Implementing the post-2015 agenda and setting the narrative for the future

2015 is a pivotal year for global development; this fall is a pivotal moment. Meetings this fall will determine the global vision for sustainable development for 2030.

Three papers being released today—“Action implications focusing now on implementation of the post-2015 agenda,” “Systemic sustainability as the strategic imperative for the post-2015 agenda,” and “Political decisions and institutional innovations required for systemic transformations envisioned in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda”—set out some foundational ideas and specific proposals for political decisions and institutional innovations, which focus now on the implementation of the new global vision for 2030. This blog summarizes the key points in the three papers listed below.

Fundamentals for guiding actions, reforms and decisions

1) Managing systemic risks needs to be the foundational idea for implementing the post-2015 agenda.

The key political idea latent but not yet fully visible in the post-2015 agenda is that it is not a developing country poverty agenda for global development in the traditional North-South axis but a universal agenda based on the perception of urgent challenges that constitute systemic threats.

The term “sustainable development” by itself as the headline for the P-2015 agenda creates the danger of inheriting terminology from the past to guide the future.

2) Goal-setting and implementation must be effectively linked.

The international community learned from the previous two sets of goal-setting experiences that linking implementation to goal-setting is critical to goal achievement.  G-20 leader engagement in the post-2015 agenda and linking the success of the G-20 presidencies of Turkey (2015), China (2016), and Germany (2017) would provide global leadership for continuity of global awareness and commitment.

3) Focus on the Sustainable Development Goals must be clear.

Criticism of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as being too defuse and too detailed is ill-founded and reveals a lack of political imagination. It is a simple task to group the 17 goals into a few clusters that clearly communicate their focus on poverty, access, sustainability, partnership, growth, and institutions and their linkages to the social, economic, and environmental systemic threats that are the real and present dangers.

4) There must be a single set of goals for the global system.

The Bretton Woods era is over. It was over before China initiated the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB). Never has it been clearer than now that maintaining a single global system of international institutions is essential for geopolitical reasons. For the implementation of the post-2015 agenda, all the major international institutions need to commit to them.

Proposals for political action and institutional innovations

In a joint paper with Zhang Haibing from the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies (SIIS), we make five specific governance proposals for decision-makers: 

1) Integrating the SDGs into national commitments will be critical.

The implementation of the post-2015 agenda requires that nations internalize the SDGs by debating, adapting and adopting them in terms of their own domestic cultural, institutional, and political circumstances. It will be important for the U.N. declarations in September to urge all countries to undertake domestic decision-making processes toward this end.

2) Presidential coordination committees should be established.

To adequately address systemic risks and to implement the P-2015 agenda requires comprehensive, integrated, cross-sectoral, whole-of-government approaches.  South Korea’s experience with presidential committees composed of ministers with diverse portfolios, private sector and civil society leaders provides an example of how governments could break the “silos” and meet the holistic nature of systemic threats.

3) There needs to be a single global system of international institutions.

China’s Premier Li Keqiang stated at the World Economic Forum in early 2015 that “the world order established after World War II must be maintained, not overturned.” Together with a speech Li gave at the OECD on July 1st after signing an expanded work program agreement with the OECD and becoming a member of the OECD Development Center, clearly signals of China’s intention to cooperate within the current institutional system. The West needs to reciprocate with clear signals of respect for the increasing roles and influence of China and other emerging market economies in global affairs.

4) We must move toward a single global monitoring system for development targets.

The monitoring and evaluation system that accompanies the post-2015 SDGs will be crucial to guiding the implementation of them. The U.N., the OECD, the World Bank, and the IMF have all participated in joint data gathering efforts under the International Development Goals  (IDGs) in the 1990s and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the 2000s. Each of these institutions has a crucial role to play now, but they need to be brought together under one umbrella to orchestrate their contributions to a comprehensive global data system.

5) Global leadership roles must be strengthened.

By engaging in the post-2015 agenda, the G-20 leaders’ summits would be strengthened by involving G-20 leaders in the people-centered post-2015 agenda. Systemically important countries would be seen as leading on systemically important issues. The G-20 finance ministers can play an appropriate role by serving as the coordinating mechanism for the global system of international institutions for the post-2015 agenda. A G-20 Global Sustainable Development Council, composed of the heads of the presidential committees for sustainable development from G20 countries, could become an effective focal point for assessing systemic sustainability.

These governance innovations could re-energize the G-20 and provide the international community with the leadership, the coordination, and the monitoring capabilities that it needs to implement the post-2015 agenda.