lack strong incentives, and thus lack the political commitment to achieve those goals. Thus, there is no effective "reward and punishment" mechanism to push states to reach these goals.
Furthermore, there is no global, effective and integrated system for monitoring and evaluating progress. More importantly, developed countries do not genuinely and fully support and help developing countries, in particular least developed countries to attain these goals. And lastly, "external" factors, such as the recent economic crisis in Europe, have badly affected the financial and economic capacities of some countries to realize the MDGs.
Therefore, in recommending sustainable, inclusive and equitable development goals (SIEDGs) and an agenda to the Secretary-General, the HLP should learn from the drawbacks in the formulation and implementation of the MDGs. SIEDGs must be based on both the common problems faced by all states and those specific to developing countries. Thus, the goals are split into two levels: common and specific SIEDGs.
Developed and developing countries face new and common challenges in the 21st century. Some of these challenges are climate change with all its destructive effects; food, energy, and water crises; poverty; corruption; human trafficking; drug abuse; environmental degradation; unsustainable use of resources and development; terrorism and extremism; unemployment; unilateralism and the use of force in resolving disputes; HIV/AIDS and communicable diseases; and global capitalist economy which is prone to economic crisis.
However, developing countries confront new challenges specific to them, such as population booms, limited resources and capacity, debt crises, a lack of technology, human rights abuses, poor access to justice and health, high child mortality rates, extreme hunger, low education levels and low trade competitiveness.
Importantly, the HLP should focus more on overcoming the acute problem of global corruption and bad governance. To some extent corruption, as many researchers have found, is primarily responsible for poverty, deforestation and environmental degradation, economic injustice, poor access to healthcare, social injustice, human rights abuses and even wars.
Instead of achieving the goals in 15 years, all the goals of the SIEDGs should be realized by all countries in 20 years (2015 – 2035). However, some goals can be fully achieved before that time. The progress and performance of countries in attaining the SIEDGs should fairly be evaluated and judged according to their capacity and specific circumstances. The UN and developed states should establish a "global SIEDG fund" to reward developing countries that have performed well in realizing
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