On 2 April 2014, the United Nations University in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan hosted “The Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage!”, a special lecture by H. E. Dr. John W. Ashe, President of the UN General Assembly’s sixty-eighth session.
In his lecture, Dr. Ashe highlighted efforts by the sixty-eighth session, UN Member States and relevant stakeholders to set the stage for the Post-2015 Development Agenda. He noted that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) played a crucial role in identifying key focus areas within the arena of development.
He acknowledged that although progress has been made in meeting some of the MDGs — albeit with disparities across and within countries — a certain number of them will not be met by the 31 December 2015 deadline.In particular, and while an overall 50 percent decrease in the number of people living in poverty had been achieved, efforts still need to be geared towards the eradication of poverty (and specifically, extreme poverty). With the reduction in development funding and increasing environmental concerns, completion of the post-2015 development agenda would not be freed from major challenges.
At the Rio+20 Conference, held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, UN Member States had highlighted the importance of sustainability in the context of development, and committed to the design of the so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will replace the current MDGs. Dr. Ashe recalled that in this process, a bottom-up approach involving stakeholders from all backgrounds and at all levels was needed, and called for renewed efforts to refocus attention on the development of a global partnership for development (MDG 8).
Dr. Ashe notably introduced the work being carried out by the 30-member Open Working Group (OWG), established by the decision of the UN General Assembly, towards the identification of focus areas that will serve as a basis for formulation of the future SDGs. He indicated that currently 19 focus areas have been identified which, while echoing some of the current MDGs, take the development agenda to a next level by introducing an integrated approach to poverty eradication and sustainable development. These range from employment and youth to water and energy.
In advance of the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda at the September 2015 summit, and in order to narrow down priorities, reports are being devised and a series of high-level events and thematic debates are taking place. These events and their associated outputs should culminate in a synthesis report by the UN Secretary-General, to be submitted by the end of 2014 to guide intergovernmental negotiations during the sixty-ninth session of the UN General Assembly. Dr. Ashe insisted that sustainable funding needs to be secured if any of the objectives that would be agreed upon are to be fulfilled.
In addition, academic institutions are urged to contribute their scientific and technological research, which should address the three dimensions of sustainable development: environmental, economic and social. Dr. Ashe recalled the crucial contribution that UNU can make in its capacity as UN body to set the stage for the post-development agenda.
The lecture concluded with an insightful discussion between the audience and Dr. Ashe, with questions posed in relation to the ambitions of the SDGs and the role of the people in setting the stage for the Post-2015 Development Agenda.