Michael Cashman on why the government must rethink its approach to the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals
The 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have raised ending global poverty as an urgent challenge and a priority for global action. However, the level of achievement of these goals varies and assessments illustrate that, in the new framework, strong links between poverty eradication, fighting inequalities and the promotion of sustainable development are required. It is also crucial that we have a single and universal set of goals with differentiated approaches.
To date, poverty reduction has been uneven. Inequalities between and within countries represent a major challenge, especially when they involve the dubious concept of labelling countries ‘Middle Income Countries’ according to GDP rather than other indexes. Access to early childhood development, and to education and training of the highest attainable quality for every young person and adult is essential to break the cycles of inter-generational poverty and inequality.
Sadly, little progress has been made on gender equality and the empowerment of women. Globally, women and girls constitute a majority of those in extreme poverty. And it is staggering that every day an estimated 800 women die due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth.
The EU and its member states, including the UK, are the largest donors of development aid, and should remain the driving force during the next phase of UN negotiations. The aim should be to promote a human rights-based approach based on equality, non-discrimination, participation and inclusion in the design and implementation of the post-2015 framework. That is the only way forward, accepting that such rights are universal and apply without discrimination – not stopping at man-made borders.
The inclusion of the promotion of a human rights-based and people-centred approach among the Sustainable Development Goals proposed by the UN Open Working Group is both welcome and essential. It should include the promotion of universal access to sexual and reproductive health rights, and the protection of the rights of migrants, disabled people and minorities, including LGBTI people and people living with HIV. Every individual should have a fundamental right to dignity.
Now is not the time to fail. Discrimination is on the rise in many parts of the world, and we must have the courage to challenge such wanton discrimination and the basis on which it is regularly peddled. That is why I have real concerns about the approach and attitude taken by the UK government.
We achieved much before because the EU took a single approach. That is not happening now and I am reliably informed that our government’s intention is to reduce the number of goals proposed by the UN Open Working Group. Ministers are also unhappy with the universality of the framework, wanting targets fixed for each state instead. Surely, that which we demand of others we should also demand of ourselves?
It is important, to have weight in the UN debate that the EU speaks with one voice in the face of opposition. But our government is preventing this, bypassing EU representatives in the negotiations. The draft Conclusions being adopted tomorrow need our support and it is regrettable that Conservative MEPs recently voted against such an approach in the plenary session of the European Parliament. I hope this is not a foretaste of what is to follow.
Lord Michael Cashman is a backbench Labour Peer in the House of Lords. He tweets @mcashmanCBE
Published 11th December 2014