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Post 2015 Discussions in Europe: "Nothing About Us – Without Us”

Top down development never works.

That was the clear message of some 100 activists and development practitioners who gathered recently in Brussels to debate the post-MDG agenda, writes Ingo Ritz.

Fortunately, as United Nations members discuss a post-2015 framework, an opportunity exists to engage people's organisations and impoverished communities from across the globe. The next global development agenda must be a bottom up process. It's crucial we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

“Post 2015 is not about development in the narrow sense of development cooperation," notes Save the Children's Tanya Cox, who is also co-chair of Beyond 2015's European Steering Group. “It’s about changes in Europe, about people`s well-being, rights and equity.”


 Civil society discussions about a framework to succeed the Millennium Development Goals have started in several European countries. The UN is preparing consultations in fifty African, Asian and Latin American countries as well as nine thematic conversations. Beyond 2015 and GCAP are also planning national deliberations in a number of these countries as well as in Europe.

Just as there are eight MDGs, we have highlighted 8 issues that need to be addressed if we are to create The World We Want Beyond 2015:

1. Human Rights

Development is not about giving, but about meeting government obligations. “Human rights are in the centre of the EU development cooperation,” notes Francoise Moreau, head of the Policy and Coherence Unit in the Development Directorate of the European Commission. “The question is how much consensus can be reached on the UN level."

Several participants at the forum proposed integrating existing human rights conventions into the new development framework. For example, the Right to Food should anchor a goal about food security while ILO labour standards should form part of a goal on decent work. The post-2015 framework would then set timelines for implementation

2. Peace & Human Security

War and occupation destroy livelihoods and communities. Violence and conflict inhibit development. The UN Millennium Declaration discussed issues of peace and security, but these were not integrated into the MDGs. Yet 340 million impoverished people live in 'fragile states' where conflict is the norm. Peace and Human Security is a precursor to The World We Want.  Without peace, there is no development.

3. Climate Justice

We expect that Rio+20 and the adoption of a set of Sustainable Development Goals will set the tone. Impoverished communities suffer the effects of man-made climate change, but they did not cause it. Sustainability and climate justice must be integrated into the post-2015 agenda.

4. Global Partnership

MDG8 has simply been too weak, without firm binding targets. This has to change. The European Union in particular needs new agricultre and trade policies which help rather than harm impoverished communities in developing countries.

5. Gender

The central role of women in development is widely recognised, yet discrimination and gender bias have meant that the majority of the world's poor are still women. 'Mainstreaming' gender issues has often led to sidelining, rather than promoting, gender equality. While gender is a cross-cutting issue, the post-2015 framework also needs a strong explicit gender goal.

6. Marginalisation and Equality

"No one should be excluded” notes John Patrick Ngoyi of Nigeria's Justice, Development and Peace Commission. Systematic efforts need to be undertaken to prioritise the rights of the most vulnerable, including people with disabilities and marginalised and socially-excluded communities. In particular a social protection floor is needed to ensure access to quality essential services like education, health, sanitation and water. Inclusion also means that marginalised communites must be participants in preparing the post-2015 agenda.

7. Accountability

An accountability mechanism is key. The lack of government accountability has been a shortcoming of the MDGs. In order for this to change, the space for civil society must be acknowledged and broadened. Citizens must have freedom of expression and organisation to hold their leaders to account.

8. Nothing about us, without us

“Nothing about us – without us” was the final statement of CONCORD's outgoing President Justin Kilcullen – a message not only to representatives from the UN and the EU but also a reminder to European civil society. While the MDGs were the result of a top-down process, this time around there is a real opportunity to be participatory and inclusive. But there's not much time. A high-level UN panel is scheduled to prepare its report to the September 2013 MDG Summit by February 2013. So it's critical for civil society actors to plan more consultations now.


Challenges and Reflections

Are there too many demands for a new development framework? How do we prioritise? "Enough policy work is done," notes CONCORD Director Olivier Consolo. Just take a look at GCAP's 2007 Montevideo Declaration. Civil society simply needs to formulate clear, focused, coherent and ambitious demands.

An area where civil society does not have a consensus is on the importance of qualitative and quantitative goals and targets. These goals can at times be too technical. They also do not reflect the need for structural changes. However, one suggestion is to have measurable global goals, while giving countries the flexibility to set targets.

As Europe grapples with its own economic and social issues, the biggest challenge for those of us committed to creating The World We Want is political will. Civil society needs to find a way to convince the public and political decision makers that there is no contradiction between social policies within Europe and global efforts to end poverty and inequality. Instead they belong together.

"We need to be more vocal,” counsels Consolo.

“We need to make allies. The energy of civil society organisations has an immense potential” adds Kilcullen.


Ingo Ritz is GCAP Europe Coordinator. The reflections shared in this article are based on discussions from a seminar entitled “The World We Want Beyond 2015,” which was organised on 24-25 May 2012 by GCAP partner, Beyond 2015.