“If we want things to change, some things will have to stay as they are.” This inversion of Lampedusa‘s aphorism summarizes a key finding of a recent global survey on the future development goals. A select group of development commentators favors maintaining most of the familiar Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) after 2015. They also stress that governments and civil society in developing countries are responsible for identifying and achieving goals while the UN should concentrate on monitoring progress.
The landmark Millennium Declaration of September 2000 codified the MDGs, which were many years in the making. Throughout the 1990s, the UN made a fetish of global summits. Pious declamations were piled on other declamations, but all without commitments. Moreover, there were no trade-offs: each summit emphasized a new priority. One of the great merits of the Millennium Summit, was not only to consolidate several of the major goals from the earlier conferences into a single comprehensive statement but also to assign specific benchmarks for success before the target of 2015.
The MDGs broke new ground for the UN, establishing the first-ever UN-system-wide agenda. They also came to define a more widespread understanding of what the UN was really about, and where its strengths lay. Consideration of a new set of goals beyond the magic 2015 has been a less ordered process.
The FUNDS project established an informal global panel of experts, and asked them which development goals the UN should give highest priority to post-2015, where the UN’s principal merits lie in comparison with other multilateral sources, and who should have primary responsibility for identifying an achieving the new goals. The range of opinions about the future goals and responsibilities is substantial, however fully 70% of respondents believe that the UN’s primary contribution to the achievement of the new goals will be in monitoring progress. This points to the critical importance of independent brokers like the UN, not governments, to measure and verify development progress.
The high-level panel appointed by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to advise on the post-2015 development agenda has since chosen 12 goals that are closely aligned to the preferences of the FUNDS experts. However, whatever the nature of the new goals themselves, the UN Development System should identify its own comparative advantages, and clarify its development contributions post-2015.