Time to walk the talk for Post 2015! Impressions from the HLPEP meeting in Bali

By Social Protection Team on Mon, 08 April 2013

Photo credit: Rakesh Sahai for ADB 2010.
Photo credit: Rakesh Sahai for ADB 2010.

Written by Susann Roth, Senior Social Development Specialist 

Two weeks ago I attended the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons (HLPEP) meeting in Bali, which I had anticipated for many weeks. Working on the Asia and the Pacific perspectives of the post 2015 development agenda, the Bali meeting was one of the highlights where I expected to gain more insights into the HLPEP work and the thinking behind it. 

The meeting was an enriching experience; however, not in the way I had expected. 

What I had hoped to experience were deliberating debates, expert opinions, interaction with HLPEP members, and concrete visions and ideas about the content and architecture of the possible new agenda. 

What I found was clarity on the principles of the agenda, very little disagreement and debate and limited interaction with the HLPEP members. The latter came as a disappointment, and when I discussed my impression of HLPEP members appearing “outreach” fatigued, their advisors - who were hardly present at the outreach day - actually agreed. These are my takeaways from the Bali meeting, in a nutshell, before I elaborate in more detail the key messages.

 

  • The Bali meeting showed good progress compared to the first HLPEP meeting in London, however, not much new was discussed during the outreach day compared to the Monrovia meeting.
  • The need to merge the Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs) and the post 2015 agenda was strongly advocated.
  • The discussed principles for the new agenda were equity, sustainability, solidarity, respect for humanity, and shared responsibilities in accordance with respective capabilities.
  • The roundtables were quite repetitive and, note, very concrete.
  • Youth representatives were enthusiastic and much aligned with countering discrimination, exclusion and inequality.
  • The role of the private sector was recognized as important in post 2015; however, the details were not elaborated beyond job-creation and development contributions through cooperate social responsibility.
  • It was agreed that incentives in the current economic, financial and political institutions prioritize short-run benefits over long-term sustainability and public goods.

 

John Maxwell once said: “One must be big enough to admit one’s mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”

After attending Bali meeting I can say with confidence that the process, which formulates the post 2015 agenda, embraces the first part of Maxwell’s quote for sure -- there were lots of discussions about the strength and the weaknesses of the MDGs.

We have to break silos and build synergies in the post 2015 agenda.

One of the key messages of the HLPEP Bali meeting is that the MDGs were remarkably successful in forging a common purpose and in drawing attention to key human development issues. However, in its simplicity of articulating development challenges as single problems, the MDGs did not capture the synergies and links between goals. Health is a striking example where least progress has been made in Asia and the Pacific, despite the high economic growth and great success in poverty reduction. My colleague Anupma Jain wrote an excellent blog about the links between maternal and child health and water sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and gave a striking argument about the importance of addressing development challenges in a holistic way.

 

The post 2015 development agenda needs renewed global partnerships.

The HLPEP emphasized that partnerships are essential to work across sectors and stakeholders. This is another important message from the HLPEP, which ran under the headline “Global Partnership and Cooperation for Development.”  The roundtables during the outreach day discussed the many aspects of the challenges of our globalized world, which are becoming more complex and crosscutting in nature, while stakeholders become more diverse and play more roles. The private sector for instance discussed under the UN Compact the opportunities to foster partnerships and what role the private sector can play -- they were not involved in the formulation of the MDGs at the time.

The post 2015 agenda needs to be built on strong and clear principles.

But the question is how can we build global partnerships among stakeholders with different and sometimes opposite interests? We need strong and clear principles, which guide the partnerships and we need governance structures, which re-enforce these principles, at the same time. The principles, agreed on in Bali are equity, sustainability, solidarity, respect for humanity, and shared responsibilities in accordance with respective capabilities.

All noble principles, but what means  ‘shared responsibilities in accordance with respective capacities’? I hope this relates only to the financing and not to the other principles since they would then become toothless.

I was sitting next to a representative from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was halfheartedly smiling when these principles and the importance of partnerships were reiterated during the public sector roundtable. She was looking for the reality check and made clear in her intervention that peace, security and the increasing number of conflicts, not only in Africa but particularly also in Asia and the Pacific, need to be taken into the equation of a perfect scenario of noble principles and global partnerships. The MDG experience, for example, showed that conflict affected states had a hard time to achieve any of the goals.

The post 2015 development agenda needs to be people-centered and also planet-sensitive.

The roundtable of the academia with Jeffrey Sachs, showed that the protection of the environment had gained significance in the post 2015 development agenda. We could see this development already at the Monrovia HLPEP meeting. In Bali the strong focus on the environment and the need for a people-centered and planet-sensitive post 2015 agenda, which needs to be grounded in a commitment to address global environmental challenges, strengthen resilience, and improve disaster preparedness capacities, made it on the top list of key messages. However, this requires alignment of climate finance with broader development results by establishing appropriate indicators, which reflect the links of the three pillars of development. To my disappointment, the discussion at the outreach day in Bali didn’t go into this detail.

And again the need for partnership to promote global cooperation in line with each country’s level of capacity and responsibility to act was highlighted. I wonder who will measure and decide on the capacity and the responsibility to act. 

Business as usual is not an option- we need to change consumption and production patterns.

The need to merge the Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs) and the post 2015 agenda was strongly advocated and the message was clear about the need to address the management of world’s production and consumption. The Government of Indonesia, for example, stated that they see the new agenda to be called "Sustainable Development Goals." 

My colleague and I would actually wish for Human Development Goals. Wouldn’t that highlight more the people-centered aspect and the need to link environmental and economic goals with the well being of people?

 

The post 2015 development agenda needs to be integrated in national development plans and needs country ownership.

The key message on the means of implementation also focused more on the “what” than the “how”. Greater commitment to improve and use country systems and the global system was highlighted as well as the need for ownership of the new agenda at all levels. Adequate, stable and predictable financing as well as efficient use of resources was mentioned. That led to lots of discussions on resource mobilization from tax havens and enhancing domestic resource mobilization in time of declining ODA and fiscal austerity in Europe and the US. For Asia and the Pacific, ODA was never actually a big chunk of its development financing and very unevenly distributed to Afghanistan, which is getting the most of it. This means that Asia and the Pacific should be able to rely a lot on its own resources in the future.

Reliable data is needed to measure progress and enforce and measure accountability.

The need for data and better accountability in measuring results is crucial, of course, when we talk about governance and evidence-based policymaking. This was highlighted as important for the new agenda. What’s not clear is: Who will fund the needed capacity development for better statistics in times of resource scarcity, knowing that funding capacity development for statistics was never very “attractive” for development partners?

Although the discussions at the Bali meeting -- at least during the outreach day -- seemed redundant, they were necessary to process the lessons learned from the MDGs, and they pave the way to agree on a way forward.

The next step is to design a new agenda, which corrects the silos that enables and renews partnerships. This sets a strong framework for accountability, which is actionable as what Benjamin Franklin’s beautiful and noble words stated, “Well done is better than well said.“

Closing with this quote I wonder who ordered the beef for the approximately 300 people at the HLPEP welcome gala dinner and forgot about sustainable consumption at the starting point of the development of an agenda, which aims to change business as usual.

Follow Susann Roth on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Drsroth