The Post-2015 Agenda: A Road Map for a Developing World

Editor’s Note: This blog is adapted from January 9 remarks given by

Homi Kharas at the Kapuscinski Development Lecture in Riga, Latvia

, which formally kicked off the European Year for Development 2015.

The year 2015 will be a pivotal one for international development, so it is fitting that it has been designated as the first-ever European Year of Development. The year will be punctuated by four big events: the World Education Forum in Incheon will discuss how to improve the delivery of education, which is increasingly recognized as critical to addressing many of today’s most pressing social problems; the United Nation’s third international conference on financing for development in Addis Ababa will help create more effective financial channels that can handle the sizeable investments required to place economies on low-carbon trajectories; this year’s U.N. General Assembly will convene heads of state to agree on a set of sustainable development goals for the next 15 years; and there is great anticipation that the COP21 ministerial meeting in Paris can deliver agreement on combating climate change and its impacts. 2015 provides a historic opportunity for global political consensus to be reached on the contours of sustainable development.

Three fundamental shifts from traditional approaches to development cooperation mark the post-2015 agenda. The first shift is toward leaving no one behind—providing everyone on the planet with health, education, nutrition and consumption that reach a basic minimum standard and enable them to participate in the global economy. The second shift is toward a new growth pattern that sets countries on a path toward low-carbon growth by investing in sustainable infrastructure, especially energy, and by making governments and corporations accountable for their impact on sustainable development. And the third shift is toward a better-governed globalization, with rules for investment and trade that treat all countries fairly, and incentives to prevent overexploitation of natural resources.

Every country has a role to play in each of these shifts. The post-2015 agenda is universal: it starts with every country putting its own house in order and eliminating policies that work against sustainable development, like fossil fuel subsidies, tax loopholes, and legal discrimination. It continues with making smart public investment decisions, at home and abroad. And it means doing more research and encouraging more business innovation.

If we are sufficiently bold with the post-2015 agenda, we can promise that, by 2030: every child should start life free of poverty and hunger, with access to basic services; every large business and government agency should have hardwired social and environmental sustainability into their investment decisions; and that the relevant international institutions should be fit to support sustainable development on a global scale.

What must we do to deliver on these promises? The world needs an action plan to make this vision operational. Such an action plan will have to be built upon country-specific plans to incorporate the broader elements of the sustainable development goals framework into national and even sub-national strategies and budgets. It would also have global plans to make sure that plans are adequately financed and are based on the best available technology, and that sponsor research and innovation to investigate how to do better in areas like peace, inclusiveness and resilience where countries still struggle with knowing how to move forward effectively.

Inevitably, an action plan needs to have responsibilities and resources spelled out. The post-2015 agenda hinges upon the development of a new global partnership, a new spirit of multilateralism to solve our most challenging problems. Sectoral and country-based partnerships between governments, private sector investors, philanthropies and civil society will be needed to ensure that the agenda moves beyond aid, to include policy issues ranging from regulations governing sustainable production and consumption patterns, to the sharing of tax information, and control of illicit financial flows.

We are entering a new phase of development, in which sustainable development is not just something for developing countries to attempt, but something that is critical for all economies to work toward. This transition from “the” developing world to “a” developing world must begin now. 2015 provides a window of opportunity in which international attention has coalesced around the issues of sustainable development. The four momentous international gatherings will provide political and intellectual momentum throughout the year. Together, these events offer our best chance to create a road map for a developing world.