Post 2015 Agenda: MDGs Plus to SDGs

The MDGs have inspired Nepal to remain focused on some of the key elements of human development. As a result achievements of the past decade, particularly in education and health sectors, have been remarkable despite overall political and economic environment of the country.

Issue Name : Vol: 08 No. -5 August. 15- 2014 (Sharawan 30, 2071

MDGs were adopted as guiding principles for development following the movement toward pluralism, openness and liberalism that swept the world in the 1990s. In Nepal, too, that decade was a time of great socio-political change: it abandoned its state-controlled political system and opted for an open, pluralistic space in which the private sector was free to operate in the economic sphere and civil society and non-government organizations (NGOs) were free to engage in development activities. The private sector’s share in the national economy increased significantly, and the number of civil society organizations increased several hundred-fold.

The liberal environment allowed the latent energy of all national actors to be released and activated. Between 1990 and 2000 the governance system was guided by the principle of decentralization, and local governments became major agents of change and service providers at the local level, assuming responsibilities that had once belonged to central agencies. The participation of local people in the development process increased drastically and democracy deepened. The economy grew by over six percent per year, the number of NGOs which mobilized resources to communities increased, poverty decreased, inequality narrowed, and exemplary achievements were made in the social sector. Nepal performed well, as community organizations flourished and people all over the country joined grassroots organizations of one form or another. With non-state actors playing a major catalytic role, a wave of social awareness and engagement engulfed the nation.

Thinking Beyond 2015

The MDGs have inspired Nepal to remain focused on some of the key elements of human development. As a result achievements of the past decade, particularly in education and health sectors, have been remarkable despite overall political and economic environment of the country. They provide input to global-level thinking for going beyond 2015 and will help in the currently ongoing process of preparing a new national plan.

As MDGs come closer to ending, various initiatives are underway to help share a post-2015 framework. A high-level UN committee recently submitted a report that emphasizes ending extreme poverty, creating employment, improving peace and governance, tackling inequalities and disparities, and ensuring sustainability. These themes coincide with the priorities recommended by the Nepal MDG Progress Report 2013. To meet the targets for 2015 and move beyond, Nepal needs to promote inclusive growth by harnessing the productive potentials of all citizens including the poor and excluded to build a peaceful and prosperous nation. Of course, there are many challenges and problems, but MDGs have showed the way for future anti-poverty development agenda. It should be focused on the areas where there are wider gaps. One of the crucial things about Nepal is the widening gap among various geographical regions and social groups. Nepal needs to address the regional and ethnic disparities in going beyond 2015 by paying sufficient attention to the issue of inequality.

Proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for beyond 2015

The propose Sustainable Development Goals which are under discussion at the UN are “accompanied by targets and will be further elaborated through indicators focused on measurable outcomes. They are action oriented, global in nature and universally acceptable to all countries. While taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities. These goals constitute an integrated indivisible set of global priorities for sustainable development. Targets are defined as global targets with each government setting its own national targets guided by the global level of ambitions but taking into accounts national circumstances. The goals and targets integrate economic, social and environmental aspects and recognize their inter-linkages in achieving sustainable development in all its dimensions”.  

As per the zero draft documents of June 2014 circulated by UN, the list of proposed Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) to be attained by 2030 are as follows.

1.End poverty everywhere 2. End hunger, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. 3. Attain healthy lives for all 4. Provide quality education and life-long learning opportunities for all 5. Attain gender equality, empower women and girls everywhere. 6. Ensure availability and sustainable use of water and sanitation for all 7. Ensure sustainable energy for all 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all 9. Promote sustainable infrastructure and industrialization and foster innovation 10. Reduce inequality within and between countries 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe and sustainable 12. Promote sustainable consumption and production patterns 13. Tackle climate change and its impacts 14. Conserve and promote sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources 15. Protect and promote use of terrestrial ecosystems, halt desertification, land degradation and biodiversity loss 16. Achieve peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justices for all, and effective and capable institutions and 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and global partnership for sustainable development.

The High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development meeting was held in New York on June 30th to July 8th 2014, followed by Ministerial Meeting and Development Cooperation Forum on July 9th to 11th. The above all 17 goals are the outcome of discussion up to 12th Open Working Group including numbers of international and regional meeting all around the World. The discussion is still ongoing its 13th OWG meeting from July 14th to 18th in New York.

