Do the MDGs have anything to fear from the post-2015 debate?

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In CAFOD’s work on post-2015, we have often heard the argument relayed (almost always second-hand) that starting the conversation about a framework for global development after 2015 may risk undermining efforts to achieve the MDGs over the remaining four years.

This is a sensible thing to consider, and something that Beyond 2015 have always been mindful of.  But how much of a risk is it, really?  What sort of risk are we talking about, and who exactly needs to be worried?

If you were to look at the initiatives and policy changes that are critical to making progress on the MDGs and analyse what might derail them over the next four years, would a post-2015 process emerge as a major threat?  Would it even come in the top five major threats to the potential success of the goals?

Exploring the literature to try and answer this question, I would have to say no.  There are all sorts of different kinds of initiatives and policy changes that are important for achieving progress towards the MDGs, and they have a diverse and significant set of challenges to face over the next four years.  But in no document on an MDG-oriented programme have I come across a risk column with (words to the effect of) ‘post-2015 planning leads to funding withdrawal’ written in it.  In fact, in no piece of programme documentation have I seen a mention of the post-2015 conversation threatening practical work to reduce maternal mortality; get girls into primary education; provide decent jobs or target any of the other MDGs.

Neither, in the nine months that the Beyond 2015 campaign has been established, has any person engaged in millennium goals work approached us to say ‘I’m worried that your campaign on post-2015 is going to put my X programme at risk in Y way’.  If there are people out there with those worries, please do get in touch with us!

Currently, the concern that post-2015 will undermine the MDGs is coming from those at the higher echelons of politics and policy-making, rather than from those in the business of trying to deliver progress towards the MDGs on the ground.

We need to ask whether their concern is driven by objective facts about how to drive the MDGs towards success; or whether it is borne out of political entanglements in New York which have a weak empirical basis.   

The need for post-2015 planning is now too pressing to allow political wrangling to cause an obstruction.  If there is concrete foundation to the claim that planning a new framework will undermine the MDGs, those impeding the post-2015 process must substantiate their arguments as a matter of urgency.

In my view, there is no reason why our commitment to making progress towards the MDGs and an effort to start formulating a post-2015 agenda cannot go hand in hand. 

The two tasks should not only be compatible, but complementary to each other.  Post-2015 needs to learn from the MDG experience, and the MDG effort needs to consider its legacy.  If there is a genuine risk to MDG work from post-2015 planning, we need to know specifically what this risk looks like, so that the process for a new framework can be designed in a way that mitigates it.

We cannot allow crucial work to plan beyond 2015 to be held back on the basis of an imaginary enemy, existing in the minds of politicians but not in the real world. 

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