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Outcome Document of the South Asian Consultation
Centre for Poverty Analysis Colombo, Sri Lanka
Since their adoption in 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) took centre stage as a framework for national and international development efforts and cooperation, policymaking and resource mobilisation. They were a practical and measurable articulation of the Millennium Declaration and enjoyed support from governments and the development communities. They focused largely on the social aspects of development, and while there has been considerable progress towards their achievement, there are also significant disparities within and across the countries. The backdrop to the MDGs was the Asian financial crisis that pointed to a need for systemic reforms, and the end of the cold war that led to expectations of increased ODA. Despite their centrality, the MDGs were seen as a suboptimal response to the shelving of systemic changes as the world economy recovered from the financial crisis, and as an attempt to win the confidence of tax payers in the north on the effectiveness of ODA. They were largely developed in a political vacuum, emanating from a series of high‐profile international conferences during the 1990s. On top of this, the MDGs were executed around a set of largely pre‐existing and narrowly defined targets – inspired by the Human Development paradigm. Today, almost a decade and a half after governments signed up to the MDGs, it is evident that there is a need for a post‐2015 agenda that balances the social, economic and environmental aspects of development. The discussion on a new set of post‐2015 development goals aims to integrate the debate that has been gathering since the Rio+20 summit’s declaration of the need for sustainable development goals (SDG), and the post 2015 discussion on the next round of millennium development goals (MDGs). Currently, there are propositions made by various groups on what the overarching principles should be, what the goals should contain, and how they should be implemented and internalised by countries. The setting of goals is a complicated exercise, as decisions are dependent on the ambitions and interests of sovereign states, their political leadership, and lobby groups with diverse vested agendas. If endorsed and adopted by the world – as in the case of the current MDGs, sustainable post‐2015 goals can impact aid architecture, trade policies, technology development and transfer, and international cooperation, as well as shape domestic development policies of individual states. The discussions display some scepticism about the effectiveness of growth‐centred models to eradicate poverty. South Asia, for instance, is one of the fastest growing regions in the world, but it is also home to the largest concentration of people living in extreme poverty. The future development orientation will have impacts on South Asia and for each country in the region, and there remains the question on whether a ‘universal’ framework can address the critical development concerns of South Asian and other vulnerable economies. 2
There are also more scientific agreement, evidence and lived experiences that highlight the threats of environmental degradation on human well being. Climate scientists predict that South Asia will be one of the regions worst affected by climate change, and that will significantly reduce the impact of poverty alleviation efforts. Poor people are disproportionately reliant on natural assets and vulnerable to climate and scarcity risks. The current models of development are also the main drivers of unsustainability, and a global framework that would work within the natural limits of the planet would require developed countries to adhere to a programme of sustainable production and consumption. Whether this will be a practical reality is still to be seen. Much of the on‐going discussions on the post‐2015 development agenda have been provided by “northern” institutions. It is critical though, that as South Asians, we focus on the on‐going global debates in the context of post‐2015, and ensure that the concerns, development priorities, and aspirations of South Asian countries are also given greater voice and are included into this debate. The Southern Voice on Post‐MDG International Development Goals is leading the effort to increase Southern (Asian, African and Latin American) think tank perspectives and ideas and has strong potential to influence the high‐level discussions on the post‐2015 development framework. The Centre for Poverty Analysis, in collaboration and shared ownership with the Centre for Policy Dialogue (Bangladesh), the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (Pakistan), Practical Action (Sri Lanka) and the South Asia Policy Research Institute (SAPRI) brought together about forty participants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and representatives from Mauritius, Japan, Switzerland, Germany and the UK into a consultation in Colombo. The consultation enabled an integrated discussion of both sustainability and socio‐economic issues in the context of the post‐2015 development agenda, with special reference to Asia, and South Asia in particular. The dialogue was multi‐disciplinary, and included economists, environmentalists, technologists, political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists and policy makers from different levels in the public and private sectors. The consultation was structured around five major topics: economic growth within natural limits, equity and sustainability, shared societies and governance, the role of technology and ownership and instruments of delivery; and based on thirteen academic papers presented by the participants focusing on these issues. This outcome document summarises the key outcomes of this consultation. A more detailed report of the discussion is forthcoming. All documents related to the symposium are available at
