A fifth, but perhaps most important, transformative shift for the post-2015 agenda is to bring a new sense of global partnership into national and international politics. This must provide a fresh vision and framework, based on our common humanity and the principles established at Rio. Included among those principles: universality, equity, sustainability, solidarity, human rights, the right to development and responsibilities shared in accordance with capabilities. The partnership should capture, and will depend on, a spirit of mutual respect and mutual benefit.
EXAMPLE Click here to watch a video from Unilever on the power of partnerships.
One simple idea lies behind the principle of global partnership. People and countries understand that their fates are linked together. What happens in one part of the world can affect us all. Some issues can only be tackled by acting together. Countries have resources, expertise or technology that, if shared, can result in mutual benefit Working together is not just a moral obligation to help those less fortunate but is an investment in the long-term prosperity of all.
A renewed global partnership will require a new spirit from national leaders, but also – no less important – it will require many others to adopt new mind-sets and change their behaviour. These changes will not happen overnight. But we must move beyond business-as-usual
– and we must start today. The new global partnership should encourage everyone to alter their worldview, profoundly and dramatically. It should lead all countries to move willingly towards merging the environmental and development agendas, and tackling poverty’s symptoms and causes in a unified and universal way.
What are the components of a new global partnership? It starts with a shared, common vision, one that allows different solutions for different contexts but is uniformly ambitious. From vision comes a plan for action, at the level of the individual country and of smaller regions, cities or localities. Each needs to contribute and cooperate to secure a better future.
A new global partnership should engage national governments of all countries, local authorities, international organisations, businesses, civil society, foundations and other philanthropists, and people – all sitting at the table to go beyond aid to discuss a truly international framework of policies to achieve sustainable development. It should move beyond the MDGs’ orientation of state-to-state partnerships between high-income and low-income governments to be inclusive of more players.
A new global partnership should have new ways of working
– a clear process through which to measure progress towards goals and targets and to hold people accountable for meeting their commitments. The United Nations can take the lead on monitoring at the global level, drawing on information from national and local governments, as well as from regional dialogues. Partnerships in each thematic area, at global, national and local levels, can assign responsibilities and accountabilities for putting policies and programmes in place.
Each participant in the global partnership has a specific role to play:
National governments have the central role and responsibility for their own development and for ensuring universal human rights. They decide on national targets, taxes, policies, plans and regulations that will translate the vision and goals of the post-2015 agenda into practical reality. They have a role in every sector and at many levels – from negotiating international trade or environmental agreements to creating an enabling environment for business and setting environmental standards at home.
Developed countries must keep their promises to developing countries. North-South aid is still vital for many countries: it must be maintained, and increased wherever possible. But more than aid is needed to implement sustainable development worldwide. Developed countries are important markets and exporters. Their trade and agriculture practices have huge potential to assist, or hinder, other countries’ development. They can encourage innovation, diffusion and transfer of technology. With other major economies, they have a central role in ensuring the stability of the international financial system. They have special responsibilities in ensuring that there can be no safe haven for illicit capital and the proceeds of corruption, and that multinational companies pay taxes fairly in the countries in which they operate. And, as the world’s largest per-capita consumers, developed countries must show leadership on sustainable consumption and production and adopting and sharing green technologies.
Developing countries are much more diverse than when the MDGs were agreed – they include large emerging economies as well as countries struggling to tackle high levels of deprivation and facing severe capacity constraints. These changing circumstances are reflected in changing roles. Developing country links in trade, investment, and finance are growing fast. They can share experiences of how best to reform policy and institutions to foster development. Developing countries, including ones with major pockets of poverty, are cooperating among themselves, and jointly with developed countries and international institutions, in South-South and Triangular cooperation activities that have become highly valued. These could be an even stronger force with development of a repository of good practices, networks of knowledge exchange, and more regional cooperation.20
Local authorities form a vital bridge between national governments, communities and citizens and will have a critical role in a new global partnership. The Panel believes that one way to support this is by recognising that targets might be pursued differently at the sub-national level – so that urban poverty is not treated the same as rural poverty, for example.
Local authorities have a critical role in setting priorities, executing plans, monitoring results and engaging with local firms and communities. In many cases, it is local authorities that deliver essential public services in health, education, policing, water and sanitation. And, even if not directly delivering services, local government often has a role in establishing the planning, regulatory and enabling environment—for business, for energy supply, mass transit and building standards. They have a central role in disaster risk reduction – identifying risks, early warning and building resilience. Local authorities have a role in helping slum-dwellers access better housing and jobs and are the source of most successful programmes to support the informal sector and micro-enterprises.
