Wheels in Motion for Establishing Post-2015 Development Framework

By Kate Higgins and Stefanie Di Domenico


Last week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced the membership of the High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.  Its mandate is to advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015, the target date for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of time-bound targets established through the Millennium Declaration in 2000 to reduce extreme poverty.


Ban has asked that the Panel “prepare a bold yet practical development vision … on a global post-2015 development agenda” with shared responsibilities for all countries and with the fight against poverty and support for sustainable development at its core.  The co-chairs, appointed prior to the Rio+20 conference in June this year, are President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom.


Among the remaining 23 representatives drawn from government, civil society, academia, and the private sector are former Prime Minister of Japan Naoto Kan and Yemeni women’s activist Tawakel Karman, a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Unsurprisingly, due to their profiles and careers, Abhijit Banerjee, co-founder of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and recent candidate for the World Bank presidency, will also participate. Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, will represent the private sector.


Beyond 2015, a global civil society campaign on the post-2015 agenda, has expressed concern at the lack of civil society representation on the panel and an overemphasis on government experience and international aid expertise. Alex Evans, co-editor of Global Dashboard, noted via Twitter how little environment expertise is on the panel.


The High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda will hold its first meeting in the margins of the 67th General Assembly in New York in September 2012.  The Panel is expected to submit a report in the first half of 2013 that will serve as key input to the Secretary General’s report to a special UN event on the MDGs and the post-2015 agenda in September 2013.


In addition to the Panel, the UN has a dedicated UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, co-chaired by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and involving over 50 UN entities and international organizations.  The task team is coordinating UN system-wide preparations and in June, published a very instructive first report.  The UN will convene at least 50 national consultations on the topic between now and early 2013 as well as a series of thematic consultations on a range of issues, including inequalities, health, food security, and conflict and fragility.  The first of these thematic consultations, on growth, structural change, productive capacities and employment, was held in Tokyo in May 2012.


The work of the Panel and the UN system on proposing a new global development framework will not be moving forward on its own.  As we expected, one of the most concrete outcomes from the Rio+20 conference was an agreement on a process for developing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  This process, as outlined in the Rio+20 outcome document, involves establishing an intergovernmental working group on the SDGs by September 2012. It will comprise 30 representatives nominated by Member States from the five UN regional groupings. This working group will submit a report to the General Assembly containing a proposal for SDGs in September 2013.


A key question and point of concern is how the SDGs and the Post-2015 development agenda will work together.  These are clearly two different processes – the post-2015 development agenda is being taken forward by a panel appointed by the Secretary-General, while the SDGs are being driven by an intergovernmental process. Despite explicit instructions for each to coordinate with the other, there is not yet a lot of clarity on how this will transpire.


We hope that the process will become clearer in coming months. Regardless, we can expect analysis and proposals on the post-2015 development agenda to proliferate.  In Canada, we’ll be monitoring things as they unfold through our International Development in a Changing World series. The Centre for International Governance Innovation will also be paying attention. The Canadian civil society and academic communities are set to engage more purposefully in the debates through a joint Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC)/Canadian Association for the Study of International Development (CASID) conference to be held in Ottawa in September 2012.


Internationally, a few hubs are also monitoring the analysis, proposals and debates on what should follow the MDGs. The Overseas Development Institute has established a useful website and Beyond 2015’s website is an excellent resource. Last week, a new web platform called The World We Want 2015 was launched. A joint initiative of civil society and the United Nations, it will host global civil society conversations to help shape the post-2015 development framework.  To follow the conversation on Twitter, use #post2015, #beyond2015 and #worldwewant2015.


It’s a big agenda, and there’s no doubt that it will consume a lot of time, money and energy.  But the ambitions, goals and processes that shape the SDGs, and the post-2015 development agenda, will play an important role in international development for years to come. So what is the message to those of us that work, follow or are interested in international development? If you’re not already, this is a process it’s time to watch. The wheels for establishing the post-2015 development framework are well and truly in motion.




Kate Higgins leads the Governance for Equitable Growth program at The North-South Institute. She is leading the International Development in a Changing World series. Stefanie Di Domenico is an intern at The North-South Institute. She is a student at the University of Ottawa where she is completing an Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in International Development and Globalization.