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The Post 2015 Development Agenda – What it Means and How to Get Involved

FRIDAY FILE - As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, the United Nations, Member States and civil society have started consultations on a new development framework that will succeed the MDGs.

AWID spoke to UN Women’s Laura Turquet to help us better understand the UN Post-2015 Development Agenda and related processes.

In the coming weeks we will share another Friday File presenting a critical analysis of the process so far and key information on how feminists and women’s rights groups are engaging with this process.

By Susan Tolmay

AWID: What is the UN Post-2015 Development Agenda and how is this process linked to 1) the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and 2) the development of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), coming out of the Rio+20 process?

Laura Turquet (LT): The target date for the MDGs is 2015 and while the focus is still on achieving these goals in full, discussions have started among governments, the UN, academics, policymakers and civil society on the kind of development framework that could succeed the MDGs. The UN Secretary General (SG) has appointed a High Level Panel to consult on this.

In parallel, the Rio+20 outcome document calls for an intergovernmental process to develop sustainable development goals (SDGs) - the Open Working Group (OWG) shall consist of 30 representatives, nominated by Member States, from the five UN regional groups to be established.

Together, the discussions that are happening through these two processes are being referred to as the post-2015 development agenda. While it is not yet clear how this will be done, the expectation of the UN, civil society and Member States is that the two processes – post-MDGs and the SDGs – will come together, hopefully at the opening of the General Assembly in September 2013, to be a single coherent and integrated process.

AWID: Why do we need a Post 2015 Development Framework? How will this process learn from the shortcomings of the MDGs?

LT: The MDGs followed and built on the Millennium Declaration, and despite initial reluctance by Member States and civil society, the MDGs became a powerful tool for sustaining global attention and galvanizing international support to promote development and meet the needs of the world’s poor. Many countries adopted them as part of national development plans. The specific, time-bound targets and measureable indicators (despite their shortcomings) provide valuable and effective benchmarks for monitoring progress and achieving concrete results.

With the end date for the MDGs approaching, our aim is to ensure that the new development framework helps to refocus global attention on achieving human rights, sustainable development and peace and security, while not replicating the shortcomings of the MDGs. Since the MDGs were developed in a non-inclusive top-down approach there is wide consensus that a new framework must be based on wide consultations among many different stakeholders, including civil society and women’s organizations.

A new agenda should be based on three key principles: human rights, equality and sustainability. It should learn the lessons from the MDGs and address new issues that were not included in the MDG framework – such as climate change and rising inequality, including gender inequality - and bring together poverty eradication and sustainable development. It should be comprehensive and universal. Whatever model is proposed, it is important that women’s strategic interests and full range of human rights are addressed (in addition to meeting women’s immediate practical needs).

AWID: How is the post-2015 process taking place, and who are the key actors?

LT: In July 2012 The SG appointed a High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 development agenda who met for the first time on 25 September in New York and are expected to present their report to the SG in the second quarter of 2013[1].

Building on the MDGs, the report will provide recommendations for a post-2015 agenda that will help respond to global challenges, with a view to ending poverty. The report will offer key principles for reshaping the global partnership for development and strengthening accountability mechanisms. It will also make recommendations on how to build and sustain a broad political consensus on an ambitious yet achievable post-2015 agenda focused on three dimensions - economic growth, social equality and environmental sustainability - will also be given. The particular challenges of countries in conflict and post-conflict situations will be taken into account.

The SG has also established a post-2015 UN Task Team that brings together 60 UN organizations, and the Bretton Woods Institutions and is co-chaired by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). The Task Team produced a report, “Realizing the Future We Want for All,” outlining the UN systems’ thinking on post-2015. The Task Team report sets out a clear vision, with three fundamental principles - human rights, equality, and sustainability – as the foundation for the post-2015 agenda. Building on these principles, it suggests four interdependent dimensions as the basis for defining goals and targets: inclusive economic development, inclusive social development, environmental sustainability, and peace and security. The report also calls for a post-2015 agenda to identify shared principles to guide policy choices and mobilize actions at all levels without being prescriptive and recognizing differences in conditions at the national level. Additionally, an inter-agency technical support team on SDGs will provide the initial input to the OWG in consultation with national governments.

The UN Development Group (UNDG) has developed a framework for country consultations to catalyze a ‘global conversation’ on post-2015, with funding provided for more than 50 national consultations, to be led by Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams.

In addition, eleven global thematic consultations on topics identified as critical to the post-2015 framework - Inequalities, Population, Health, Education, Growth and Employment, Conflict and Fragility, Governance, Environmental Sustainability, Hunger, Food and Nutrition, Water and Energy - are also taking place over the next several months, each of which is co-led by two UN agencies.

UN Women and UNICEF are leading the Inequalities consultation. An advisory panel was established, a call for papers was made (which elicited more than 300 proposals) and an on-line discussion commenced on 3 October 2012. Over the next few months, there will be online discussions on different aspects of inequality, including on the basis of gender, ethnicity, disability. At the moment, there is an online discussion on development and rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people - a collaborative effort between the Global Thematic Consultation on Addressing Inequalities, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the LGBTI rights advocacy organization ARC International. The online discussion on inequalities and persons with disabilities, co-moderated by UNICEF and the International Disability Alliance (IDA) runs from 14 November until 5 December.

