UN All Africa Parliamentarians Conference, Addis Ababa



The below is the text from Amy Pollard’s recent speech at the UN’s All Africa Parliamentarians Conference, in Addis Ababa, 21st-25th May 2012. 

“Honourable ladies and gentleman, it is a great privilege for me to address you today, and on behalf of my organisation, CAFOD, and the civil society campaign which I co-chair, Beyond 2015, I humbly thank you for the opportunity. 

There is a symmetry to my visit to Ethiopia, as it was almost exactly one year ago that my esteemed Ethiopian colleague, Ato Zegeye Afsaw, presented our work to parliamentarians in my own home country, the UK.  His visit was an important moment in our campaign, and it is an honour for me to continue the dialogue with you today in a spirit of partnership.

I want to tell you a little about our work, and then outline 3 key dangers that are currently emerging around the post-2015 agenda.

I am co-chair of Beyond 2015, the global civil society campaign which is pushing for a strong and legitimate successor to the MDGs.  We are currently made up of over 300 civil society organisations in over 70 countries around the world.  More than a quarter of our campaigning organisations are based in Africa, including my co-chair partner, Mwangi Waituru from GCAP Kenya.

Although the campaign has diverse views about what a new framework should look like, we share a passion that there must be some kind of framework for global development after 2015, and that the process of creating this framework must be inclusive, participatory, and responsive to the voices of people affected by poverty and injustice. 

Since our formation in November 2010, interest in the campaign has been phenomenal. We grew 8000% in our first year, and now driven by an executive committee made up of 6 organisations from the South and 6 from the north.

We have engaged vigorously in the post-debate – establishing ‘must-haves’ for a new framework and making key interventions on a range of issues.  Recently, for example, we have been formulating input into the Rio+20 conference and on the UN policy process.  All our key documents are available in French, Spanish and English – online at www.beyond2015.org.

One of the most important principles of our campaign is that the process of deciding what should come after the MDGs must go hand in hand with accelerating our efforts to achieve the targets in the short time that remains.  The success of the MDGs and the lessons we can learn from them are critical to post-2015 planning, and MDG efforts cannot be allowed to fall off a cliff once the timeline runs out.  I cannot emphasise strongly enough that these two efforts are complementary and they should not be seen in competition.

Listening to the conference over the last two days, I learnt a tremendous amount.  I have been struck by how deeply the MDG framework has been embedded in African policy making and national planning.  It is clear how profoundly the MDG framework has been embraced and owned by African parliamentarians. 

However, given how important the MDGs have been for Africa, I have also become concerned that the conversation about what comes after 2015 is still at a very early stage.  It will not do to simply create a laundry list of all the issues that are ‘important’.  We need a framework that inspires concrete action on the ground.  Tough decisions must be made to develop a concise, memorable and compelling framework.  It must do justice to the complex and intertwined issues of equity, poverty, human rights and sustainability but it must be simple and easily understandable itself.  

There are less than 1000 days until 2015.  In international policy terms, this is the blink of an eye.  To put this into perspective, my country, the UK, has spent 5000 days preparing for this summer’s Olympics.  The scale of the challenge we face to design new MDGs is vast – and I implore you to grasp the task with both hands as a matter of urgency.

3 clear dangers are emerging.

1)   The first is around the High Level Panel.

Very recently, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon announced that there would be a High Level Panel on Post-2015, to be co-chaired by the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron, and the President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. 

In London, the buzz around this announcement was phenomenal.  Emails were electrified by talk of how to take advantage of the opportunity of Cameron’s appointment – and within hours the blogosphere was alight with recommendations for what his priorities should be. 

At this conference, however, I feel that the issue has barely been mentioned.  How should the esteemed President Johnson Sirleaf be grasping her opportunity?  How would you, as African Parliamentarians, want her to represent your continent?  What should the post-MDGs look like, from an African point of view?

The days when rich countries impose policy frameworks on developing countries are over.  The High Level Panel on Post-MDGs can not be allowed to become the David Cameron show.  President Johnson Sirleaf must have the parliamentary scrutiny and support to be act as a strong African co-chair.  If she has very little policy input, whilst Cameron has an army of advisors, then the power will lie with him.

2)   The second danger is around Rio+20

Next month, in Rio de Janiro, there will be a major summit on sustainable development, marking twenty years after the original Earth Summit.  This is being seen as a critical moment for post-2015 planning.

Rio is a key because it is the chosen moment for the Government of Colombia to take forward its Sustainable Development Goals – which some are proposing as a potential successor to the MDGs.  We are deeply concerned that the SDG proposal is being advanced along parallel tracks with the post-2015 process.  Whilst sustainable development must be at the heart of a new framework, the Colombia proposal has not paid sufficient attention to the core concerns around poverty, education and health – and is in danger of preempting the major process being organized by the UN.  The development of SDGs needs to be fully integrated with an inclusive, participatory discussion over what comes after the MDGs.

If there are two processes – one for developing SDGs, and one for developing post-MDGs, it will be impossible to come up with one, strong integrated framework.  We will spend all our energy fighting each other instead of finding the right way forward.

3)   The need for an inclusive process

I have been struck at this conference at how much agreement there is with Beyond 2015’s key message: that people living in poverty, marginalized and vulnerable communities should have a direct voice.  We are passionate about ensuring that the post-2015 discussion is inclusive of these groups, and that a new framework addresses the rights of those who were excluded in the MDGs – especially women, youth, elderly and disabled people.

The danger is, though, that whilst almost everyone wants this to happen – nobody wants to pay for it.  We are hugely concerned that whilst there are some small projects to engage these groups in the post-2015 discussion, donors and foundations have been turning down proposals to conduct high-quality consultation and deliberation.   Many are assuming that the UN will take care of this work – despite UN attempts to ensure that expectations of them are realistic.  Despite the best efforts of Beyond 2015, as things stand little resourcing is in place to ensure that civil society organisations have the capacity to engage meaningfully in the debate.

As elected representatives of these communities – you have a key role to play in facilitating this work and providing accountability mechanisms to connect marginalized groups to power.   For parliamentarians who are not part of the executive have a particular role to play here, and I hope to be able to work together with you on this important issue. 

In conclusion, these three dangers – around the High Level Panel, Rio +20 and the need for a truly meaningful inclusive process – also hold opportunities for us.  The post-2015 process is an opportunity to ensure that a new framework is fit for the world we want.  It must not imposed in a top-down process, but genuinely shared and owned by those to whom it matters most.  We have less than 1000 days until 2015, and the decision-making process is already starting.  Honourable ladies and gentlemen, I respectfully ask you to take immediate action to ensure that these decisions are not made without you.”


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One Response to “UN All Africa Parliamentarians Conference, Addis Ababa”

  1. Amy Pollard’s speech at the UN’s All Africa Parliamentarians Conference « Post2015.org – what comes after the MDGs? Says:

    […] Amy Pollard’s recent speech at the UN’s All Africa Parliamentarians Conference, in Addis Ababa, 21st-25th May 2012. Share […]

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