Video coverage of the sessions can be viewed on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Kp8MiTmfsg&list=PLsNHgk0wbmKSaX697Py9Dxpk9L5oU‐ 6bJ&index=1. 3
Participants in the consultation: • agreed that human rights needed to be integrated into the post‐2015 development framework, which should be based on respect for diversity, individual dignity, equal opportunity and protection from discrimination. • proposed that “just governance” be included as a fourth pillar of the framework. ‘Just Governance’ expands the concept of good governance, currently used in the global debate. It translates into a government that is responsive to the needs of the people. ‘The concept of ‘just governance’ seeks to put into place honest and accountable political institutions that allow public participation in decision making and oversight; promotes non‐violent modes of conflict resolution leading to safety, security and respect of separate identities; ensures transparency, accountability and access to information and respects the interdependence of individual and collective dimensions of social existence. The principle needs to apply not only to public institutions but also to the private sector, to global governance institutions and to the developed world. • recognised that the global partnership goal received the least traction in the achievement of the MDGs, and emphasised the need to take a critical look at the international system, the neo‐ liberal economic paradigm that drives it, and the role and relationship of its different constituents. The global post‐2015 development framework needs to encourage alternative home‐grown models and be informed by them, without being prescriptive. It also needs to take into account the numerous United Nations conventions that address rights and obligations of global actors, such as CEDAW and UNFCCC and use them as the basis for the new framework. • concurred that economic growth must continue to underpin the new development framework, but reiterated that the processes of achieving economic growth needs to take place with a strong recognition of the world’s natural limits and of the need to leave no one behind. This viewpoint is not as readily apparent in the proposed principles and goals of the HLP, as it is in the discussion on the SDGs and in the UN‐NGLS consultations and it is necessary to strengthen the argument if the principle of “sustainable development at the core” is to be pursued in the post‐2015 agenda. • acknowledged that the role of technology in development was broader than the current discussion of ‘technology transfer’ put forward as the main strategy for addressing the technology gap to bring about “green economies”. Technology justice, or access to technology for all should be a key element in the development framework and needs to include local technology development, and greater flexibility in negotiating intellectual property rights and trade treaties.
Key Issues from the South Asian Region
Gunasekera, V. I., November 2013. Addressing life on the margins: Moving beyond rhetoric and putting inequality at the heart of the post 2015 development agenda, Position paper presented at 13th Annual Symposium of the Centre for Poverty Analysis,
Colombo: Centre for Poverty Analysis. Online. http://cepa.lk/images/Addressing_life_on_the_margins_CEPAsymposium2013_Equity_positionpaper.pdf
asymmetries in access to knowledge and information, lack of opportunities to participate in decision‐ making, group based inequalities such as those relating to caste, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, and the privileging of certain actors (e.g. corporate) over others (e.g. citizens). This must result in the emphasis on non‐discrimination in all the future goals and targets. Just governance The issue of equality is linked to the other key issue of governance. Delivering what the Club de Madrid2 calls a ‘shared society’ requires institutions that are relevant, based on the principle of subsidiarity, and which consider the long term perspective without compromising immediate needs. ‘Just governance’ was understood to mean political institutions that were honest and accountable at the local, national and international levels, and allowed free and equal public participation in decision making and oversight, with progressive tax systems and domestic resource mobilisation, and a responsible private sector to increase its effectiveness. A shared society needs also to extend beyond the national sphere to the international, which indicates the need for greater south‐south cooperation, north‐south negotiations with stronger southern voice, and the reform of global rules and institutions relating to trade, investment, technology and intellectual property rights.
Key factors to consider in the formulation of Goals
Recommendations from the South Asian Consultation The South Asian Consultation, with its high representation of South Asian development and environmental professionals, and interested representatives from outside the region, presents the following factors to be considered in the negotiations that will lead to the finalisation of the goals, targets and indicators for the post‐2015 development agenda. Many of the proposed factors resonate with the discussions taking place around Sustainable Development Goals and the High Level Panel’s recommended 12 goals, and contribute to making sustainability the next metric. The South Asian consultation was very clear that without an overarching commitment to ‘respecting natural limits’ and ‘just governance’, the post‐2015 development agenda is unlikely to eradicate poverty or transform economies through sustainable development. Working within natural limits would require targets and indicators that would ensure that countries:
have national policies that respect natural limits and have incorporated them together with other environmental and social indicators to an expanded measure of the GDP. This would mean a revised formulation of what constitutes GDP, and could stimulate a new growth paradigm.
