Hephaestus is my new best buddy. Thanks to a volcano in Chile playing havoc with South American aviation, a space opened up for me last week to attend an expenses-paid, four day conference at the Bellagio centre, on Lake Como in Italy, on what should come after the MDGs. It was a hell of a trip.
Barry Carin (CIGI) and Mukesh Kapila (IFRC) had combed their networks to bring together a pretty impressive range of global figures. From former ambassadors to senators, think tank directors to senior academics – it’s hard to think of a more interesting group of people with whom to discuss what is potentially the world’s most interesting question. I had sneaked in, by the way, partly by asking and partly off the back of CAFOD’s recent study, 100 Voices which drew together perspectives from our Southern partners on what should come after the MDGs, and our subsequent work with Beyond 2015. I was surprised to find not only that people had read CAFOD’s stuff, but that they were pretty responsive to it.
There was, of course, no legitimacy whatever in this rag-tag grouping (as the group was quick to acknowledge). But you’ve got to start somewhere. The aim of the meeting was to make a start, and come up with a draft framework for development after 2015 that could be thrown around, revised, improved or replaced by others over the next four years. Notes from the meeting are currently being written up and will be put online soon. (Blogosphere, start your engines).
I do think there is a place for elite workshops – especially for something like a post-MDG framework where realpolitik is an equal challenge to the technicalities of setting global targets. However, it is crucial that they are kept in proportion and that they complement, and don’t supplant, a push for legitimate and inclusive processes.
This was certainly a notion that the other workshop participants seemed to be committed to, and I came away from the meeting inspired to raise my own expectations for what the post-2015 process could look like in terms of research. I’ve got the beginnings of an idea… something with Voices of the Poor style depth; but with the gravity and policy-relevance of The Evaluation of the Paris Declaration. It would have to be something pretty major – and would almost certainly be more than any single institution could handle alone.
Whatever happens to the draft goals we came up with last week, I hope that the overwhelming feeling I took away from Bellagio will burn brightly throughout the post-2015 conversation: Big things are possible in the world and together we have a chance to make them happen.