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Universality in Focus

Universality in Focus

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One of the most innovative elements of the emerging post-2015 global development agenda is a focus on universality. What would that mean in the United States?
One of the most innovative elements of the emerging post-2015 global development agenda is a focus on universality. What would that mean in the United States?

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Published by: Center for American Progress on May 09, 2014
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1 Center for American Progress | Universality in Focus
Universality in Focus
John Norris, Molly Elgin-Cossart, and Casey Dunning May 12, 2014
U.N. member saes and a range o oher acors are currenly engaged in discussions regarding he conours o he pos-2015 global developmen agenda. Tis agenda will serve as he successor o he Millennium Developmen Goals, or MDGs, agreed o in 2000. Te MDGs were a 15-year plan o global goals and arges in areas such as healh and educaion. Te eigh MDGs󲀔which range rom halving he rae o exreme povery o reducing he rae o under-5 moraliy by wo-hirds󲀔have ormed a blueprin o help he world’s poores people. Te MDGs were agreed o by all o he counries and leading developmen agencies in he world.
Te heory behind he MDGs was simple: By esablishing a shared se o prioriies in crucial areas, seting measurable arges o achieve hose goals, and creaing ranspar-ency around daa o rack progress, he goals can caalyze resources and acion, driving a race o he op. In general, he MDGs were designed o accelerae progress in areas  where he world was already making headway, hoping ha wih more resources, aten-ion, and energy, even more could be achieved. Tis same emphasis on seting goals and arges ha are boh aspiraional and achievable has also been a guiding principle o discussions on he pos-2015 agenda. Te original Millennium Developmen Goals were argeed exclusively a he developing  world and were largely donor driven. Te MDGs represened a radiional Norh-Souh  view o he world, wih Norhern-dominaed donor counries and insiuions agreeing on a ramework prioriizing how hey should assis he developing world, i.e., he Souh.However, here have been major changes in he global economic and social landscape since 2000. Counries such as India, China, and Brazil have achieved rapid growh and middle-income saus as hey have become donors hemselves, while sill addressing major pockes o exreme povery wihin heir own counries. Concerns over global pa-erns o consumpion and producion have grown acue agains he backdrop o accel-eraing climae change. Coninued allou rom he 2008 global economic crisis has lef even wealhy counries worried abou employmen, inequaliy, and access o economic opporuniies in heir own socieies. In shor, he idy Norh-Souh view o he world rom 2000 has very litle o do wih modern realiies.
2 Center for American Progress | Universality in Focus
Tus, here has been an emerging consensus ha he pos-2015 agenda should be uni- versal. By making he new ramework universal, every naion would make commimens o embrace specific goals and arges ha would make he world less impoverished, more environmenally susainable, and more equiable. I is imporan o sress ha like he original MDGs, he pos-2015 goals and arges are
nonbinding commitments
. Te issue o how universaliy will be applied in pracice has no ye received he level o discussion i deserves, paricularly given ha universaliy has he poenial o consider-ably complicae final member-sae negoiaions on he pos-2015 agenda over he nex 18 monhs. Some see universaliy as a cenral componen o he emerging poliical agreemen o make he new se o goals relevan or all counries and a naural reflecion o a world  where developmen exiss on a coninuum raher han as a simple dichoomy beween developed” and “developing.” Ohers have expressed worry ha universaliy and an expanded global agenda could poenially undermine he exising ocus on he poores.
Tis repor begins wih he assumpion ha universaliy will be a eaure o he nex agenda. I akes he “illusraive goals and arges” provided in he U.N. High Level Panel repor submited o he secreary-general in June 2013
 as a logical saring poin or exploring wha universaliy migh mean in very pracical erms or a given member sae, in his case he Unied Saes.
 Te High Level Panel repor adoped a differen syle han he MDGs when i came o seting is arges, embracing a mixure o global and naionally deermined arges. For example, by seting arges ha called or no one o live on less han $1.25 a day and aim-ing o reduce all prevenable under-5 deahs, he panel se minimum global sandards in a majoriy o is ocus areas. Bu in oher cases, he panel called on each counry o esablish is own level o ambiion oward a defined arge. For example, one naionally deermined arge was o “reduce by X percen he share o people living below he povery line,”  wih naional governmens and civil sociey called on o deermine wha he “X percen” should be wihin heir specific counry conex. (All arges wihin his repor are marked as o wheher hey are globally or naionally deermined, or a mix o he wo.) Tis careul blend o globally and naionally esablished arges was seen as adding an essenial elemen o flexibiliy o make i so ha he ramework could be applied universally. Tis repor mirrors he srucure o he High Level Panel repor; i is divided ino sec-ions by goals and hen by he arges under each goal. Tere is a discussion under each arge regarding is implicaions in he Unied Saes. Could he Unied Saes achieve such a arge? Wha is he curren saus o our progress, or lack hereo, relaed o he issue? Is his an area where he Unied Saes has a vesed ineres in making progress? Is he arge ramed in such a way ha i is measurable, realisic, and achievable? I he panel arge were one where he level o ambiion is o be se naionally, wha migh an appropriae range o ambiion look like in he Unied Saes?
3 Center for American Progress | Universality in Focus
I is imporan o emphasize ha he original MDGs and he emerging pos-2015 global developmen goals are aspiraional and arge-seting exercises designed o galvanize greaer levels o suppor and acion on commonly idenified challenges. Tis repor does no discuss he acion plans and means o implemenaion required o achieve each o hese arges. However, boh he analysis regarding he realism o achieving hese arges and effors o se appropriae levels o ambiion or naionally deermined arges were  broadly shaped by exper opinion and eedback in hese areas.  Wha is perhaps mos sriking when looking a how he Unied Saes sacks up agains he High Level Panel arges is ha almos all o hese areas are already domesic priori-ies where he Unied Saes has significan vesed ineres in making more rapid progress. I is hard o ormulae a cogen argumen as o why he Unied Saes would no wan o reduce maernal moraliy, improve educaional and learning oucomes, increase youh employmen, cu ood wase, or make businesses more energy efficien and profiable.In a number o cases, research suggesed ha some o he High Level Panel arges were no workable in heir curren orm and will require subsanial sharpening and specific-iy i hey are o be o use in seting agreed-upon inernaional aspiraions. arges ha are no measurable or inormed by muually agreed-upon daa will be eiher ignored or ineffecive; i would be unorunae i arges around criical issues such as peace, governance, and global parnership are no ully realized because aspiraions are no pu in concree, measurable erms. I is our hope ha his repor, raher han being he definiive analysis o a broad and complicaed se o issues, insead represens he beginning o a broader naional and global conversaion regarding he pracical implicaions o universaliy in he pos-2015 agenda. Our findings were refined and much improved hanks o he consrucive eed- back we received rom parners in he hink ank, NGO, academic, and inernaional insiuional communiy in preparing his repor, and we hank he many individuals  we called upon or heir suppor and eedback. We urge expers in each o hese areas, in he Unied Saes and abroad, o rigorously debae our findings and provide sugges-ions as a means o urher refine hem.

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