The Club de Madrid is an independent non-profit organization composed of over 90 democratic former Presidents and Prime
Ministers from more than 60 different countries. For more information go to http://www.clubmadrid.org/
provide incentives for sustainable production and consumption to manufacturing companies and to consumers; ensure that the private sector adhere to the concept of the triple bottom line and use pricing and promotion mechanisms to create a demand for sustainable goods and services that benefit stakeholders rather than shareholders. protect the security of ecosystem services and biodiversity and that they manage their natural resources; and comply with other global covenants on the environment and climate change. develop broad strategies for developing countries to access science, technology and innovation beyond the conventional north‐south technology transfer; ensure more public funding for research and development; and, at a national level, build on indigenous knowledge and experience to develop locally appropriate technologies with supportive policies. Encourage more participation of the public in science and technology and develop the capacity to critically respond to the transfer of technology.
The stand‐alone goal on ‘just governance’ will consider governance issues at international and national levels, and focus on: • the reform of the international rules of the game (for international trade, finance, taxation, business accounting and intellectual property rights) consistent with achieving sustainable development goals and equity; in particular the development of a global institutional architecture to provide greater support to highly vulnerable states and least developed countries. generation of adequate domestic and international public finance not just towards ending poverty, but also for the provision global public goods, capacity building and transferring technologies. an increase in the ‘voice’ of citizens, through decentralised and more local modes of governance based on the principles of subsidiarity and through ensuring that people enjoy freedom of speech, association and peaceful protest, are able to participate in political processes and civic engagement at all levels, and are guaranteed access to independent media and information. Just governance would see an end to widespread bribery and corruption and ensure that public and private institutions are held accountable. in particular, the goal could be formulated to read as ’Universally accessible’ and ‘just’ governance processes and mechanisms that ensure ‘the bottom decile’ are participants in decision‐making processes and oversight
In addition to the above, the South Asian consultation supported several of the goals and targets that have been presented through the twin processes of follow‐up to the 2010 post‐MDG discussion and the 2012 Rio+20 conference.
The South Asia consultation saw the need to bring back a rights approach to development, as a prerequisite for dealing with the multiple inequalities that exist within the South Asian region and across the world. The rights based approach would be strengthened by the existing conventions that should compel countries to deal with vulnerability and reduce inequality, such as the UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities etc. The debate on inequality should be framed as a debate on achieving social justice, and the rights based approach would have to take into account the rights of poor women and men to productive employment and decent work, to land and property, to water and sanitation. It would have to commit to end all forms of gender based violence and to end discrimination and inequality in access to public services, the rule of law, participation in political and economic life on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, national origin, social and other status. This may require frameworks for affirmative action and the implementation of progressive social protection policies. It also implies that economic growth needs to be both inclusive and job generating. Addressing inequality also means that macroeconomic policies need to be reviewed through the lens of inter‐sectionalities, including discrimination based on caste, religious, sexual and gender identities and that the post‐2015 agenda should promote, in particular, a gender transformative, gender inclusive and gender responsive policy framework that is guided by the principles of gender equality and equity.
Some additional considerations
The South Asian Consultation reiterated the need to have greater access to data, disaggregated data along gender, geographic, income and other groupings in particular, especially to monitor the outcomes of affirmative action, and to track changes from other development policies. Affirmative action and social protection programmes for the most vulnerable were seen to reduce group‐based inequality. It was also mentioned that legislated corporate social responsibility can have a distributive effect. The discussions also proposed that the state and the private sector should be encouraged to use triple bottom line policies, progressive tax structures, incentives and subsidies and green accounting to encourage the growth of green economies and to reduce inequality. The importance of reforming the Intellectual Property Rights regime needs to be incorporated into the discussions on science and technology, and the conversations on technology transfer need to be modified to take into account local and indigenous knowledge.
A presentation from Nepal proposed the social solidarity economy, as a means of securing access to common property and enhancing community autonomy, land tenure and user rights. An overarching concern was how to establish improved global partnerships that could build productive capacity, cross‐sectoral linkages, south‐south partnerships, and establish shared but differentiated responsibilities for the future of the planet. It was suggested that the interest in ‘transformation’ should be giving the global north a strong message about their role in natural resource wars and incentivising them to play a more mature role in balancing global power relations.
The expectations of the participants of the South Asia Consultation are that the discussions will go a long way into influencing the global discourse on the post‐2015 development goals, and that they will contribute to making sustainability the next metric. The ideas from the discussions form part of the discussions and presentations of the Southern Voice Initiative, and the Club de Madrid’s discussions on Shared Societies. The Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) was also able to share the outcomes with the Asia delegates to the Commonwealth Peoples’ Forum held in Sri Lanka. In addition to these targeted events, many of the delegates present have the opportunity to present these ideas at different forums that they will also attend as part of their contribution to the debate. The main challenge however will be to influence South Asian government delegations to make the Southern Voice heard, and take these ideas to the negotiating tables.
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