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Development beyond 2015: new One-World goals for critical global challenges

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Mukesh Kapila, Professor for Global Health & Humanitarian Affairs, Manchester University; Co-director of Project on Post-2015 Development Goals (1),

Although the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been criticised as top-down in approach, selective in range, technocratic in orientation, and reductionist in scope, they have been remarkably successful in focusing attention and catalysing resources for the major gaps in human development. The impact has been creditable even if it has been uneven across sectors, or between and within nations.

Meanwhile, since the heady start of the Millennium, our ever-more globalised and interconnected world has continued to change fast. Large risks and complex vulnerabilities are making themselves felt even as new knowledge and technologies generate great expectations and unprecedented opportunities. In the context of altering inter-dependencies and shifting power relationships between citizen and state, and among states, we are also discovering the necessity for holistic and inclusive approaches.

In short, the world is in the mood to work differently, and to do more, do better, and reach further. But for that to really happen, we also need a new paradigm for development with a bold vision and wise leaders, along with strong followers to keep them honest and accountable.

What does the new development paradigm look like?

The future model must move us away from a paternalistic and aid-dependent view of development as the production line for well-functioning human machines to one that brings hope to the despondent, courage to the weak, justice to the wronged, and healing to the hurt. This view of development is about enabling everyone to take responsibility to lead productive and creative lives with dignity, and to realise their fundamental human rights while fulfilling their obligations to relate respectfully to others. Such development is sustainable only if achieved through the responsible use of resources to create and share wealth fairly so that everyone's reasonable current needs are met without compromising the needs of future generations.

A new system of accountability will need to accompany the new paradigm, placing the poor, vulnerable, and marginalised at the centre of the policies and practices that shape their lives. We must also strive to regain transparency and trust in our institutions, both nationally and internationally, and be open to re-moulding and streamlining our multilateral bodies.

From old "development goals" to new "One-World Goals"?

Arising from such a paradigm, future goals must reach beyond traditional development thinking to become higher sustainable one-world goals that apply to poor and rich countries alike. A future architecture of 12 sustainable one-world goals (OWGs), clustered into three categories, is proposed. For each goal, either norms exist, for example, for optimal and minimal food consumption, or there are standards such as for Internet connectivity and generally accepted principles such as for good governance. Each OWG is framed in positive language that inspires and motivates. Implied in this is the ideal of universal coverage or attainment as relevant.

Box 1: Knowledge Gaps
Candidate One-World Goals

The first set of four OWGs are about the essential endowments necessary for individuals to achieve their fuller potential.

Goal 1: Adequate livelihoods and income levels for dignified human existence.
Goal 2: Sufficient food and water for active living.
Goal 3: Appropriate education and skills for productive participation in society.
Goal 4: Good health for the best possible physical and mental well-being.

The second set of four goals are concerned with protecting and promoting collective human capital.

Goal 5: Security for ensuring freedom from violence.
Goal 6: Gender equality for enabling males and females to participate and benefit equally in society.
Goal 7: Resilient communities and nations for reduced disaster impact from natural and technological hazards.
Goal 8: Connectivity for access to essential information, services, and opportunities.

The third set of four goals deal with the effective provision of global public goods:

Goal 9: Empowerment of people for realising their civil and political rights.
Goal 10: Sustainable management of the biosphere for enabling people and planet to thrive together.
Goal 11: Rules on running the world economy for the fairly shared benefit of all nations.
Goal 12: Good global governance for transparent and accountable international institutions and partnerships.

Implicit in Candidate Goal 1 is the notion of sustainable economic growth and its fair distribution, without which global and national ambitions cannot be fully realised

For each of the OWGs, measurable world targets would express the overall impact that is necessary to make if all of humanity is to thrive along with the planet that is our shared home. Such headline targets would raise our collective sights beyond narrow self-interests, incentivise necessary cooperation, and trigger productive innovation.

In the spirit of shared responsibility to achieve the world targets, and noting that countries must own and lead their own development, they would set their own national targets based on the needs and aspirations of their own peoples within their contexts and capabilities. Peer pressure from neighbours, for example, through regional organisations, as well as advocacy by civil society groups, along with benchmarking against global norms, standards, and principles would stimulate governments to ensure sufficient ambition in setting national targets.

Progress would be measured by world indicators that use standardised methods to assess results with validity and objectivity. The choice of technically sound indicators would consider the information gathering costs involved and will need to invest in building capacities to do so on a systematic basis. A set of world indicators would be agreed to provide a menu from which countries can choose the metrics that best meet their circumstances. Analysis must be disaggregated by sex, urban/rural, identity groups, and income bands so as to unmask the inequalities that hide behind generalised statistics.

What would such an architecture look like? Taking Candidate Goal 5 on security as an example, the box at the end of this article provides an illustration.

The achievement of a sustainable world future demands a longer-term outlook with steady and patient investment. A generation-long framework of say 25 years with periodic reviews and fine-tuning at 5-yearly intervals would counter the traditional short-termism that creates as many problems as it solves.

The MDGs 2015 deadline looms closer. The successor framework should not be handed down from above. We should ask those most affected to say what life they want to live and how they want to be enabled to live it. But for such a dialogue to be meaningful, it helps to have some specific propositions such as presented here, to test opinions on what the broad mass of reasonably-minded people want for themselves and for others less fortunate than them.

Box 1: Knowledge Gaps
An Illustration(2)

Candidate Goal 5: Security for ensuring freedom from violence

Proposed coverage: Personal actual experience of physical violence perpetrated on individuals by external actors including by state or non-state agencies, other community members, or from within the family.
Possible World Target: Reduction of violence by 50% by 2040 compared to the baseline at 2015 (Intermediate targets for five yearly intervals till 2040)

Candidate indicators:

1. Rate of direct deaths and injuries from armed conflict (internal and external)
2. Rate of direct deaths and injuries from crime
3. Rate of reported crimes (including against persons, property
4. Rate of intimate partner violence
5. Rate of persons in unlawful detention
6. Rate of persons trafficked from and into a country
7. Rate of registered gun/weapon holding in society (including civilian police agencies and any non-governmental forces, but excluding official government military forces)

National Targets and Indicators: Targets are set by each country based on its own prevalent pattern of violence. Rates would be expressed probably as per 100,000 general population, and dis-aggregated by gender, economic group, urban/rural and subnational administrative units, and minority or specific vulnerable groups - where that is appropriate.


(1) The Project is the initiative of a Consortium: Centre for International Governance Innovation in Canada, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Switzerland, Korea
(2) A menu of candidate targets and indicators for each of the 12 candidate One-World Goals, along with an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, is under research by the Project.