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Wednesday 19th December 2012
The MDGs are expiring; what principals will guide the development agenda now?
Contributor: Samir Jeraj

With all eyes on Doha in the past weeks and moves to create a new international agreement on climate change to replace Kyoto, we should not forget the other international framework that is being replaced. Namely, the Millennium Development Goals, a set of targets and measures which have shaped international development policy from 2000 until 2015. Many of the targets have been missed, but most have shown progress, and some have shown significant progress.

It was in September last year that the international community started to realise that they should be looking at what should replace the MDGs after 2015. This is no easy task – the MDGs took nearly a decade to come to fruition. There was heavy lobbying around the agenda and the targets, with women’s rights and climate change being two major areas of disagreement.

What will happen now is that a panel of 26 members will prepare a report for publication in May 2013 for the UN Secretary-General. This 'high-level panel' will be collectively chaired by David Cameron, Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, of Indonesia. Meetings started in October 2012. The report will set out a vision and outline how to build a broad consensus on an ambitious but achievable development agenda post-2015 around the themes of economic growth, social equality and environmental sustainability.  

The favoured proposal on the table is to merge the MDGs with a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These SDGs were launched at the Rio+20 conference earlier this year with the intention of 'building on the MDGs and converging with the post-2015 agenda'. The SDGs proposals, sponsored by Guatemala and Colombia, list some key areas for the goals including:

 - Combating Poverty

 - Changing Consumption Patterns

 - Promoting Sustainable Human Settlement Development

 - Biodiversity and Forests

 - Oceans

 - Water Resources

 - Advancing Food Security

 - Energy, including from renewable sources

So what is the role for resilience in the post-2015 agenda?

In a think piece contributing to the debate on the SDGs, the UN System Task Team state that “Disaster risk and resilience received insufficient emphasis in the original Millennium Development Goal agenda, despite the relationship between disasters and development.” 

It notes that the number of vulnerable people has outstripped population growth since 1970. Whereas population has risen around 92% since 1970, “the proportion of people living in flood-prone river basins increased by 114 per cent and on cyclone-exposed coastlines by 192 per cent. More than half of the world's large cities, with populations ranging from 2 to 15 million, are located in areas of high earthquake risk.

Together with the impact of climate change on the severity and frequency of extreme weather, resilience is a significant challenge to any post-2015 development agenda. The report estimates that since 2000 1.1 million people have died due to natural hazards and over 2.7 billion people have been affected. These natural hazards have also led to the loss of $1.3 trillion.

The proposal from the authors is a straightforward goal, targets and indicators, as with the current MDGs:

Goal: To reduce risk and build resilience to disasters for all

Targets:

- Target 1: Nations to halve disaster mortality by 2030

- Target 2: Nations to halve disaster related economic loss by 2030

- Target 3: All nations to develop a national disaster risk reduction and resilience plan by 2020

Indicators:

- Indicator 1.1: Crude mortality rate (disaster deaths by 1000 inhabitants)

- Indicator 2.1: Direct economic losses as percentage of GDP

- Indicator 3.1: National disaster risk reduction and resilience plans adopted and referenced in national development plans

Dr Tom Mitchell at the Overseas Development Institute in Brighton published a paper [Link to PDF] with a number of detailed different proposed goals and targets. The UNDP is also facilitating online discussions on resilience and the post-2015 development agenda.

The short period of time between the convening of the high-level panel and publication of the report (first draft expected in March 2013), risks creating an agenda which essentially is just a follow-on from the MDGs without the necessary reflection on the processes, successes and failures. There is also a risk that haste will mean that more controversial issues like human rights will be left off the final agenda.

During the original MDG negotiations, women’s rights (especially reproductive rights) were very nearly sidelined after heavy lobbying of developing countries from socially conservative countries and their allies in civil society (David Hulme's paper 'The Making of the Millennium Development Goals' [link to PDF]).

It does look like resilience will be included in some form in the post-2015 agenda. But the devil will be in the detail and civil society groups will need to be on the ball when the first report is published in March to make sure that what is there is workable.

 

For more on what to expect from the sustainable development goals click here.

Samir Jeraj is a Green Party City Councillor in Norwich where he is currently the deputy leader of the opposition. He has worked in local government and the voluntary sector, and recently completed an MA in Development Studies focusing on the rise of the far right in India.

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