Why Infrastructure is Key for a Transformative Post-2015 Agenda

While the specifics of the post-2015 development agenda are still being discussed, there is substantial momentum behind a “transformative” and “universal” agenda. But what does that mean? It means moving towards a renewed global partnership to promote a more inclusive and sustainable globalization with the eradication of poverty at the core. It means that all countries will have work to do, at home and globally, in creating this Globalization 2.0.

To succeed in such an ambitious objective, the post-2015 agenda will need to include action to catalyze development “enablers” - infrastructure, effective institutions, inclusive and resilient societies - which are crucial to creating environments in which every person and every country can thrive.

In December, Alastaire Alinsato and I wrote a policy paper about the needs of countries in special situations (least-developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing states). In it, we analyzed opportunities, challenges, and risks for these groups of countries and identified priorities for the post-2015 agenda that could amplify these opportunities, tackle the challenges, and mitigate the risks.

We identified infrastructure, both physical and institutional, as a cross-cutting priority for countries in special situations. An important objective of infrastructure is connectivity – to better connect individuals, especially those from traditionally marginalized groups, to the services they need to thrive; to strengthen relations between the state and society; and to integrate countries, especially developing, into the global economy.

Though the MDGs included important infrastructural targets such as sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation, the MDGs did not include many development “enablers.” As a result of this omission, there have been calls for the post-2015 development agenda to “reflect an appropriate balance of development enablers and outcomes.”

Infrastructures (as we have defined it here) have oversized positive effects on development. For example, the efficient provision of physical infrastructure is crucial to improved productivity and export growth, while access to infrastructure services plays a significant role in helping reduce income inequality. Inclusive, accountable, and effective institutions attract investment and are better able to manage risks and internal and external stress factors, such as financial and environmental shocks and conflict.

Crucially, there is also broad political support for infrastructures as defined here to be included in post-2015 (see, for example, the African regional consultations and the presentations at the fifth session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, including Africa Group, LDCs, ECOWAS, Indonesia, Vietnam, and others), though how to include them is less clear.

While the form that infrastructure will take in the post-2015 agenda is not yet clear, its inclusion crucial to moving from a traditional development agenda to a new global partnership.

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Jan 13, 2014