Who’s talking about the Post-2015 agenda?

Wednesday 23 January 2013

By Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save the Children International

There are two sessions on the future of the Millennium Development Goals after 2015 at Davos this year - that’s the same number of sessions given to meditation and art walks.  The word ‘growth’ features in 11 of the agenda’s session headings, ‘human’ in 4 and ‘poverty’ gets no airtime at all.  Yet if the World Economic Forum is ‘committed to improving the state of the world’ this critical debate should be front and centre of everything we are talking about. 

We have made huge strides in delivering on the MDGs: the World Bank estimates that the number of extremely poor people in developing countries will fall from 29% in 1990 to 12% in 2015; the number of children dying before their fifth birthday of preventable causes across the world almost halved from 12 million to 6.9 million in a decade. 

But the world has changed since the MDGs were first agreed: six of the world’s ten fastest-growing countries are African and once developing countries like China, Brazil and India have become major figures on the world stage, while historically powerful economies now face cuts and financial uncertainty. 

Save the Children recently published our report on our aspirations for this new framework, aiming at (stretch-but-doable) zero targets for absolute poverty reduction, hunger, preventable child and maternal deaths and a zero target for those without safe drinking water and sanitation.  This is all possible, so to aim for any less is unconscionable

I think we could go one of 3 ways on this issue: we could put together a wish list that’s so long we will set ourselves up to fail or lose the momentum altogether; or get stuck in a confused web deliberating the relative values of SDGs vs MDGs and partisan debates about the relative priority of communicable vs non-communicable diseases.  Or we could genuinely come up with something that will drive progress. 

And it struck me that the political and business leaders that can make this happen are in the room at Davos.  

This is our last best chance to stand up and be counted – and be accountable – before the UN’s consultation on this new framework closes.  But let’s look at who is talking about the Post 2015 agenda at Davos: Jeff Sachs, Bill Gates, Ban Ki-moon.  With the notable exception of Unilever’s Paul Polman, where are the other business leaders? 

Since the Millennium we’ve made weakest progress on MDG 8: “A Global Partnership for Development”.  I can’t imagine that there is anyone at Davos whose business or agency doesn’t reach a developing country in some way.  Working together across sectors to deliver these goals should be the lynchpin of the Post-2015 framework.  And this is why we need a much broader range of voices in this discussion.

The question is whether we’ll feel accountable for finding the solution now rather than trying to cope with the fallout later.  The question for those attending Davos is who will stand up now and show real global leadership not just for the year ahead, but the generation ahead.

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