Beyond Millennium Development Goals

There need to be adequate policy and global economic space for sustainable development. The United Nations’ Post-2015 Development Agenda should not simply extend the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), or reformulate the goals, but focus instead on global systemic reforms and secure an accommodating international environment for sustainable development.

The MDGs are based on a donor-centric view of development with a focus on poverty and aid. They do not embrace a large segment of the population in the developing world, notably in middle-income countries, which fall outside the thresholds set in MDGs but still have their development aspirations unfulfilled. It would be agreed that development is much more than the sum total of MDGs or any such arbitrary collection of a limited number of specific targets.

But it is not possible to reach an international agreement on all important dimensions of economic and social development and environmental protection. Any international agreement on such specific development targets would naturally be selective, leaving out many dimensions to which several countries may attach particular importance. There is no automatic trickle down from economic growth to human and social development.

Thus, instead of focusing on selective specific targets in the areas of economic and social development and environmental protection, we should aim at creating an enabling international environment to allow each and every country to pursue developmental objectives according to their own priorities with policies of their own choice. Sustained economic growth is absolutely necessary for progress on the social front. No country has ever achieved constant improvements in living standards and human development indicators without sustaining a rapid pace of economic growth.

Social progressWithout this, progress in human and social development would naturally depend on external and domestic transfer mechanisms – that is, aid and redistribution of public spending, respectively. Since there are limits to such transfers, social progress cannot go very far without an adequate pace of income and job generation. Industrialisation is essential for reducing income, productivity, technology and skills gaps with more advanced economies since there are limits to growth and development in commodity-dependent and service economies.

We also know that there is no automatic trickle down from economic growth to human and social development. Policies and institutions are needed to translate economic growth to social development. Job creation holds the key to improvements in living standards and to human development. But economic growth is not necessarily associated with the creation of jobs at a pace needed to fully absorb the growing work force.

Thus, active policies are needed to provide secure and productive job opportunities. Equity is an important ingredient of social cohesion and development. Prevention of widened inequality in income distribution calls for intervention in market forces, targeted policies and correctives. Industrialisation and development cannot be left to market forces alone and least of all to global markets.

To succeed, developing countries need to have adequate policy space. It is necessary to reform multilateral and bilateral arrangements to allow developing countries as much economic policy space as those enjoyed by today’s advanced economies in the course of their industrialisation and development. Action is also needed at the international level in order to ease the environmental constraints over economic growth and development in developing countries and to compensate the costs inflicted on them by environmental deterioration resulting from years of industrialisation in advanced economies.

Adequate policy space and a development-friendly global economic environment call for action at the international level on several fronts: Review multilateral rules and agreements with a view to improving the policy space in developing countries; pay attention to the international intellectual property regime with a view to facilitating technological catch-up and improving health and education standards and food security in developing countries; industrial, macroeconomic and financial policies of developing countries are severely constrained by bilateral investment treaties and they need to be revised or dismantled

There is need to reform international economic governance in ways commensurate with the increased participation and role of developing countries in the global economy. Re-examine the role, accountability and governance of specialised institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation, and the role that the UN can play in global economic governance.

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