18 October 2012

Rethinking the Post-2015 Agenda: Jamie Drummond

I am in the continuing process of collecting information and interviews regarding the Post-2015 Agenda. Given the importance of the Millennium Development Goals, what follows will have a significant impact on the trajectory of international development. The most significant effort has been launched through a partnership between the ONE Campaign, UNDP and the Overseas Development Institute.

The short version is that the groups are coming together to survey people around the world as a way to understand what the world's poor want and develop a more bottom-up set of goals. "We should proactively be asking about their concerns, priorities and aspirations. And listening intently to their responses. By giving them a seat at the table, they can speak up for themselves, determine their own futures, and set their own agenda," wrote ONE's Ben Leo in the Huffington Post.

I am going to share information as I gather it in regards to the story rather than sit on it. Conversations will range from the core members of the survey effort to MDG designer Jeff Sachs. The following is an excerpt from a recent discussion I had with ONE Campaign Co-founder and Executive Director Jamie Drummond.

What additional structures could support the accountability that you hope this may enable? In other words, what might the next step look like once the feedbacks take place?

JD: Reports like the DATA report have been helpful for accountability of things like finance inputs- probably every country should have a detailed report not just on resources and policy promises and whether they are being kept, but also on outcomes and whether they are consistent with promises. The UN and World Bank can do some of this but it will probably up to civil society and think tanks to lead the independent monitoring to provide the information to citizens so they can do the vocal accountability work in country. this will require more capacity building for civil society and think tanks in developing countries, for example.

AVFTC: Do you think that these responses will force some level of prioritization of goals?

JD: That's the idea! It may also winnow out what are the things that the international community can do to help fight poverty versus the domestic policy making leadership must do to help fight poverty. They have different levels of agency. For example all might agree that providing jobs for young people is key. But there's limited amount that citizens in say Europe can do to help provide jobs in Africa (and politically that's also a harder sell especially in this climate). Policymakers within Africa will make and do make this their number one priority and its likely a survey will reinforce how this is the right number one priority for people on the continent of Africa, for example.

AVFTC: Is your hope that ONE advocates will push on global leaders, especially Cameron, Sirleaf, et al, to implement goals that reflect the information gathered?

JD: That's the whole idea! Of course as per 3 there might be different levels of things that can be done by different players within the overall development community. they might in response to lobbying agree what the overall priorities are and then divvy up who has lead responsibility on which piece.

AVFTC: How can the information help inform average global citizens and the media?

JD: The idea of actually asking people about which goals they want might finally help inform people that
  1. These goals exist
  2. They have achieved some things
  3. They are worth replacing and backing so that we can roll up our sleeves and really work on some things together, as an international community of engaged citizens. 
What I made clear in the talk and is widely recognized we've got some big challenges coming down the pike: resource scarcity, potential conflict over this etc. They are soluble - but not if we don't substantially improve global governance and for me that means not just wagging fingers at global leaders, but also we as citizens rolling up our sleeves and finding ways to engage many more millions of other citizens around the world in getting things done, suggesting solutions, and keeping an eye on things.

AVFTC: There are criticisms of the MGDs themselves. What are the advantages and shortfalls of setting goals?

JD: Goals means we can sometimes lost sight of the importance of the process which achieves them. sometimes development is a process not just an outcome. All the work of say Amartya Sen shows that its not just the empirical condition of not being in poverty that matters, that real absence of poverty is more like the freedom to make good choices, liberty to self-determine. 

This more qualitative aspect can get lost. We can try harder to find ways to measure this.I like the firm measurability and accountability of empirically verifiable targets. Otherwise development types can too easily move goalposts, to shake off accountability, drift off into philosophical abstraction or purely ideological debates. 

The MDGs were simply a brilliant visionary compromise of their time to focus disparate interest groups (those who worked on AIDS or malaria or health versus those who worked on education or agriculture or corruption or fair trade etc) and give them one set of overall development goals, for them to all work on together and ultimately work with developing country government to help them achieve the next set of goals will ultimately be the same. A brilliant visionary compromise, but hopefully the next goals are better designed because we've both learned from the first set of goals and because connectivity allows better sharing of ideas, and technology can allow better measuring of progress and monitoring of outcomes, feedback about what works and doesn't.