International institutions will play a key role. The United Nations, of course, has a central normative and convening role, and can join partnerships through its development funds, programmes and specialised agencies. International financial institutions can compensate for the market’s failures to supply long-term finance for sustainable projects in low- and middle-income countries, but they need to be more innovative, flexible and nimble in the way they operate. The Panel noted the huge potential to use public money to catalyse and scale up private financing for sustainable development. For example, only 2 per cent of the $5 trillion in sovereign wealth fund assets has so far been invested in sustainable development projects.21
Business is an essential partner that can drive economic growth. Small- and medium-sized firms will create most of the jobs that will be needed to help today’s poor escape poverty and for the 470 million who will enter the labour market by 2030. Large firms have the money and expertise to build the infrastructure that will allow all people to connect to the modern economy. Big businesses can also link microenterprises and small entrepreneurs with larger markets. When they find a business model that works for sustainable development, they can scale it up fast, using their geographic spread to reach hundreds of millions of people.
A growing number of business leaders with whom we discussed these issues are already integrating sustainable development into their corporate strategies. They spoke of a business case with three components that goes well beyond corporate social responsibility. First, use innovation to open up new growth markets, and address the needs of poor consumers. Second, promote sustainable practices and stay cost-competitive by conserving land, water, energy and minerals and eliminating waste. Third, attract the highest calibre employees and promote labour rights.
Many companies recognise, however, that if they are to be trusted partners of governments and CSOs, they need to strengthen their own governance mechanisms and adopt “integrated reporting”, on their social and environmental impact as well as financial performance. Many businesses today are committed to doing this; the new global partnership should encourage others to follow suit.
Civil society organisations can play a vital role in giving a voice to people living in poverty, who include disproportionate numbers of women, children, people with disabilities, indigenous and local communities and members of other marginalised groups. They have important parts to play in designing, realising, and monitoring this new agenda. They are also important providers of basic services, often able to reach the neediest and most vulnerable, for example in slums and remote areas.
In a new partnership, CSOs will have a crucial role in making sure that government at all levels and businesses act responsibly and create genuine opportunities and sustainable livelihoods in an open-market economy. Their ability to perform this role depends on an enabling legal environment and access to due process under the law, but they should also commit to full transparency and accountability to those whom they represent.
Foundations, other philanthropists and social impact investors can innovate and be nimble and opportunistic, forming bridges between government bureaucracies, international institutions and the business and CSO sectors. Foundations and philanthropists can take risks, show that an idea works, and create new markets where none existed before. This can give governments and business the confidence to take the initiative and scale up successes.
Social impact investors show that there can be a “third way” for sustainable development – a hybrid between a fully for-profit private sector and a pure grant or charity aid programmes. Because they make money, their efforts can be sustainable over time. But because they are new, neither business nor charity, they do not fall neatly into traditional legal frames. Some countries may need to consider how to modify their laws to take better advantage of this sector.
Scientists and academics can make scientific and technological breakthroughs that will be essential to the post-2015 agenda. Every country that has experienced sustained high growth has done so through absorbing knowledge, technology and ideas from the rest of the world, and adapting them to local conditions.22 What matters is not just having technology, but understanding how to use it well and locally. This requires universities, technical colleges, public administration schools and well-trained, skilled workers in all countries. This is one example of the need for the post-2015 agenda to go well beyond the MDG’s focus on primary education.
Energy is a good example of where a global technology breakthrough is needed. When governments cooperate with academia and the private sector, new ways of producing clean and sustainable energy can be found and put into practice.23 This needs to happen quickly: the infrastructure decisions of today will affect the energy use of tomorrow.
Science in many fields, like drought-resistant crops, can be advanced by using open platforms where scientists everywhere have access to each other’s findings and can build on them freely and collaborate broadly, adding useful features without limit. Open platform science can speed the development of new ideas for sustainable development and rapidly bring them to scale. It can support innovation, diffusion and transfer of technology throughout the world.
People must be central to a new global partnership. To do this they need the freedom to voice their views and participate in the decisions that affect their lives without fear. They need access to information and to an independent media. And new forms of participation such as social media and crowd-sourcing can enable governments, businesses, CSOs and academia to interact with, understand and respond to citizens’ needs in new ways.