By Claire Melamed, Head of Growth, Poverty and Inequality at ODI.
While the big news at UNGA was, of course, diplomatic breakthroughs on Iran and Syria, post-2015 got a pretty good airing as well. Along with the formal inter-governmental discussions at the MDGs Special Event on September 25th, there were hundreds of side events on almost every possible aspect of the agenda. Add to that the bilateral meetings, corridor gossip and the round of breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and you have the ultimate post-2015 talk-fest. So what has it left us with?
Firstly, a map. The ‘outcome document’ from the special event was negotiated right down to the last minute, but when finally agreed, it provided a map of the next year or so. This moves the debate on quite a bit. The destination now is pretty clearly one set of goals not two – while some countries still argue against this approach, that’s clearly where the consensus lies at the moment and, for now, seems the most likely outcome. The road is also clearer: reports from the Open Working group and the Committee on Sustainable Development Financing by September 2014, with negotiations launched at next year’s UNGA, and a mandate for the UN Secretary General to provide a synthesis report by the end of 2014.
The outcome document also hints at the political map, and the issues that are going to be the hot topics for debate. The price of having a single set of goals is to bring the issue of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ (CBDR) right to the centre of the debate. This means a discussion about who is to blame for the current situation, and, crucially, who has to pay to sort it out. Financing discussions become less about charity and more about rights, and therefore more politically difficult. As well as CBDR, the outcome document mentions peace and security and democratic governance. There’s no guarantee of an outcome on those issues, but just having them in there will raise the stakes for some. The keenest post-2015 watchers will be poring over the various speeches made during the special event to see how different government positions on these and other issues seem to be evolving.
The second thing we have after this week is a clearer idea of moments. Two set-piece events are on the horizon – firstly, the report from the UN secretary general in the last quarter of 2014 will be the crucial document which frames and sets out the negotiation. Civil society groups and others should be paying serious attention to that. And, as promised, there’s also the commitment to a Heads of State event in September 2015 to adopt the new framework. That will inevitably come with a whole series of preparatory events to negotiate the text, and it’s there that the real work of agreeing the goals and the implementation package that supports them will probably be done.
The third thing I noticed at UNGA is much more discussion about the money. While no one is actually proposing very much yet, the fact that there’s now a political process, in the form of the Committee on Sustainable Development Financing, has clearly led people’s attention to focus more than before on the financing deal that might underpin a new agreement. It’s a crucial and circular conversation – expectations of what different outcomes might mean for future financing lie behind many countries’ negotiating positions on the goals as a whole.
This week marked the end of the first phase of post-2015 discussions and the start of the next. There’s a gap for reflections and a bit of analysis now, before the negotiations start at the end of next year. Interesting times ahead….