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The MDG countdown: 999 days and counting…

By Savio Carvalho

In a pleasant surprise today the #mdgmomentum hashtag is trending on Twitter. It seems as though (at least among the twitterati) there is new energy behind achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

We have only 999 days left to deliver the MDGs through real action by governments and other institutions, either working directly on the ground, or through fulfilling commitments like aid promises.

For some, the next 999 days will hopefully make some difference. In recent months, I have heard many saying the success or failure of the MDG project depends how you look at it – the glass half full or the glass half empty. For the vast majority, however — especially the most vulnerable — nothing will have really changed. Their glasses are obviously nowhere near half full.

Because of this, it’s an odd balance to see a lot happening at the international policy level on the ‘Post 2015 Framework’. There is much buzz around this next incarnation of the MDGs, and there has been a flurry of conferences, research papers, national consultations and global events, mainly in selected arenas of the international community.

But there is a need for more mobilization and involvement of those living in poverty.

Navanethem Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, recently questioned whether the approaches used by the MDGs had kept pace with demands of the people they were supposed to serve. She was right to ask.

For the past decade, governments, donors, UN agencies and many development agencies have sung the praises of the MDGs. But the MDGs were formulated through an opaque process. Over the years, they have lost their sheen as a formula to end global poverty.

In some countries, MDGs have become another tool to ensure aid commitments, technical support and used as a distraction from substantive and structural issues.

And whilst the MDGs did set goals and targets, they sidestepped governments’ human rights obligations, even though rights are key to overcoming poverty – for example through good governance, rule of law and accountability.

The UN Secretary General has set up a High Level Panel to advise on the Post-2015 Framework, and it is expected to submit its report next month.

A few days ago, at a civil society meeting in Bonn, more than 50 individuals and organisations showed a Red Flag to the High Level Panel. They cautioned against developing reductive goals, targets and indicators that ignore what is needed to transform the current development model, which is rooted in unsustainable production and consumption and exacerbates inequality.

We should remember the words of the United Nations Millennium Declaration Government leaders, who resolved “to strive for the full protection and promotion in all our countries of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for all”.

This can and should be the starting point, the foundation, and the very core of the Post-2015 framework. It is worth the effort to stop and think on the aspirations of the Millennium Declaration, and to ensure that the new framework is able to deliver on these aspirations.

Non-negotiables should be commitments to ensure development policy and programmes are consistent with human rights obligations, have development targets and frameworks based on international human rights law, and ensure development is inclusive, aiming to end discrimination and inequality and prioritizing disadvantaged groups.

The United Nations and world leaders need to show leadership and make a strong fresh start with their ‘ABCs’ –ambitious, bold and coherent framework proposals for the Post-2015 agenda.