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As the Government moves on from the G20 and begins planning New Zealand’s role as an independent member of the Security Council, former Transparency International Chair, Huguette Labelle, draws our attention to the development of the post 2015 Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).
by Huguette Labelle
New Zealand participated with 70 other countries in a meeting convened by the United Nations in 2013 to come up with recommendations of sustainable development goals. A governance goal was included among the 17 goals and 169 targets that these countries, known as the Open Working Group, recommended in July 2014. The proposed “Goal 16”, referred to as the “Governance Goal”, calls for peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Political challenges around the meaning of the term “governance” have forced a convergence of different agendas (governance, human rights and rule of law) under one goal. But in the end, it has helped to bring together a consensus of the countries to include it in the group’s recommendations.
Without explicitly stating it, this is the governance goal that is needed. For Transparency International, the key aspect missing from the current UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which caused many of the goals to not be met, was their failure to tackle governance and corruption. Research findings by TI clearly show that high levels of corruption and poor governance in a country have negative correlation with MDG achievement, regardless of how rich or poor a country is. Proposed targets under Goal 16 include reducing corruption and bribery, curtailing illicit flows, providing public access to information and ensuring responsive, inclusive and participatory decision-making at all levels.
Yet the coming months will be critical for governments to ensure that the goal makes it through broader member state debates that are set for the UN. This is where New Zealand has a key and strategic role to play. While the process for negotiations is still being decided, expectations are that some governments will use the threat of cutting this goal as a way to achieve their strategic asks in other areas, including the financing of the agenda. Member state discussions will culminate with a post-2015 summit organized in September 2015 (Denmark and Papua New Guinea are charged with this process).
Like minded governments that want goal 16 to stay need to align their efforts during this process. This can be done by having a few countries launch a ‘friends of governance’ group to lobby for the goal among member states both at the UN and in national capitals. Also, governments need to speak out as champions on the goal and work as peer mentors to sway those that are not supportive in their region and beyond. Finally, governments need to work with civil society and companies to form a united front on the issue. The Open Government Partnership has the potential to catalyse their involvement.
Decisions of Governments over the next months will be critical to determine whether the post 2015 agenda reaches the ultimate goal of a world without poverty. Now is the time to set the agenda right and include a governance goal as an anchor of the new commitments. The question is whether a governance goal will continue to be included in the post-2015 commitments. The government of New Zealand is in a good position in this regard.
The UN has been tasked to set new global commitments to take on the challenges that have prevented development gains for all countries and people as had been promised by the MGDs in 2000.
The next 15 years for development will be decided now. Let’s ensure that all future goals are achieved by having the proposed Governance Goal.