Discussions about what should happen after the Millennium Development Goals are becoming two-a-penny, but concrete proposals about what exactly should come after 2015 are still relatively thin on the ground.
Some say that this is no bad thing - arguing that it is premature to look at specific goals before proper reflection has been done on what the fundamental purpose of a new framework should be; and we have interrogated the assumption that it should be replaced by goals (rather than some other instrument).
This is eminently sensible in theory, but is it likely – or even desirable – that a policy issue as complex as post-2015 could be negotiated in such a methodical, sequential manner? The post-2015 arena is arguably the ultimate forum in which to illustrate that policy-making is a realm of complexity rather than predictable, linear causality. The political, technical and strategic challenges of this agenda must all proceed simultaneously – and those seeking a strong and legitimate successor to the MDGs must work iteratively between all three.
And so it was fascinating to meet with officials from the Japanese International Cooperation Bureau and Ministry of Foreign Affairs the other week to hear about an idea that they have put on the table. Japan has been one of the first governments to show interest in the post-2015 agenda, hosting a small meeting in June on the issue despite the devastating Tsunami just months earlier.
Following up from that meeting, Japanese officials have developed a proposal for discussion – the Post MDGs “Pact for Global Wellbeing” (see picture).
They described to me how the Pact for Global Wellbeing had been written to take on board Beyond 2015’s essential must-haves. “Human Security”, they explained, was an effort to incorporate rights-based approaches whilst avoiding the legalistic language which many governments object to. “Inclusive Growth” incorporated the need to address issues of inequality within countries; whilst “Shared Growth” would ensure that growth would benefit not only low income countries but emerging economies and private sector organisations (particularly small businesses, I was reassured). As a pact for global wellbeing – it would be a framework for all countries, not just ‘low income’ ones.
I’m not sure if they cracked it just yet though. The 1-page proposal has a lot of components and is difficult to interpret as a coherent whole. There is a worrying arrow joining “ODA 0.7% of GNI” to “Growth”, which seems to suggest firstly that all aid is about creating growth; and secondly that the only input for creating growth is aid. There isn’t much in the proposal to show how the Pact for Global Wellbeing would lever fundamental policy changes at a national and international level.
But it’s helpful to get something on the table – it gives others something concrete to work with, and if approached in the right spirit will enable the ‘trial and error’ which will be essential in such a process. More fundamentally, it demonstrates that major international governments like Japan are starting to think seriously about the debate and prepared to invest resources in moving it forward. Given the current lack of political leadership around post-MDG planning – with the UN General Assembly only recently discussing the issue for the first time - this is a welcome impetus.
So what do you think of the Pact for Global Wellbeing? Any predictions for its fortunes? Will this proposal be built on and developed or quietly ignored?