2 February 2014

The world of tomorrow: the worrying vision of the High-Level Panel of eminent persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda

The UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel of eminent persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, presented their report “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development” to the public in September 2013.

Co-chaired by the Indonesian and Liberian Presidents and the British Prime Minister, and with members such as the President of Unilever and a former Director-general of the French aid agency (AFD), the panel report is quite revealing of the world that is being prepared for us.

Behind the statements made by the Panel that «[its] vision and [its] responsibility are to end extreme poverty in all its forms in the context of sustainable development and to have in place the building blocks of sustained prosperity for all», the group gives us a worrying vision of the world of tomorrow.

The report starts with all the politically correct statements:

  1. Extreme poverty must be eradicated by 2030 and there is a need to go beyond the Millennium Development Goals to reach the very poorest and most excluded people

  2. There is a need to develop good governance and institutions that guarantee the rule of law and free speech

  3. There is a need to better integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental) and promote sustainable patterns of consumption and production.

These are statements that one can hardly criticise!

To do all this, the Panel proposes what they call five big, transformative shifts:

  1. Leave no one behind

  2. Put sustainable development at the core

  3. Transform economies for more jobs and more inclusive growth.This entails a rapid shift to sustainable patterns of consumption and production

  4. Build peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all

  5. ‘‘Forge a new global partnership’’ that ‘‘should be based on a common understanding of our shared humanity, underpinning mutual respect and mutual benefit in a shrinking world’’. Partners identified for this endeavour include governments (central and local), people living in poverty, those with disabilities, women, civil society and indigenous and local communities, traditionally marginalised groups, multilateral institutions, local and national government, the business community, academia and private philanthropy.

This is the moment when the report starts to unveil its project. One can see, behind the proposed partnership, the main features of a world where the big players are governments (considered as benevolent for their population) and international organisations (their tools), the private sector (businesses as well as foundations), civil society (mainly NGOs and associations to whom is given the role of ‘conscience’ and control of public authorities - what happened to representative democratic processes and political movements?), the academic world and, lastly, individuals. There is no mention of the social and solidarity-based economy, of economic groupings and cooperatives which had however been celebrated in 2012; same goes for political organisations and, more generally, for political action. Individuals are left to themselves, their hope being that NGOs and associations would eventually support their interests with government. The ‘‘democracy’’ proposed is based on the Internet, the better-off being will have a chance to take part in discussions on social networks, participate in crowdsourcing to let their ‘‘partners’’ know their ‘‘needs’’. The economic organisation depicted in the report is also quite revealing: it is characterised by a mass of small and medium size enterprises, and large groups that orchestrate the economy, «allow all people to connect to the modern economy» and «link microenterprises and small entrepreneurs with larger markets», and «address the needs of poor consumers

People are therefore indeed placed at the centre of this global partnership as individual producers and consumers left to the market, but not as citizens, the political dimension being entirely overshadowed by the economic dimension and hidden behind the politically correct concept of governance.

This new world and this partnership can already been seen operating in the framework of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition the negative results of which have already been discussed here. The principle of this Alliance has also been accepted by the members of the African Union who met last week at the XXIInd African Union Summit, although, in this case, parliamentarians and farmer organisations were clearly mentioned as active members of the dialogue and participatory process, leaving some space for the political dimension.

And who will finance development in this new world that is being prepared for us?

Official Development Aid will be diminishing and limited to a role of support to the private sector who will be the main source of finance for investment in poor countries: this is already happening, for example, with the implementation of blending, a financial tool used by the European Union. The report explains: «the most important source of long-term finance will be private capital, coming from major pension funds, mutual funds, sovereign wealth funds, private corporations, development banks, and other investors». It continues: «The money is there – world savings this year will likely be over $18 trillion – and sponsors of sustainable projects are searching for capital. [...] These private capital flows will grow and become less prone to sudden surges and stops, if the global financial system is stable and well regulated», without however making any proposal on the type of regulation that would be required... The authors of the report, although they advocate for a swift reduction of tax evasion, did not think of taxing these huge world savings and use part of the mass of money generated to fund investments in a way that would avoid poor countries and their resources to become dependent on multinationals and pension funds based in rich countries! The point of view adopted by the report is so much rich country-based that the authors did not hesitate to take a loaf of bread as symbol for the combat against hunger!

As for agriculture, the report does not put forward any innovation, although it advocates for innovation in all other sectors: the future of agriculture is, according to the report

  1. in irrigation - even though there will soon be a shortage of water in the world, that irrigation is increasingly expensive to develop and has been a source of inequality and exclusion in the past [read The ‘‘all-out irrigation’’ strategy has led to a fragile, wasteful and inegalitarian system] -

  2. and fertilisers and pesticides - despite the commitment made to move to a more sustainable development.

  3. Nothing is said on what should be done with agricultural subsidies - a contentious topic and a source of unfair competition and unsustainable practices - and particularly not on subsidies on agrofuels, the production of which being nevertheless briefly mentioned as a source of increased demand for agricultural commodities.

The wheels are turning and the process has started to reflect in official texts and generalise the new approach to development that has started to be implemented in different parts of the world. The balance of power has changed on board of the drunken boat of development, and it is now ready to take a new direction.

Is there still time to stop it and have a Post-2015 Development Agenda that is more favourable to the 3.5 billion poorest people of the world and not just the continuation of the process that has led to 1% of the world population owning almost half of the world’s wealth?

Nothing could be less certain.


Do not forget to sign the petition: Hunger, crime against humanity


Last update:    February 2014

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