Helen Clark: Speech on the occasion of the side event “What People Want: A report from the Global Conversation on the Post-2015 Agenda.”

Sep 23, 2013

Speech for Helen Clark, UNDG Chair and Administrator of the UNDG on the occasion of the side event “What People Want: A report from the Global Conversation on the Post-2015 Agenda.”
Key findings from: A Million Voices: The World We Want – A Sustainable Future with Dignity for All
United Nations, New York

As Chair of the UN Development Group, I am pleased to present A Million Voices: The World We Want. Launched by the UN Secretary-General and me two weeks ago, the report contains feedback from the unprecedented global conversation facilitated by the UN development system on what the post-2015 agenda should look like.

Governments and civil society partners in 88 countries worked with UN Country Teams on national consultations. Beyond that, people have variously :
•    participated in the global thematic debates – eleven in total,
•    voted in the MY World survey,
•    served on or otherwise contributed to the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel,
•    joined expert reviews, and
•    through grassroots efforts worked to engage people and lobby leaders on the agenda.
This report endeavors to do justice to the views of all who contributed.

At the UN Development Group we thank everyone who took part in the process, and our development partners who provided the funding which made this outreach possible.

From the outset, our focus was on reaching a cross section of the world’s peoples, including in particular those who live day-to-day with poverty and exclusion. We sought to reach out to those who would not always get to participate in a global policy debate – among them - indigenous peoples; children and young people; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people; entrepreneurs and small-business owners; displaced people, and people with disabilities. At all times we sought the voices of women.

In the spirit of the Millennium Declaration of 2000, this process opened the door to people from all countries and backgrounds to have a say.

More than a million people in over 190 countries responded. Now it is important that their voices are heard and reflected in a bold new global agenda. In this audience today are representatives of the member states who will negotiate the new agenda. Their willingness to be responsive to the views and perspectives of the global public is critical.

Four Main Messages
The report conveys four main messages:
1.    People want the unfinished business of the MDGs attended to now and beyond 2015.
2.    They also want a more ambitious agenda beyond 2015, which more fully reflects shared principles of equality, accountability, security, and sustainability.
3.    People want a transformational and universal agenda, which will tackle complex and interlinked challenges in an holistic way.
4.    Finally, people have made it clear that the one million voices we have heard to date are just the beginning of a new process of engagement – they want a revolution in accountability for commitments made.  
I will briefly elaborate on each finding.

(1)    The clear message is: don’t give up on the MDGs. Eradicating poverty and hunger, achieving gender equality, and improving health and education services remain foremost in people’s priorities. They want these issues to continue to be addressed directly now and in the future.  

At the same time people ask that we learn from and build on the existing goals. They call for a greater emphasis on the quality of basic services — not just access to them. It is not just the number of children in schools that matter, but what they learn. People have also expressed a clear desire to ‘raise the bar’ for the next set of goals. In education, for example, people are calling for the next framework to include early childhood and secondary education and vocational training.

The same thinking was applied to discussions on :
a)    the water MDG – the access to improved drinking water sources, which the MDG target calls for, doesn’t necessarily mean that the water available to people is fit to drink. To be healthy, people need access to safe and reliable water, and to sanitation and hygiene.
b)    the hunger MDG target – it is not enough to reduce or even eliminate chronic hunger.  To expand the capabilities of people to realize their potential, malnutrition must be confronted. The quality of the food we eat matters enormously.

(2)    The second message captured in the report was the call for more ambition in the global development agenda.  

In the 88 national consultations, people aired their frustration with inequality in all its forms, and expressed their desire for dignity and respect for all. In recognizing the multiple dimensions of poverty, they conveyed a clear sense that our world is deeply unfair, and that the dynamics of power and exclusion have left certain people, groups, and countries behind. These groups become invisible when numbers and percentages and rates of progress are reported. As one leader in Ghana noted, “I can’t very well go back and tell my village that they are seven per cent better off than they were last year.”

Thus the one million voices reflected in this report are sending a clear message that they want governments and all partners and stakeholders to work to reduce inequalities between women and men, rural and urban areas, ethnic and religious groups, rich and poor, and on all other dimensions. They make a compelling call for the empowerment and advancement of women and girls, investment in their education and health, and for ensuring that their rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights, are upheld.

Another strong call was for opportunities for decent work. People spoke of the impact of breadwinners having to leave family members behind on small plots of land, while they went elsewhere for work. They spoke of the impact on young people of a lack of work and livelihoods. People reported taking jobs — any jobs — regardless of dangerous conditions, mistreatment, or whether the job was just for a day or a few hours.  The strong message was to include decent work as a core development objective in the new framework.

In almost all countries and across the thematic discussions, people called for more honest and effective government, and for a say in the decisions which affect them. They want governments which can deliver decent public services, manage natural resources sustainably and fairly, and facilitate peace and security. Participants from every region have in the global My World survey, consistently ranked honest and responsive government among their highest priorities.

(3)    On the third key message of the report, the desire for a transformational and universal agenda, people saw the way the world is going as unsustainable. They cited the rapid onset of climate change and mismanagement of natural resources as reasons why their societies were becoming more unequal and less secure. They want environmental sustainability incorporated alongside economic and social development in the new framework.

People were well aware that addressing growing inequalities and unsustainable practices will require transformational change by all countries.

They want action on carbon emissions and all other forms of environmental degradation. They want the new agenda to be based on the universal values expressed in the Millennium Declaration – including human rights, equality, and justice. They want factors damaging the global economy, like excessive volatility, illicit financial flows, and tax havens operating with impunity, to be acted on. In this and other ways, the call is for a new agenda which reflects new realities and rises to our shared challenges.  

(4)    Finally - the accountability revolution: those taking part in the conversation want an agenda which holds governments and other actors to account for delivering on their commitments. Advances in technology on the one hand and the increased awareness of human rights on the other have made this objective much more feasible to promote than it was in 2000.

Those who took part in the conversation don’t want their engagement to stop there. They want to continue to have a say, to ensure that their views are taken into account, to monitor the real time progress in their countries, and to hold their governments accountable for results. Echoing the Secretary General’s High Level Panel, they have called for a revolution in data, - so that regularly updated, reliable, and disaggregated data is available about their communities, countries, and world.  They see a data revolution as the foundation for an accountability revolution.

Overall, people seek to continue the dynamic of the engagement triggered by the debate on post-2015. Indeed the level of participation we’ve seen could well mark the start of a new era. Greater accountability and the broad engagement of people everywhere could bring the world closer to realizing a shared vision and ambition for the new development agenda.

By listening and responding to these voices, UN Member States can chart new territory - generating the kind of public ownership which could turn the world’s aspirations into action through an agenda which is monitored and championed by the people to whom it matters most. I understand a number of UN Member States are already paving the way by drawing on the outcomes of their national consultations and global results to shape their own post-2015 positions. I welcome this, and hope that it will also inspire other nations to do the same.

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