A new report from the Overseas Development Institute in London explores how the two goals of fighting poverty and ensuring environmental sustainability can be combined in the post-2015 priorities for the United Nations and the world.
This is a contribution to the global conversation being undertaken by the United Nations about what will replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015.
Combining human development and environmental objectives is firmly on the agenda for the new set of global priorities after 2015. The High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons endorsed this approach in the Monrovia communiqué, outlining a vision for a new development agenda that is “people centred and planet sensitive“. The Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals is driven by the Rio+20 conclusions, which defined the priorities for the future as:
‘Poverty eradication, changing unsustainable and promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development.’
Creating the post-2015 global development agenda is about combining the needs and aspirations of people with the imperative to protect the natural resources on which human life depends. The opportunity for the post-2015 agenda is a set of goals which reconciles the two most important trends in recent years – growing wealth but, at the same time, growing environmental degradation. Progress on extreme poverty cannot be put into doubt because of high consumption by people and countries far away, but policies to promote human progress which do not take into account environmental limits will ultimately prove to be self-defeating. As every aspect of human life becomes more and more affected by the changing environment, the urgency of achieving both ends becomes increasingly obvious.
But how, exactly, might these two aspirations be combined in different areas? This paper suggests some criteria to guide both the construction of goals and the nature of the global partnerships which will be central to their implementation.
There are likely to be three things a new framework will try to do. Firstly, it is agreed that there is an imperative to meet the basic needs and rights of the world’s poorest people and eradicate poverty now and into the future. Secondly, in moving beyond extreme poverty, the framework will probably aim to drive improvements in the efficiency of resource use to provide for a growing and more prosperous global population. And thirdly, at a global level, the framework may confront the need to reshape production and consumption patterns so that they are consistent with planetary boundaries well into the future.
The exact way that these two objectives are combined will vary from issue to issue, and we do not yet know which issues will become new goals, but the aspiration at this point is for the whole framework to add up to an integrated approach to promote sustainable human development.
The paper discusses three different ways of integrating human development and environmental sustainability objectives within new goals, depending on the outcome being sought. It does not propose any particular framework, but suggest how goals might be constructed in different areas, both in the areas of outcomes and in the global partnerships which will drive implementation.
The paper is written by Claire Melamed, of the Overseas Development Institute, and Paul Ladd, who is leading the global conversation on behalf of the UN Development Programme.
Commenting on the paper, Rory Truell, IFSW Secretary General, said ‘IFSW fully supports the need to integrate work on eliminating extreme poverty and ensuring sustainable development. Social workers were ahead of the game when we included both themes in the 4 pillars of The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development, approved In Hong Kong in 2010. IFSW is working with our global partners, IASSW and ICSW, as well as other groups and our national member organisations to make sure that the social work voice and our practice experience has a significant impact on this ‘global conversation’, Rory concluded.
Read the ODI report here.