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Chapter 4 – Implementation‚ Accountability and Building Consensus

High Level Panel on the Post-2020 Development Agenda
Implementing the Post-2015 Agenda

The illustrative goals and targets we have set out are bold, yet practical. Like the MDGs, they would not be legally binding, but must be monitored closely. The indicators that track them should be broken down in many different ways to ensure no one is left behind. We recommend that any new goals should be accompanied by an independent and rigorous monitoring system, with regular opportunities to discuss results at a high political level. We also call for a data revolution for sustainable development, with a new international initiative to improve the quality of statistics and information available to people and governments. We should actively take advantage of new technology, crowd sourcing, and improved connectivity to empower people with information on the progress towards the targets. We see an opportunity in the post-2015 agenda to include new players in partnerships at all levels, to introduce new ways of working across an agenda that goes beyond aid, and to introduce a new spirit of multilateralism and international cooperation. Implementing an agenda of this breadth and scope, holding people accountable for progress and keeping the agenda high on the political radar of world leaders cannot be taken for granted. But this time, unlike with the MDGs, we do not have to start from scratch. There are established processes to move from an agreement in New York to a programme in a remote village, agencies that are collaborating with statistical offices around the world, a willingness of global leaders to pay more attention to sustainable development, and local initiatives that can be scaled up.

Unifying Global Goals with National Plans for Development

The post-2015 agenda must enable every nation to realise its own hopes and plans. We learned from the MDGs that global targets are only effectively executed when they are locally-owned – embedded in national plans as national targets – and this is an important lesson for the new agenda. Through their national planning processes each government could choose an appropriate level of ambition for each target, taking account of its starting point, its capacity and the resources it can expect to command. They could receive input on what is realistic and achievable in each target area from citizens, officials, businesses and civil society in villages, towns, cities, provinces and communities. This is an opportunity for governments to ensure access of citizens to public information that can be used as the basis of national strategies and plans.

In many circumstances international partners and agencies will be invited to assist in helping countries implement their plans and achieve their targets—on average 30 official development partners, many with more than one development agency, are operating in each developing country. These agencies have a responsibility to harmonise their efforts with national plans, operate through the government budget where practicable, and collaborate with each other to ensure the maximum impact for the least effort.

Global Monitoring and Peer Review

The post-2015 development agenda must signal a new era for multilateralism and international cooperation. The United Nations can lead in setting the agenda because of its unique and universal legitimacy and its ability to coordinate and monitor globally. But the UN system has yet to fully realise the vision of “working as one’”. It is beyond the scope of this report to propose options for reform at the UN, but the Panel calls for every step to be taken to improve coordination and deliver on a single, integrated sustainable development agenda, including building on positive recent steps to improve collaboration between the UN’s agencies, funds and programmes, and with the international financial institutions.

The Panel has three suggestions that could assist with a coordinated and cooperative international approach to monitoring and peer review. The monitoring must be seen by everyone as a way of motivating progress and enhancing cooperation, not as a tool for conditionality.

First, the Panel suggests that the UN identifies a single locus of accountability for the post-2015 agenda that would be responsible for consolidating its multiple reports on development into one review of how well the post-2015 agenda is being implemented. Starting in 2015, the UN could produce a single Global Sustainable Development Outlook, jointly written every one or two years by a consortium of UN agencies and other international organisations. This would monitor trends and results, as well as risks that threaten to derail achievement of the targets. It would also recommend ways of implementing programmes more effectively.

Second, the Panel suggests that the UN should periodically convene a global forum at a high political level to review progress and challenges ahead. An independent advisory committee should give advice and recommendations as background for this forum. Such a body should be invited to comment in a blunt and unvarnished way, and include business, civil society and other voices.

Third, reporting and peer-review at the regional level could complement global monitoring. It is often easier to review policies in-depth with friendly and constructive neighbours than with the whole world. The UN’s five regional commissions, with regional development banks, member governments and regional organisations, could form part of an improved coordinating mechanism in each region of the world, which would discuss and report on the sustainable development agenda in advance of each global forum.

Stakeholders Partnering by Theme

We live in an age when global problems can best be solved by thousands, even millions, of people working together. These partnerships can guide the way to meeting targets and ensuring that programmes are effective on the ground.

Such groups are sometimes called ‘multi-stakeholder partnerships’. They bring together governments (local, city, national), experts, CSOs, businesses, philanthropists, universities and others, to work on a single theme. These partnerships are powerful because each partner comes to the table with direct knowledge and strong evidence, based on thorough research. This enables them to innovate, to advocate convincingly for good policies, and thus to secure funding. They have the skills to apply knowledge of what has worked before to new operations, and to scale up promising ideas to reach large populations in many countries – ‘implementation and scaling up.’ There are already a number of such global multi-stakeholder partnerships delivering promising results, at scale: in health, nutrition, education, agriculture, water, energy, information and communications technology, financial services, cities and open government.

