Post-2015 development agenda must focus on equality – UN experts

21 May 2013

United Nations independent experts today called on countries to ensure the post-2015 development agenda focuses on equality, social protection and accountability, noting that one billion people around the world are still living in poverty.

“The rise of inequality has severely undermined the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs,” the independent experts said in their message to Member States which will meet this week in New York to discuss how to a shape a new set of global development goals for the period after the 2015 deadline of the MDGs.

“Development targets that pay no attention to which groups are being left behind are just like economic growth targets – they can be met without having any real impact on ensuring a more equal and just world,” they added.

The experts stressed that as the 2015 deadline approaches, countries must not forget that one billion are still hungry and that poverty is still rife across the world.

“Future goals must be sensitive to who benefits and at whose expense, and must go beyond blunt, aggregate targets that allow us to pick the ‘low-hanging fruit’ and ignore the most vulnerable groups, while leaving systemic injustices untouched,” they said.

Agreed by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, the eight MDGs set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and the creation of a Global Partnership for Development.

Over the next three days, the UN Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals will meet to discuss the contours of a set of post-2015 targets to succeed the MDGs.

The experts called for the post-2015 agenda to include stand-alone goals to eliminating inequalities, a goal on the provision of social protection floors, and a double accountability mechanism to hold countries responsible for their commitments at a national and international level.

“Political commitments are a stepping stone towards the fulfilment of legally binding human rights, and should therefore be as universal and ambitious as possible,” they said.

“Inequality itself often triggers social problems that further marginalize groups that are left behind and neglected, while unequal access to wealth allows runaway resource use by the wealthy, leading to environmental degradation and climate change, whose impacts fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable,” the experts said, noting that the richest 1 per cent of the world’s population own 40 per cent of global assets, while the bottom half holds just 1 per cent of global wealth.

The experts underlined that social protection is indispensable to tackle inequalities and ensure that the post-2015 agenda leaves no group, community or region behind.

“As many as 80 per cent of families today have no access to social protection, despite clear evidence that social protection systems can contribute significantly to reducing poverty, creating social cohesion, realizing human rights and protecting people from shocks such as food price spikes,” the experts said, adding that establishing social protection floors should be a priority of the post-2015 agenda.

The experts also urged States to establish independent monitoring bodies with civil society and public participation to ensure that the next round of commitments made at the global level are fulfilled.

“Progress should also be monitored on an international level by existing intergovernmental institutions in a process similar to the Universal Periodic Review system employed, since 2007, by the UN Human Rights Council,” they said.

The group of experts consists of:

  • Verene Sheperd from the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent;
  • Alfred de Zayaz, Independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order;
  • Magdalena Sepúlveda, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights;
  • and Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

It also includes

  • Cephas Lumina, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights;
  • Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression;
  • and Anand Grover, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
  • Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers;
  • François Crépeau, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants;
  • Pablo De Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; and
  • Puvan J. Selvanathan, Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises are also part of the group.

Participants also include

  • Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences;
  • Catarina de Albuquerque, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation;
  • Kamala Chandrakirana, Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; and
  • Surya Prasad Subedi, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia.


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