Peace and development after 2015

This week, fifty organisations from around the world released a document calling for the post-2015 framework which will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to include a commitment to conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

Alert has been part of many conversations on this issue over the past two years, since the publication of our report Moving Beyond the MDGs – Working with the Grain to Change the Grain. Through the Beyond 2015 coalition, Alert is currently coordinating civil society input into the UN’s thematic consultation on how to integrate conflict and disaster response and prevention into the post-2015 framework. So we discussed whether to sign up to Bringing the Peace into the Post-2015 Development Framework.

We agree wholeheartedly with and endorse 95% of the paper, which calls for peace and peacebuilding to be fully integrated as a central element into any new international development framework. But we were unable to sign it because in one significant respect, Alert’s position on the post-2015 framework goes further.

The Bringing Peace paper calls for a centralised framework, with global goals, targets and indicators; and says that allowing each country to tailor its own targets would jeopardise the success of the framework. This is the part we cannot sign up for and although it might seem like an odd detail to focus on – the way in which progress is to be assessed – we think it is of central importance.

The experience of the MDGs shows that goals and targets set globally – however well intentioned – have not worked and there is no reason to expect they ever will. They are by definition context-insensitive and they create perverse incentives to adopt programmes which respond to the global indicator (e.g. improve literacy in primary schools) rather than local need (which might be to bring people through secondary school into colleges so they can, inter alia, teach in primary schools). Global indicators thus undermine progress towards accountable governance and this effect is particularly sharp in conflict-affected countries.

Our contribution to the debate about a post-2015 framework is therefore different. Based on Alert’s experience in working in conflict-affected and fragile places, we believe that any framework which emerges after 2015 must meet the following principles:

  • Development, not aid: be concerned with sustainable development progress, not just with aid.
  • Comprehensive: covering all the issues that, taken together, comprise development progress.
  • Universality and subsidiarity: applying to all countries equally, but with strategies defined, goals and indicators set, and progress measured by the least centralized authority able to do so.
  • Democracy-enhancing: enhancing accountability by governments to their citizens, and international organisations to their member states.
  • Overarching values: explicitly restating a commitment to the fulfilment of equal human rights.
  • Politically aware: getting a viable balance between technical and political sides of development.
  • Context as the starting point: with goals and strategies based on a full analysis of the context, and priorities devised to suit the national, regional or local realities.
  • Conflict-sensitivity: recognising that development processes may create, exacerbate, mitigate or eliminate conflicts in a specific context, and designing them to minimise the risk of violence and maximise progress towards peace.

A framework that we think can express these principles would work as follows:

  • There needs to be a globally agreed vision of what a more “sustainably developed” world might look like in broad terms – an overarching vision of human progress in line with the Millennium Declaration. This global vision would not contain quantified goals or targets, but would provide guidance so that individual states, regional organisations and other actors could set their appropriate goals and targets. It would enshrine human rights, and would emphasise the need to make progress towards a situation in which people everywhere:
    • Have access to justice and equality before the law
    • Participate in decisions which affect their lives, and live in supportive communities
    • Are safe and secure
    • Have access to economic opportunities
    • Improve and maintain their physical and psychological health, levels of education, decent shelter and other aspects of personal and family well-being.
  • To make progress towards realising this vision, the main unit of planning, monitoring and evaluation is and remains the nation state. Here, context-specific goals and strategies would be set according to the political cycle and other realities of the context. As each government finds appropriate and as opportunity offers, goal-setting and strategies for implementation would be taken up within regional arrangements of cooperation – the EU, African Union, ASEAN, and so on. Each national plan would show how it fits within the overarching global framework.
  • Meanwhile other partners for fulfilling the vision are to be found in international entities such as inter-governmental organisations (IGOs) and large multinational companies (MNCs). The IGOs would define their own strategies and goals, each according to its mandate, context and opportunities, linking them to the international framework and to national strategies as appropriate. The MNCs would also be encouraged to show how they plan to contribute.

This framework is radically different from the approach based on targets and indicators that are neither comprehensive nor universal in the current MDGs. And if the post-2015 framework is to deliver for the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, radically different is what it must be.