Response to UN Secretary-General’s Synthesis Report- The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives, and Protecting the Planet

CUTS International welcomes and applauds the UN Secretary-General’s synthesis report on the post-2015 agenda that outlines a transformative global agenda. We recognise the steps taken by the UN to incorporate the insights of various stakeholders throughout the post-2015 deliberations and reflect the broadest possible consensus among all actors.

The report has done a commendable job in identifying the global crises rooted in structural inequality, injustice, discrimination, environmental and social exploitation amid extraordinary wealth and technological progress. It also identifies and stresses the role of civil society in the pursuit of solutions to these problems.

However, the proposed agenda has not gone far enough beyond the old paradigms. The outgoing MDGs were promoted with equal optimism, but the progress has at best been uneven. Meeting the proposed set of goals and targets must therefore begin with a commitment to understand where the countries and development actors have failed. We believe it would help the governments and other development actors to better prepare for new challenges and old commitments. Importantly, although the report has picked up many components of a transformative global agenda, the extent to which these aspirations are reflected by real action on the ground remains to be seen.

The report emphasises six essential elements for delivering the sustainable development goals (para 66):

  • People: to ensure healthy lives, knowledge and inclusion of women and children
  • Dignity: to end poverty and fight inequality
  • Prosperity: to grow a strong, inclusive and transformative economy
  • Justice: to promote safe and peaceful societies, and strong institutions
  • Partnership: to catalyse global solidarity for sustainable development
  • Planet: to protect our ecosystems for all societies and our children

In the following paragraphs, we have discussed some of the aspirations that matter to CUTS.

  • We appreciate and strongly agree on the recognitions that “Young people will be the torch bearers of the next sustainable development agenda through 2030” (para 3) and “This enterprise can therefore not be business as usual” (para 22). We believe that addressing new challenges and implementing existing developmental commitments would require innovations in aid and development effectiveness, and will need to harness the young human capital at global level.
  • The report rightly emphasises the need to enhance effectiveness of development cooperation based on the basic principles of country ownership, results focus, inclusive partnerships, transparency and accountability (para 93).
  • We commend the report’s emphasis on promoting “South-South technical assistance and the sharing of experiences through regional fora” (para 111). We recognise the potential for South-South cooperation and are committed to promote it. CUTS has been advocating regional cooperation in South, and will continue to do so. We also believe that cross-border trade would be critical driver for development cooperation between the Southern countries as well as South-North cooperation.
  • We appreciate the report’s call to all developed countries to meet the 0.7 percent target and agree to concrete timetables to meet ODA commitments (para 98). We believe development assistance from the global North would be critical for achieving an inclusive sustainable development. As suggested in the report, efforts to modernise ODA and measures of development finance would be useful in the process.
  • We agree on the need to transform business models for creating shared value is vital for growing inclusive and sustainable economies (para 73). However, the report appears to assume that monetary prosperity and economic growth are the key drivers of social development. It seems to suggest the governments to deliver incentive structures to attract private investment. While private sector participation is critical, overly market-oriented approaches to sustainable development may not work well. In addition, effective regulatory mechanisms and initiatives for corporate social responsibility and accountability are crucial to engage the private sector in the transformative agenda.
  • The report has rightly emphasised on the need to develop measurements of progress on sustainable development that go beyond GDP (para 135). We very much agree on the usefulness of reflecting the multi-dimensional nature of poverty that is not well captured by GDP-centric indicators.
  • The report has made several references to the need for better, accurate and disaggregated data to effectively measure the progress and target interventions. Though it may appear as a subtle point, data availability will be crucial for making sustainable development more inclusive. At the same time, CUTS also supports the call for a rigorous and participatory monitoring and accountability framework for the SDGS. As emphasised in the report, meaningful accountability and the required enabling environment would be critically dependent on the engagement of civil society and marginalised groups.

CUTS’ response to the synthesis report and its vision is broadly positive and we are satisfied with the ambitions and optimism. The challenge will be to translate this vision into a clear and concise framework, develop an action plan, mobilise necessary resources to achieve it, and to agree on a robust monitoring and accountability framework. Being one of the leading CSOs of global South, CUTS international is committed to the inclusive sustainable development agenda and will contribute to it.

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