A synthesis analysis of the papers and virtual discussions on inequalities will be presented at a high-level workshop in Copenhagen, Denmark in February 2013, which will include policy makers and members of the High-level Panel, as well as civil society and members from the advisory panel.

Finally, while a separate process at the moment, the Open Working Group (OWG) of 30 government representatives set out in the Rio+20 outcome document will be established and will submit a report to the 68th session of the General Assembly in 2013 with a proposal for SDGs.[2]To date member states have not agreed on the final list of OWG members, as they received 100 nominations. This OWG represents the only intergovernmental process clearly defined so far in relation to the post 2015 process.

AWID: Given that there are a variety of spaces in which development policy is created, why is this an important and politically relevant process for women’s rights advocates and organisations?

LT: The MDGs have commanded the broadest support of any development goals in history – from national governments, NGOs and intergovernmental organizations, including UN agencies, regional bodies and international financial institutions. The creation of a stand-alone gender equality goal, MDG 3, has played an important part in putting and keeping gender equality on the global development agenda.

For the post-2015 development agenda, we have an opportunity to look back, assess what has worked well and what has fallen short, and put forward a visionary new agenda, based on equality, human rights and sustainability. Women’s rights have to be central to that; and to make that happen feminist and women’s organizations play a critically important role in ensuring that the widest spectrum of women’s voices is heard in the consultations.

This is an opportunity for gender equality advocates to raise priority gender equality issues that should be integrated in the post-2015 development framework. Gender inequality and discrimination are key barriers to progress on human rights, development and peace and security, and must therefore be central to the post-2015 agenda, recognising that gender inequality cross-cuts all other forms of inequality. There must also be an explicit commitment to the implementation of human rights agreements including the Convention on the Elimination of all Form of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform for Action.

Accountability must be addressed, and a clear role for civil society to engage with policy-makers to set priorities and monitor progress identified. Priorities must determine measurement and not the other way around. The post 2015 framework should drive new data collection and analysis with the support of development partners and UN agencies. And indicators must reflect inequalities throughout, through disaggregation by sex, as well as by income, location, ethnicity and race, disability, age etc. Governance and accountability issues, including a greater focus on the rule of law, must be addressed.

AWID: How can women’s rights advocates and organisations be more involved in this process to ensure that gender equality, women’s human rights and women’s empowerment are central to the new development framework?

LT: The period until September 2013 offers opportunities for consultation and engagement of a wide range of stakeholders. This will in turn provide the basis for the next stage - from the fall of 2013 to 2015 - when efforts to reach intergovernmental consensus on the post-2015 agenda, including concrete goals and targets, will intensify. In order to ensure that gender equality is firmly anchored in a new framework, women’s rights advocates must be fully engaged in the process and participate in consultations at national, regional and international levels to bring to the fore their own priorities and concerns.

It will be very important for civil society and other concerned stakeholders to develop thinking and knowledge that will guide the new development agenda; and then to use that to influence the intergovernmental processes. This includes preparing analysis and compiling best practices to address roots causes and structural forms of discrimination and inequality; identifying accountability mechanisms and monitoring systems; ensuring wide communication about these activities and making efforts to reach out to the various mechanisms for the post 2015 development agenda.

Entry and action points for women’s organizations suggested by Laura Turquet, UN Women:

  • Engage with members of the High-level Panel

  • Engage with national governments

  • Join in the work of civil society networks (e.g. an emerging women’s coalition on post-2015, Beyond 2015)

  • Work through women’s networks; develop position papers and key messages;

  • Influence thematic consultations, many of which have advisory groups/reference groups with civil society members

  • Get involved in national consultations (contact UNDP Resident Coordinators and UN Women offices) Go to for focal points of the national consultations.

  • Organize women’s consultations and/or contribute to consultations at national levels/organized by CSO networks and other stakeholders;

  • Ensure that the discussions on the post-2015 development agenda are widely communicated and reach different groups of women.


  • Ongoing: e-consultations on thematic themes

  • March 2013: a report on the outcomes of national and thematic consultations will be made available to the High-level Panel.

  • May 2013: High-level Panel will issue its report.

  • Fall of 2013: The Secretary-General will present his annual report on accelerating progress towards the MDGs and proposals for the post-2015 agenda to the General Assembly.

  • September 2013: Special event to be held by the President of the 68th session of the General Assembly. This event will focus on accelerating progress towards the MDGs in the final stretch before 2015.

  • 68th session of the General Assembly: The Open Working Group on SDGs is mandated to submit its report (could be as early as September 2013, but also much later in the session)

[1] The Panel is co-chaired by His Excellency President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia; Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia; and His Excellency Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom. Ms Amina J. Mohammed (Nigeria) was appointed by the Secretary-General as his Special Adviser on post-2015 development planning to oversee the process. She is an ex-officio member of the High-level Panel.

[2] Sections 245 to 251 of the outcome document lays out the aspirations of the SDGs