Conference to refocus post-2015 development agenda on poorest nations' priorities

News, 27 January 2014
New 'sustainable development goals' for all nations to adopt in 2015 could deepen problems in the least developed countries (LDCs) if they fail to take account of these nations' priorities and the international nature of challenges they face.

Wilton Park is the venue for a conference on sustainable development goals from January 29-31 (Photo: Wilton Park)

So say the organisers of a high-level meeting this week that will enable frank and open dialogue between, on one hand, those in the political process of setting the goals and, on the other, those in LDCs who will need to implement the goals if they are to have any impact.

The meeting, on 29-31 January at Wilton Park, has been organised by IIED and the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS).

It will bring together politicians, diplomats, civil servants and representatives of UN agencies, research institutions and non-governmental organisations to explore how the needs of the LDCs can be put at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda. The delegates will include members of the LDC Independent Expert Group, which has published a new position paper to coincide with the meeting.

The UN aims to enable agreement on a single set of universal goals. It is inevitable that tensions will arise at the negotiating table, but until now the post-2015 conversation has been dominated by the UN development agencies and New York-based diplomats tasked with drawing up the goals.

"There is a danger of these agencies steamrolling ahead with their own agendas, while drowning out the voices of countries that will be most heavily impacted by the new goals," says Tom Bigg, head of partnerships at IIED. "The process has assumed – wrongly – that all nations share the same set of values and it has failed to demonstrate what's in it for the LDCs."

The views of the LDCs should be central to the debate. As deprived nations that are vulnerable to environmental threats, they are among the biggest stakeholders in the process, with the most to lose. Yet, as a paper IIED published this week shows, there is little evidence of strong LDC perspectives in the process so far.

The meeting at Wilton Park comes at a crucial time as the post-2015 process will soon move from general discussion to formal negotiations. It will give LDC representatives an open floor to challenge assumptions and push their case for a set of development goals that will tackle the real issues that hinder their development

These include unsustainable consumption in industrialised countries, exposure to climate change threats created beyond their borders, and access to food, water and sanitation – all of which directly impact the lives of their citizens.

"Having witnessed the positives and negatives of the Millennium Development Goals, the LDCs have first-hand understanding of what is needed in a post-2015 world," says Bigg. "They are in a strong position to take a lead in the debate, but until now their views have been too marginal to challenge the UN thinking that has settled into a comfortable groove focused around aid, technology transfer and capacity building. There is a danger that these elements will occupy centre stage and dominate the negotiations to the exclusion of newer, equally important issues."

"The LDCs need to capitalise on this precious opportunity for off-the-record, frank conversations," says Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, in Bangladesh. "This is a chance to lay bare to key influencers the real issues that will impact their development, and to probe and challenge those agencies who are dominating the conversation."

"It is in the interests of the LDCs to have an integrated set of goals that make demands of the richer nations to address ways their consumption patterns and use of natural resources affect poverty and people's vulnerability to a changing climate," says Huq. "It is vital that they use this meeting to push their biggest priorities with strength, conviction and leadership to steer the agenda in their direction."

Download the conference papers:

Transforming global development: An LDC perspective on the post-2015 agenda

Convergence and contention: The Least Developed Countries in post-2015 debates

Read more about IIED's work on the post-2015 'sustainable development goals'

Contacts for interviews:

Tom Bigg (tom.bigg@iied.org)

Saleemul Huq (Saleemul.huq@iied.org)

Contact

Teresa Corcoran
Press officer

International Institute for Environment and Development
80-86 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8NH, UK.
Tel: +44 (0)20 3463 7399
Fax: +44 (0)20 3514 9055

Email: teresa.corcoran@iied.org
www.iied.org

Notes to editors

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent, non-profit research institute. Set up in 1971 and based in London, IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development (see: www.iied.org).

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