by Claire Melamed, Head of Growth, Poverty and Inequality at ODI.
How to sum up three very intense days of wide ranging discussion? But here goes – three cheers first.
- Hurrah for Liberia. The city and the country were the real stars of the show for me. The energy and optimism in Monrovia was almost physical – from the posters exhorting people to ‘pay your taxes – they fund free education’ or ‘ballots not bullets’; to the car parking scheme that pays for street cleaning or the gleaming new hotel in which the meeting was held (finished only a few days before). I felt that (most, not all) people were delighted the meeting was happening there – a vote of confidence in their country, an economic boost, and a triumph that they got it done almost without a hitch. It’s a long time since I was in a country that felt so optimistic, and that feeling has stayed with me.
- Hurrah for the NGOs. After a certain amount of whining, from myself among others, about the rather disorganised showing by the NGO contingent at the London HLP meeting, they really got their act together this time. A good, clear communiqué with a strong message (on inequality and exclusion, the need to incorporate the sustainability and development agendas at all level, and the role of governments), and a great series of round tables on the outreach day with some very moving moments. Panel members are taking them seriously, and so they should.
- Hurrah for the Panel and the Secretariat. The atmosphere during the last week was a huge contrast to the slightly despondent mood after the London meeting. Then, people were getting to know each other, getting to grips with the scale of the challenge they’d taken on, and struggling to work with an under-resourced secretariat. Now, they seem to be enjoying the task, getting on well with each other and with the secretariat, and really moving the agenda along. Both poverty reduction and environmental sustainability run throughout the final communiqué, and new areas: economic growth, governance, and peace-building are all very much on the agenda.
You would of course be disappointed if I stopped there. There’s a few ‘buts’ too.
- The private sector conversation is still well behind the rest. This struck me in London too. Despite the great enthusiasm with which almost everyone involved talks about the importance of the private sector, and the tremendous efforts by the Unilever team, Betty Maina and others, actual ideas are thin on the ground. This may well be because most people actually getting on with running companies are too busy doing what they do to get involved in the specialised world of post-2015. But if this debate is to move on, it will have to get specific.
I caught the faint stirrings of two tracks emerging on this. One is on partnerships and how companies can help with the delivery of new goals (such as in the area of infrastructure, which was much in vogue in Monrovia). A second is on transparency – mirroring the debates about how a post-2015 agreement can help to push governments towards greater transparency and accountability, the same conversation is being had in relation to the private sector. Can a new agreement help to create incentives towards greater financial transparency, for example? It would be interesting to see how the two might work together – minimum reporting standards as a condition for involvement in new partnerships, for example?
- It’s still happening very slowly. There was a sense of momentum in Monrovia and some specific and important issues were discussed, with the Panel keen to get to the level of thinking about goals and even targets. But they’re a long way off agreement on some of the most basic and difficult issues: should any goals involve measuring social progress in all countries, for example, or focus on progress among the poorest? How exactly do you combine sustainability and poverty reduction in a single set of goals? How can the specific needs of conflict affected countries be taken into account? What about the big systemic issues like making production in the North more sustainable or getting trade or global finance sorted? They’re getting there, and I feel more optimistic now that the destination will be a good one. But a lot of the most difficult issues still haven’t really been addressed, and there’s a lot to be done in Bali….