The African Union Commission and the European Union each released their respective priorities for the post-2015 development agendas in May 2014, shortly after the circulation of a “zero draft” that would serve as a potential launching point for negotiating a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Sustainable Development Goals would replace the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire next year, and are part of a broader initiative aimed at establishing a “post-2015 development agenda.”
African position highlights consensus
The release of the Common African Position (CAP) came during a 3 June meeting of the African Union Commission, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The document is a direct result of the work undertaken by a High Level Committee (HLC) set up by the African Union a year ago, and is meant to encapsulate the continent’s key priorities as it participates in the post-2015 negotiations.
The HLC process involved several consultative and technical meetings, in which officials reviewed a list of priorities developed by institutions across the continent with the goal of reaching consensus on a proper post-MDG framework.
The resulting CAP “reflects the aspirations of the African people,” said Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who chaired the High Level Committee.
Carlos Lopes, who serves as the Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) Executive Secretary, similarly hailed the CAP as “a concrete step towards mainstream[ing] all the key issues at the global level but with an African perspective addressing all the Sustainable Development Goals.”
“We therefore commit ourselves to speak with one voice and to act in unity to ensure that Africa’s voice is heard and is fully integrated into the global development agenda,” the consensus document says.
Scaling up the transformative agenda
The document groups Africa’s development priorities into “six pillars.” These include structural economic transformation and inclusive growth; science, technology and innovation; people-centred development; environmental sustainability, natural resources and disaster management; peace and security; and finance and partnerships.
“The overarching goals of CAP are to eradicate poverty and ensure human development, which are anchored in the six pillars,” said Anthony Maruping, Commissioner of Economic Affairs of the African Union Commission, who presented the document.
African countries have pledged to strengthen their productive capacities in order to foster industrialisation. They also aim to promote the processing of primary commodities by developing value chains across sectors, together with beneficiation policies, especially in the extractive sectors of their economies. Beneficiation refers to the treatment of raw materials, such as mineral ore, to improve their properties for further processing.
The CAP also calls for the modernisation of the agricultural sector, together with the enhancement of agricultural productivity, in order to ensure food self-sufficiency. Furthermore, the document emphasises the role of services and infrastructure development in facilitating economic transformation.
The current Millennium Development Goals have come under criticism by some experts, who claim that these placed a disproportionate focus on the social sector and took too much of a quantitative – as opposed to qualitative – approach to development.
This new common position therefore centres on value addition and proper use of resources, rather than the socially-oriented planning of past development models, said Ibrahim Mayaki, head of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), in comments reported by Sierra Express Media.
NEPAD serves as the development arm of the African Union.
In the next phase of its work, the HLC will begin negotiations with other regions of the world as well as the continent’s development partners to ensure Africa's vision is included in the post-2015 global development agenda.
EU bets on sustainable development to tackle poverty
Separate to the CAP launch, the European Commission issued its own proposal last week outlining its development aspirations for the new SDGs.
According to the Brussels document, eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development are fundamentally interrelated. The communication features “poverty”, “inequality,” and “food security” as the first three priority areas in a total of 17, and indicates the Commission’s plan to cluster them based on interlinkages.
The communication also highlights the role of trade liberalisation for poverty eradication and sustainable development.
“We encourage our partners, notably developed and advanced developing economies, to provide Duty Free and Quota Free (DFQF) and market access for products originating from LDCs as well,” the document says.
The European Commission also refers to the value of universality, while acknowledging the need to take “into account different national contexts capacities and levels of development.” Such differentiated treatment, it said, requires a consideration of each country’s respective starting points and capacities, and the need to ensure achievability, ownership, and measurability.
Brussels also says that the post-2015 framework should ensure a “rights-based approach” to promote sustainable development by ensuring “justice, equality and equity, good governance, democracy and the rule of law, peaceful societies and freedom from violence.”
Finally, the communication stresses the EU’s commitment to a strengthened global partnership, highlighting the 28-nation bloc’s role as one of “the driving forces behind mobilising action internally and worldwide.”
The Commission document will next be discussed by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The result of these discussions, EU officials say, will serve to guide the bloc’s position in the UN negotiations.
September 2015 target date
The creation of the SDGs is a central part of the framing of the post-2015 development agenda, which will be negotiated by UN member states until September 2015.
Some experts have suggested that the value of the sustainable development agenda lies in its ability to identify connections between many issues. However, in terms of practical implementation, this is proving easier in theory than in practice.
The Open Working Group tasked with formulating these new SDGs will be holding their next formal gathering from 16-20 June, in what is expected to be a key meeting in advancing this process. The working group is expected to publish its conclusions next month, ahead of the UN Secretary-General’s report later this year. (See Biores, 2 June 2014)
ICTSD reporting; “EC Adopts Communication on SDGs,” IISD, 2 June 2014; “As it plans its own future, Africa engages with the world,” SIERRA EXPRESS MEDIA, 2 June 2014; “Millennium Development Goals and post-2015 Development Agenda,” ECOSOC, 2014.
This article is published under Bridges Africa Volume 3 - Number 6
Published in print 5 June, posted online 1st July 2014
Published in print 5 June, posted online 1st July 2014
The views reflected here are those of ICTSD, and not necessarily those of ECDPM
Image courtesy of Rhys Williams, ECDPM