A Tactical Playbook for Delivering the Post-2015 Agenda

Ashley Skiles

This post is adapted from What Happens Now? Time to deliver the post-2015 development agenda by Alex Evans and David Steven. The report serves as a guide for all those interested in the post-2015 debate. This blog post is a companion to the authors’ guiding principles for delivering the post-2015 agenda. Upcoming posts will address the history of the post-2015 process, key events coming up in 2015, and the political dynamics of the debate. For more detailed information and complete citations, please see the full report here.

We’ve suggested four principles for navigating the coming months of post-2015 negotiations and agenda-setting. With these overarching principles in mind, what should our tactics look like?

1. It will be essential to set clear priorities and stick to them. A huge number of issues are on the table, each with their own agendas, discussion and decision forums, technocratic ‘priesthoods’, and so on. There is no realistic prospect of a major breakthrough on all parts of the agenda. Instead, it will be necessary to focus on a small set of headlines, define what success looks like on each, and bring them together into a well-designed package that can be effectively communicated.

2. We need to be clear about how the two big set pieces – in Addis and New York – are supposed to work together. Having made the decision to have a Financing for Development (FfD) conference in advance of the September summit in New York, it makes no sense for the post-2015 agenda to steal its thunder. Moreover, if substantive means of implementation negotiations do take place as part of the post-2015 track, there will be substantially less pressure on countries to deal seriously at Addis.

3. It is essential that finance ministers attend the Addis summit, and that they show up there ready to seal a deal that prepares the way for their leaders to act in New York. Civil society groups and other opinion formers should make clear that there will be no excuses and no exceptions – and keep a public tally of which have and have not undertaken to participate. For every G20 economy, delegations should also include credible representatives from the business and financial communities; ministers or senior officials with responsibility for planning, long-term policy and so o n; and relevant sub-national leaders (e.g. mayors of major financial centers).

4. Policymakers urgently need to start looking beyond the formal outcome document from each summit. In 2002, Monterrey yielded three different kinds of outcomes:

  • First, high impact announcements, such as the US’s unveiling of the Millennium Challenge Corporation and its PEPFAR initiative on HIV and AIDS.
  • Second, a political narrative that helped to underpin longer term progress, such as decade-long aid increases or the HIPC debt relief initiative.
  • And third, planting conceptual seeds for the future – for instance in highlighting domestic resource mobilization as a key area in finance for development.
  • A similar sense of the key outcomes from Addis is now urgently needed too, with a focus on no more than four or five key elements in each of these three areas.

5. Put delivery at the heart of the narrative for both post-2015 and FfD. In part, this is about getting the high impact announcements right for both summits. For example, the FfD agenda could be brought alive through:

  • A major commitment to a package of financial support needed to accelerate progress on the Rio+20 vision to ensure the protection, survival, and development of all children to their full potential, with a focus on the most vulnerable children. This would bring together work to transition to a revised global strategy for women’s and children’s health, proposals to strengthen the Global Partnership for Education, and a new initiative to launch a partnership and fund to end violence against children.
  • A parallel set piece could bring together proposals on infrastructure and energy, offering a credible answer to the question of whether the new agenda has any levers to deliver an economic transformation. Sustainable Energy for All – the global partnership that has acted as a prototype for the new development agenda – could be re-launched in Addis and flesh put on the bones of the proposed new platform for infrastructure.
  • An initiative that tackles the nuts and bolts of how governments with limited capacity can stem illicit financial flows and collect taxes, would capitalize on the political momentum that has been generated around this issue. Again, this would back up headline commitments in the outcome document, persuading skeptical audiences that they can lead to real-world benefits for vulnerable countries.

6. It is essential to look beyond September. There is a real risk that the post-2015 process will make the same mistake as the 2005 reform agenda, when exhaustion set in following the 2005 World Summit, resulting in a crucial loss of momentum in implementing what had been agreed. On the other hand, new players are now coming in to the post-2015 agenda, with the capacity to bring fresh momentum.

Political strategies therefore need to look ahead all the way through 2016, with a delivery window to 2020. To begin with, they should start by looking at how the post-2015 agenda will be taken forward in major events next year. What will happen at G7, G20, High Level Political Forum, the World Humanitarian Summit, and so on? How will the SDGs agenda play into the selection process for the next UN Secretary-General, which will be underway in earnest next year? How will the World Bank be brought on board more seriously than it has been to date.

Publication Date: 
Apr 23, 2015
Ashley Skiles
Post 2015 Development
Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies

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