Links we Love: PM to set new development goals

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Will Tucker
By Will Tucker: April 13th, 2012

In September 2000, world leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly in New York and made a declaration. This Millennium Declaration recognised that despite our many cultures and customs, our different languages and nationalities ‘we have a collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level.’ They affirmed eight new goals; the Millennium Development Goals set out a number of development objectives with clear time constraints – mostly that they should be met by 2015. Those eight goals have become the principle political guides for how countries -rich and poor- have contributed to reducing poverty. They have influenced poorer countries own priorities and plans, they have directed and guided significant elements of rich country development assistance, and they have been a focal point for charities and civil society to coalesce around. They have been really important.

In an exciting development UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been invited by UN General Secretary, Ban Ki Moon, to draw up the plans for the development framework which will replace the Millennium Development Goals. David Cameron has accepted.

This is good news because, as this Guardian article mentions, it makes it unlikely that the government will be able to reverse it’s decision to protect the aid budget, despite wider government austerity. As I’ve written in a number of blogs recently, that support will make a tremendous difference to millions of people in poverty and the UK sticking to it’s promises should build pressure on other countries to follow suit.

There are a number of factors that David Cameron will want to take into account. VSO volunteers around the world give us insight into what’s going on in poorer countries and can help us understand priorities for the new framework for development. There are two key process points and two key content points that David Cameron needs to think about.

Process Point #1: This is a critical opportunity for the UK government to show leadership and to galvanise the international community in combating poverty. Thanks to the economic climate, world leaders have been focused too much on the international units of trade; currency and commodity. If David Cameron plays his cards right this opportunity could mean that world leaders  reorientate their focus onto the only “economic unit” that matters; real people.

Process Point #2: It’s good that David Cameron will be convening a committee to look at the post-Millenium Development Goals framework. He needs to keep in mind that famous line of the Gettysburg Address ‘Government of the people, by the people, for the people.’ When setting out the new governance of global approaches to development, David Cameron will need to makes sure that he is hearing the voices of people in poverty. VSO volunteers and supporters are likely to want to add their two pence too!

Content Point #1: It is clear from the Guardian article that the UK government wants to “refocus the goals to put economic development at the heart” and “put private sector development… at the heart of everything we do”. However it’s vital that the new framework sees economic development as a means rather than an end in itself. Some countries economies have grown hugely (such as Ghana, growing over 14% last year) but it doesn’t change the fact that over a billion people are in extreme poverty. VSO volunteers’ work in this area gives us insight into some of the ways that private sector involvement creates opportunities for people, rather than simply improving a few economic bottom lines.

Content Point #2: It’s slightly concerning that the Government spokesperson quoted in the article seems disparaging about how development has historically focused on strengthening essential services; “The current goals focus on kids’ right to education, levels of infant mortality and so on. They are fine, but does an exclusive emphasis on them really help development?” No one is arguing for an exclusive focus on areas like education and health. Development partners must all continue to work on strengthening health, education, and social security systems; programmes which enable people to do the work and deliver the economic growth David Cameron is so keen on.

What do you think though? Happy that David Cameron has this role? What do you think his priorities should be? Who, and how, do you think he should make sure he gets a wide range of opinion? Leave us a comment below…

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