A decade or more ago, when the first global partnerships started in earnest, they mostly shared the costs, benefits and risks of financing large projects. Today they do much more. They can bring know-how and training, and in other ways tackle obstacles that no single government ministry, private business or CSO could surmount alone. They are especially good at scaling up, because they are global and experienced. Bringing evidence from business, civil society and experts worldwide to bear on a single topic, they can be persuasive about fixing weak policies and institutions. And when they see that their task cannot be accomplished by business-as-usual, they innovate to develop new solutions, always in line with national policies and priorities.

One of their most exciting features is that they can bring about a change in mind-sets, altering the thinking of millions of people worldwide. It may be a simple issue: the campaign to encourage hand-washing or to use insecticide-treated bed nets against malaria. It may be complex, like a campaign to recognise and address human contributions to climate change, or the need to change to sustainable consumption patterns. But always it involves reaching people in every country and in every walk of life.

The Panel suggests that the concept of goal- or sector-specific global partnerships should be a central part of the new development agenda. These should aspire to a high standard of transparency, evaluation and monitoring, and involving business, civil society, philanthropic organisations, international organisations and governments.

An Example of a Multistakeholder Partnership in Practice: Delivering Quality Education

The Global Partnership for Education is getting quality education to marginalised children, coordinating education’s many players, offering aid without wasteful replication, and following local leadership.

It directs funds to a single local group in a country. 70 low-income countries are eligible. A typical group includes educators, development agencies, corporations (domestic and global), regional development banks, state education ministries, civil society and philanthropic organisations, sometimes UNESCO and UNICEF representatives, and other experts—with the ministry of education leading.

GPE’s funds come with technical support to strengthen the national (or provincial) education plan. GPE helps create capacity to monitor progress. Its work is whatever the country deems necessary: building latrines or early-childhood centres; training teachers or writing curricula in mother tongues; distributing textbooks, adding vocational programmes or digital learning systems with corporate partners (Microsoft, Nokia and publisher Pearson now offer digital, mobile educational tools around Africa).

GPE’s board of directors is global, with a tilt toward developing-country representation. Funding is long-term, phasing out when national income rises. Its budget today exceeds $2 billion.

GPE is single-sector (education) but shows how collaboration can bring better results. Similar models might prove useful in other areas.

Holding Partners to Account

Accountability must be exercised at the right level: governments to their own citizens, local governments to their communities, corporations to their shareholders, civil society to the constituencies they represent. Accountability is central to the global partnership and, in line with that spirit, all parties should respect these lines of accountability and trust their partners to fulfil their commitments.

But accountability only works when people have the right information, easily available and easy to use. New types of transparent accounting make this possible. We need data to be available, and we need the accountability that follows. Without them, the global partnership will not work.

The MDGs brought together an inspirational vision with a set of concrete and time-bound goals and targets that could be monitored by robust statistical indicators. This was a great strength of the MDGs and, as time progressed, data coverage and availability have increased. However, much more needs to be done. Even now, over 40 developing countries lack sufficient data to track performance against MDG1 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger), and time lags for reporting MDG outcomes remain unsatisfactorily high.

Wanted: a New Data Revolution

The revolution in information technology over the last decade provides an opportunity to strengthen data and statistics for accountability and decision-making purposes. There have been innovative initiatives to use mobile technology and other advances to enable real-time monitoring of development results. But this movement remains largely disconnected from the traditional statistics community at both global and national levels. The post-2015 process needs to bring them together and start now to improve development data.

Data must also enable us to reach the neediest, and find out whether they are receiving essential services. This means that data gathered will need to be disaggregated by gender, geography, income, disability, and other categories, to make sure that no group is being left behind.

Better data and statistics will help governments track progress and make sure their decisions are evidence-based; they can also strengthen accountability. This is not just about governments. International agencies, CSOs and the private sector should be involved. A true data revolution would draw on existing and new sources of data to fully integrate statistics into decision making, promote open access to, and use of, data and ensure increased support for statistical systems.

A New Data Revolution

“Too often, development efforts have been hampered by a lack of the most basic data about the social and economic circumstances in which people live… Stronger monitoring and evaluation at all levels, and in all processes of development (from planning to implementation) will help guide decision making, update priorities and ensure accountability. This will require substantial investments in building capacity in advance of 2015. A regularly updated registry of commitments is one idea to ensure accountability and monitor delivery gaps. We must also take advantage of new technologies and access to open data for all people.”

