The High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda held its final meeting this week in New York before its much-anticipated report will be presented to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In a final effort to influence the panel’s recommendations, IWHC worked with partners on two statements outlining what we believe the global development agenda must include to be a success: deep and measurable commitments to gender equality and women’s rights, human rights for all, and justice.
The Millennium Development Goals, set to expire in 2015, helped to focus development investments on critical human needs, resulting in the massive scale-up of efforts that have improved the lives of many, such as maternal health care, vaccinations, HIV treatment, and access to education. However, the MDGSs failed to address the reasons why large numbers of people live in poverty, experience inequality, or suffer from hunger or preventable illness and deaths, in the first place. Without addressing the root causes of these injustices, efforts to eliminate them will not succeed.
For these reasons, it is essential that the post-2015 development agenda address unjust and unequal distributions of power, money, and resources; stigma, discrimination, and social marginalization, and the failures of governance and accountability at both the national and global levels that leave certain groups of people behind, particularly women and young people.
The most pervasive of all inequalities is gender inequality. Women and girls, no matter where they live, are subject to various forms of discrimination and social barriers that limit their ability to exercise their human rights, engage on an equal basis in society, exercise leadership, and benefit from development. Yet, the equality and participation of women and girls in all of their diversity are key drivers of development and social change, both of which are critical for achieving the “world we want.”
IWHC joins UN Women and other women’s organizations in calling for a specific goal to achieve gender equality and the full realization of women’s human rights. This goal must focus on the kind of structural interventions that lead to lasting change: guaranteeing their sexual and reproductive rights and ensuring universal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services; ending all forms of violence against women and girls, including early and forced marriage; and ensuring women’s economic rights and leadership. Adolescent girls must be given particular attention—if they do not have the capacity to develop to their full potential, then all of these efforts will be in vain. But one goal is not enough: a commitment to women’s rights and gender equality must be embedded throughout the framework, as described in Gender Equality and Women’s and Girls’ Rights in the Post-2015 Framework.
Underpinning the success of the entire post-2015 agenda will be the promotion and protection of human rights for all. As described in our joint statement, human rights provide a powerful framework for action and accountability that would move the post-2015 agenda from “a model of charity to one of justice.” It would require a focus on eliminating all forms of discrimination; meeting the needs of the most marginalized and excluded; and ensuring minimum levels of economic, social, and cultural rights for all, such as health care, food, education, and shelter, without regression in times of crisis. And critically, a framework built on human rights would empower people to hold governments accountable.
The report from the High Level Panel, which will be released at the end of this month, will be an important contribution into the process of defining what the Post-2015 Development Agenda will look like between now and 2015. UK Prime Minister David Cameron, one of the panel’s three co-chairs, said on Wednesday that “we need to tackle the causes of poverty, not just the symptoms.” Focusing on women’s and girls’ rights and human rights will do just that. We can’t afford anything less if the post-2015 development agenda is to drive the kind of transformative change that women and girls are looking for.