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Debate: What do post-2015 strategic-development goals mean to us?

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Bobby Ramakant, Citizen News Service -- CNS

In the year 2000, countries of the world had agreed to meet the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Numerous consultative processes have been taking place around the world on what should be the development goals post-2015. A draft list of 17 Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) and 168 targets for post-2015 is expected to be presented before the UN General Assembly in September 2014 to agree on modalities and inter-governmental negotiations might begin from January 2015 onwards.

Engaging civil-society representatives from diverse sectors such as agriculture, land rights, gender justice, health justice, ecological justice, trade, political reforms, among others, in a consultative process around the post-2015 SDGs is extremely critical for informing country delegations. These discussions and debates around post-2015 SDGs should shape country positions at international negotiations. In India, such a consultative debate was organized in Delhi on 21-22 August 2014 by a range of organizations and networks such as Third World Network (TWN), PAIRVI, Beyond Copenhagen, Cecoedecon, Family Planning Association of India (FPAI), International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE), South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy (SADED), IBON International, LANDESA, among others.

"The world is growing more unequal and unsustainable resulting in crises of sorts, which has resounded in myriads upheavals throughout the world," said Ajit K Jha of PAIRVI while opening the debate on SDGs.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015: Taking stock

Those who were involved with MDG processes in 2000, will recollect the relative ease with which different countries of the world arrived at a consensus to meet the 8 goals by 2015. Nearly 14 years later, post-2015 negotiations are far from that 'easy consensus' -- perhaps rightly so. Dialogue is indeed central to the process around post-2015 discussions with diversity and inequalities that exist within and between nations.

Govind Kelkar, a senior advisor to LANDESA, remarked out of the 8 MDGs, countries have failed significantly to meet at least two MDGs: MDG 8, which relates to global partnership for development, and MDG 3, which calls for promoting gender equality and empower women.

Govind reflected that on MDG 1 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger), according to the World Bank benchmarks, there was a 22% reduction in poverty levels globally by 2010. There is a reduction in numbers of people living in extreme poverty by 700 million. However other participants questioned the World Bank benchmark to define poverty and if it is an acceptable indicator.

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Govind commented regarding MDG 2 (achieve universal primary education) that 70% of girls globally are in schools and 90% of total children are in schools. She said that primary schooling has improved over the years.

There has been very limited progress on MDG 3 (promote gender equality and empower women). Govind reflected that development of indicators was a challenge from the start regarding MDG 3. Education of girls has improved only at primary level but not at secondary or higher technical-education level. With regards to economic rights and political participation of women, there was no indicator for economic rights but political participation in parliament has somewhat improved, said Govind.

Lots more needs to be done regarding MDG 4 (reducing child mortality). But some progress has been made on MDG 5 (reducing maternal mortality) as maternal-mortality rate (MMR) dropped by 45% (2010 data) if compared to MMR in 1990. In 1990, 380 maternal deaths were taking place per 100,000; which dropped to 210 per 100,000 by 2010. "Maternal mortality is totally preventable, so this decline is not enough," said Govind.

MDG 6 (combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases) is where countries are showing some progress but challenges remain. Over 9.5 million people living with HIV are on antiretroviral therapy (ART) globally; malaria control has been on track in most nations. But challenges remain, believes Citizen News Service (CNS). Antibiotic drug-resistance for instance is alarming in most developing nations which has serious repercussions for disease-control programmes such as those of tuberculosis (TB) for instance. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, stroke, cancers, diabetes, mental health, asthma, among others, have been escalating despite the fact that common shared risk factors are well-identified (tobacco control, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol intake, among others).

There has been little progress on MDG 7 (ensure environmental sustainability). Leave aside progress, instead there were lot of tensions and deadlocks between countries from the north and the south on 'common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR)' regarding environmental sustainability.

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MDG 8 (global partnership for development) is one of the most failed goals, said Govind as countries of the south blame north and those of north blame south for not partnering effectively.

Underlining inequalities within countries and widening gap between 'haves' and have-nots', Pooja Parvati of Oxfam India remarked: "What about the 'north' in the 'south' and 'south' in the 'north'?"

What goals should we have to measure development after 2015?

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