Bali Communiqué of the High-Level Panel, March 28, 2013

To support this, the Panel recommends establishing a Global Partnership on Development Data that brings together diverse but interested stakeholders – government statistical offices, international organisations, CSOs, foundations and the private sector. This partnership would, as a first step, develop a global strategy to fill critical gaps, expand data accessibility, and galvanise international efforts to ensure a baseline for post-2015 targets is in place by January 2016.

A further aspect of accountability and information is how governments and businesses account for their impact on sustainable development. Only a few progressive, large businesses try to account for their social and environmental footprint. The Panel proposes that, in future – at latest by 2030 – all large businesses should be reporting on their environmental and social impact – or explain why if they are not doing so. Similarly, governments should adopt the UN’s System of Environmental-Economic Accounting, along with the Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) introduced by the World Bank, with help provided to those who need help to do this. These metrics can then be used to monitor national development strategies and results in a universally consistent way.

This will help sustainable development evolve, because new and better accounting will give governments and firms clear information on their bottom line, keeping them accountable for their actions, and will give consumers the chance to make informed choices.

Working in Cooperation with Others

Countries already come together informally in many settings to discuss what they can do to achieve more, and more sustainable, development. These global cooperation forums, such as the g7+, G-20, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, and regional forums, are playing important roles. None tackle the whole agenda, but each one tackles important parts. These groups may be informal, but they can be of enormous help in providing political leadership and practical suggestions to sustain the post-2015 agenda and bring to life the spirit of global partnership in their respective forums.

  • The g7+, for instance, has drawn attention to the special challenges faced by fragile states in defining country-owned and country-led plans to move from conflict to peaceful and sustainably developing societies.
  • The G-20 has worked to address global bottlenecks in food and energy security, financial stability and inclusion, and infrastructure.
  • The BRICS are working to develop a large new bank for financing sustainable infrastructure projects.
  • The Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation established in Busan in 2011, is working to help countries and thematic groups establish effective partnerships involving many different stakeholders.
  • Regional platforms in Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Europe are stepping in to cooperate successfully in areas of specific concern to the region and to form unified approaches towards trade, climate adaptation and mitigation, finance, infrastructure and other cross-border issues.

In each of these cases an existing international forum is already actively promoting an aspect of sustainable development. They, and others, can make an important contribution to the post-2015 development agenda.

Building Political Consensus

International agreement on a single, universal agenda to succeed the MDGs is vital, but not assured. One challenge is to agree on clear, compelling, and ambitious goals, through a transparent and inclusive process in the UN. And to do so within a timescale that enables a smooth transition from the MDGs to a new development agenda from January 2016.

Success will drive forward efforts to help hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people as well as efforts to achieve sustainable development. Furthermore, the Panel believes that international trust and belief in the credibility of the UN would be at stake if the MDG targets were to expire without agreement on what will succeed them.

Already several important milestones are in view on the path to 2015. A special event convened by the President of the General Assembly on the MDGs is planned for 25 September 2013. This presents an opportunity for the UN to set a clear path towards final agreement on the post-2015 development agenda and we encourage member states to seize that opportunity. During 2014, an Open Working Group, established at Rio+20, will report to the UN General Assembly with recommendations on a set of sustainable development goals.

Another UN working group is expected to begin work soon on financing for sustainable development. And the UN Secretary-General will again report to the General Assembly on the MDGs and the post-2015 development agenda during 2014. The Panel believes that these discussions and processes could culminate in a summit meeting in 2015 for member states to agree the new goals and to mobilise global action so that the new agenda can become a reality from January 2016.

The Panel calls for the continued constructive engagement of UN Member States and their affiliated groupings, such as the G77 and other country groupings, to reach such an agreement within a timescale that enables a smooth transition from the MDGs to a new development agenda. Only UN member states can define the post-2015 agenda. However, we believe that the participation of civil society representatives in the UN processes will bring important perspectives to the discussions and help raise public awareness and interest. And we suggest that private sector experience and the insights of academic experts from every region of the world would also support a strong and credible process.

A transparent and inclusive process will help build the conditions for political agreement, but it alone is insufficient. The courage and personal commitment of political leaders will be needed to reconcile myriad national views, and to embrace useful insights from others. We must develop trust through dialogue, and learn lessons on reaching consensus from other multilateral processes. There will be difficult decisions to be made and not everyone will get everything they want. But global agreement is essential and we believe strongly that the global community and member states of the United Nations can and will rise to the occasion.

At the Millennium Summit in 2000, the world’s leaders renewed their commitment to the ideals of the United Nations, paving the way for the MDGs. The significance and value of such global goals has steadily grown since the Millennium Declaration was universally agreed. Today’s leaders – whether from government, business or civil society – must be as ambitious and practical about a new development agenda. They must embrace a dynamic, innovative approach to partnership, if we are to fulfil the hopes and expectations of humanity.