PoliticsNews & AnalysisAfrica in 2014: African voices in the development debate


Posted on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 16:23

Africa in 2014: African voices in the development debate

Maternal and child mortality are two targets of the MDGs. Photo©Jan GRARUP/LAIF-REAOne of the chief criticisms of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the United Nations (UN) anti-poverty targets that include reducing child mortality by two-thirds and halving the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 per day by 2015 – was that they were drawn up without consulting African countries.


As the 2015 deadline fast approaches and discussions have turned to the post-MDG agenda, African countries are working hard to ensure their voices are heard this time.

The January 2014 African Union (AU) summit should allow leaders to reach an agreement on a common position, which will determine the stance African countries will take in the final post-MDG negotiations due to begin in earnest at the UN in early 2015.

The adoption of the common position will be the culmination of more than two years of consultations led by the AU, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Development Bank and the UN Development Programme.

Discussions are now centred around five priority areas: structural economic transformation and inclusive growth; science, technology and innovation; people-centred development; environmental sustainability and natural disaster management; and financing and partnerships.

The AU appointed Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as head of a 10-member committee to oversee the process.

It must whittle down the list to one or two key issues before presenting its decision to leaders in January.

Johnson Sirleaf has suggested that peace and security should take precedence.

Carlos Lopes, the executive secretary of UNECA, argues there can be no development without economic transformation.

Employment creation and social protection are essential, according to Lazarous Kapambwe, special adviser to the chair of the AU Commission.

"There are no-brainers which are common to every country," says Aida Opoku-Mensah, Lopes's special adviser on the post-2015 agenda.

"But when it comes to certain areas like economic transformation, for instance, there is a mindset: those countries that are doing well, that have experienced economic growth, are bolder. Those that aren't really doing so well are the ones that are holding back."

However, Opoku-Mensah insists negotiators are building a consensus around the importance of inclusive economic growth.

This is mirrored at the international level, according to Arancha González, executive director of the International Trade Centre.

She says two issues need further discussion: the role of trade – in particular value addition – and the role of small and medium-sized enterprises.

"We have to make sure that the [economic] growth dimension doesn't come as an afterthought," she says.

There is concern that the 2012 Rio+20 conference's list of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has complicated the post-2015 debate.

Gunilla Carlsson, a member of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon's high-level post-2015 panel, tells The Africa Report that there is a danger that the two tracks – the SDGs and the post-2015 development agenda – could harm each other.

"We have to have an integrated agenda," she stresses.

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