Photo: UN Photo/Mark Garten
A New Global Partnership: The High-Level Panel Publishes its Report
Last July, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, brought together a High-Level Panel to advise on the development framework that should replace the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015. The group delivered its much-anticipated report at the end of last week, “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies Through Sustainable Development”.
One of the striking things about the report is that while only two of the 27 members of the panel were from the private sector – Paul Polman (CEO of Uniever) and Better Maina (CEO of Kenya’s Association of Manufacturers) – the voice of the private sector appears to have been included strongly in the mix.
I’m sure this is thanks in no small part to the efforts of Paul Polman and Unilever to organise an extensive business outreach. Business Fights Poverty was one of several networks engaged in the development of co-ordinated input into the discussions (you can read the final joint letter here). For a summary of the Unilever-supported business consultation, click here.
The High-Level Panel’s report itself is well written and coherently argued, with the right mix of ambition and realism. The Panel identifies five big transformation shifts: leaving no one behind, with a shift from reducing to ending extreme poverty, in all its forms; putting sustainable development at the core, with an integrated approach to social, economic and environmental action; transforming economies to drive jobs and growth; building peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all; and forging a new global partnership to deliver all of this. The Report also provides an illustrative set of 12 goals and 54 targets.
Speaking at the launch of the High-Level Panel report in New York on 31 May, Paul Polman described business as “a critical enabler of inclusive economic growth and job creation which are key to unlocking human potential and reducing poverty”. This is a sentiment that is reflected repeatedly in the Report. Here are a couple of my highlights.
Jobs and Enterprise
One of the key weaknesses of the MDGs was their failure to reflect the priority that poor people around the world place on getting a job or growing a business. In contrast, the High-Level Panel says that “the first priority must be to create opportunities for good and decent jobs and secure livelihoods, so as to make growth inclusive and ensure that it reduces poverty and inequality.” It recognises the critical importance of creating employment opportunities for young people, including through the education, training and skills they need to be successful in the job market.
As the Report notes, “jobs and opportunities expand when the market economy expands and people find their own ways to participate…This means enabling new businesses to start up and creating the conditions for them to develop and market new products, to innovate and respond to emerging opportunities”.
The Panel says that “we should make it easier for people to invest, start-up a business and to trade”. The policy prescriptions include putting in place “a stable environment that enables business to flourish”, alongside policies to accelerate growth: “infrastructure and other investments, skills development, supportive policies towards micro, small and medium sized enterprises, and the capacity to innovate and absorb new technologies, and produce higher quality and a greater range of products.” The Report also pays attention the importance of boosting agriculture to support food security.
One of the 12 proposed goals is “to create jobs, sustainable livelihoods and equitable growth”, with specific targets suggested around increasing the number of “good and decent jobs and livelihoods”, as well as increasing new start-ups and value added from new products by “creating an enabling business environment and boosting entrepreneurship”. This would be a step-change improvement on the current MDGs.
The Report takes a refreshingly constructive approach to business engagement, and the need to include business as a partner in meeting the new development goals. The Panel argues that “perhaps the most important transformative shift is towards a new spirit of solidarity, cooperation, and mutual accountability that must underpin the post-2015 agenda...Each priority area identified in the post-2015 agenda should be supported by dynamic partnerships.”
Business is seen as “an essential” partner, with SMEs creating most of the jobs needed, and big companies linking smaller ones into larger markets; helping build modern infrastructure; and by innovating and scaling business models that work for sustainable development and meet the needs of poor consumers.
The report references the fact that many companies recognise that to be trusted partners, “they need to strengthen their own governance mechanisms and adopt 'integrated reporting', on their social and environmental impact as well as financial performance".
The HLP Report is one in the numerous inputs that will inform the final Post-2015 agenda (read this blog for a good overview of the other processes underway). To my mind, the report has put a useful marker in the ground – highlighting some of the issues that really matter, and the importance of cross-sector partnerships in delivering on the agenda (in contrast the state-to-state focus of the MDGs). The Panel’s perspectives on business are refreshingly balanced and constructive.
Paul Polman, in his remarks at the Report launch, said, “The social and environmental challenges confronting the world are too vast and too complex for any one government or one company – however large or powerful they might be – to solve alone. To make progress we will have to find new models for global partnerships… This requires business to play its part in building truly transformational partnerships with governments and civil society”.
Let’s hope that as we move closer to the end of process, this clarity of vision is retained.
 (i) end poverty; (ii) empower girls and women and achieve gender equality; (iii) provide quality education and lifelong learning; (iv) ensure healthy lives; (v) ensure food security and good nutrition; (vi) achieve universal access to water and sanitation; (vii) secure sustainable energy; (viii) create jobs, sustainable livelihoods and equitable growth; (ix) manage natural resource assets sustainably; (x) ensure good governance and effective institutions; (xi) ensure stable and peaceful societies; and (xii) create a global enabling environment and catalyse long-term finance.