It has been a privilege to serve alongside so many distinguished panelists, including current and former heads of government and senior officials of international organizations. As a civil society member of the panel, I am delighted at the report’s emphasis on empowering people to participate in holding governments accountable for their decisions and actions.
The three key innovations of this report, compared to the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015, are its recognition of: (1) civil and political rights, combined with transparent and accountable public institutions, as intrinsic to development; (2) the role played by active efforts to promote peace in generating inclusive and sustainable growth; and (3) the need for urgent action to enhance the ability of women and youth to take part in the transformation of their societies.
People struggling for the right to speak freely, to form and join associations, to protest against unresponsive government, and to receive protection from arbitrary action by police, prosecutors, and judges will take heart when they see that these elements have been specifically included in the report’s list of global development goals. Obliging governments to make all publicly held information and data available to people – thus giving citizens a powerful tool to expose corruption – is just one aspect of the “accountability revolution” that can be unleashed if the report’s recommendations are implemented in full.
Those seeking to build peace in conflict-ravaged societies will find hope in the inclusion of specific targets on freedom from violence and fear, and on measures to ensure that the causes of conflict, such as organized criminal activity, are singled out for national and international action as part of a comprehensive agenda. Institutions capable of resolving conflict non-violently are the foundation for a peaceful and stable society, and these are clearly called for in the report.
Women and youth, whose contribution to the development of their societies has for too long been marginalized, will find many of the constraints that have impeded their full participation addressed in the report. These include specific targets on reducing unemployment among youth, enhancing women’s capacity to enjoy equal rights, universal access to education for all, an end to child labour and child marriage, and – crucially – zero tolerance for violence against women and girls.
Civil and political rights, peacebuilding, and women’s and youth empowerment are the signal contributions of the panel’s agenda for the post-MDG era. Over the next two years, governments will have to choose whether they adopt this new, people-centered framework for development. The temptation for political leaders to pull back, to retreat to a safer, more conventional approach, will be strong. A global grassroots movement will thus be necessary to build pressure for adoption of the transformative elements of this ground-breaking report.