Strategic Intervention

There is the need to make strategic interventions to accelerate efforts to achieve the targets of the MDGs by 2015 and beyond 2015. Sensitization on rights, mobilization of local resources and cooperatives, and priority for small scale climate-resilient interventions are the strategic approaches required for enhancing sustainable access to quality of services.

Nepal MDGs Progress Report 2013 points out that due to the required policy reforms by the Government of Nepal, Nepal’s commitment to achieving the MDGs has come close to reality. The report reveals that Nepal is on track and it is likely to achieve most of its MDG targets. Nepal is lagging behind in the areas particularly in sanitation and poverty. However, Nepal has already internalized an acceleration framework in the form of the MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF) to mobilize adequate resources to expedite progress by 2015.

One of the positive parts is that Nepal’s current plan is based on MDGs and towards to SDGs goals. The plan has incorporated a number of initiatives at par with MDGs. While MDGs Progress Report 2013 provided a comprehensive picture towards achieving MDGs which served as a baseline for this plan, MDG needs assessment exercise that took place under the leadership of the National Planning Commission and with the involvement of all development ministries helped to identify concrete strategies and resource needs to achieve MDGs by 2015. It is a positive step to note that TP includes policies and strategies suggested in the MDG needs assessment report. The TP also places priorities in the sectors beyond 2015 and points out the areas for future development. Along with integrating MDGs in programming and budgeting mechanism, government of Nepal has included "the achievement of MDGs" as one of the project prioritization criteria in the budget preparation process.

Post-2015 Development Discourse

As the discourse on the post-2015 development agenda gains momentum, the recommendations offered by the High Level Panel have strong relevance for Nepal. The five transformative shifts identified as agenda beyond 2015 address constraints that impede the creation of egalitarian societies. They are:

Leave No One Behind:It putsstrong emphasis on non-discrimination and equality of opportunity, and it seeks to look at goals using disaggregated statistics rather than beyond broad-brush measures.

Put Sustainable Development at the Core:The goal encourages sustainable levels of consumption and production, by designing appropriate taxes, subsidies, and no regulations to encourage development if necessary.

Transform Economics for Jobs and Inclusive Growth:  The goal seeks to achieve a “quantum leap forward in providing economic opportunities and to harness innovation, technology, and the potential of business and of people themselves” by creating conditions that enable people through education, skills, better politics, and inclusive, sustainable and accountable business practices, while adding value through investment in infrastructure.

Build Peace and Effective, Open and Accountable Public Institutions:It calls for freedom from war, conflict, and violence and seeks transparency in public institutions and the rule of law.

Forge a New Global Partnership:It underscores unity as guarantor of long-term prosperity for all. It seeks a new set of attitudes and a change of behavior while establishing partnerships for common good.

In their essence these goals seek to end poverty while empowering the disadvantaged and excluded sections of the society and to improve quality of life through better healthcare, education, nutrition, job creation, sustainable and equitable growth, better governance, and creating stable and peaceful societies. The High Level Panel estimates that benefits of these goals will be immense. Aligning national priorities clearly with international agendas will provide a clear direction in consolidating plans and resources, both internal and external.

At present, Nepal is in a trap of low economic growth and high exclusion. To overcome this vicious cycle, the country needs to follow a path of inclusive growth for the poor and excluded to draw in the process. Another strong point of the HLP recommendations is that goals should be considered achieved only if they meet the targets for “all relevant income and social groups” and leave no-one behind. Increasing investment in the social sector and job creation within Nepal will create an enabling environment for the poorest of the poor to be the part of the growth story.

While the global discussion on post-2015 development framework is underway, Nepal's immediate priority should be to focus TP in line with its objective.Nepal itself does not have long term plan with vision, mission and objectives and current TYP are not able to address clearly in the line of SDGs goals. It is scattered in the different sectors of plan documents.

The emerging priorities of the post 2015 development agenda resonate well with Nepal's needs and aspirations. In order to make transformative shifts in Nepal, Nepal needs the elections at the national and local levels to put in place the people's representatives and a stable government.  Only after a new, truly democratic constitution is written and representatives are elected at all levels of government will the country see a real exit from the prevailing political uncertainty. This process may take another two to three years, exactly the time period in which it must consolidate those of its MDGs which it has already achieved or is likely to achieve and accelerate its progress in those that lag behind.

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