As we approach the UN high-level summit in September to review implementation of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals, we have an unprecedented opportunity to put in place the policies and resources needed to tackle global poverty and build a safer and more secure world for all its citizens.
The UN Secretary-General’s report published last month, “In Larger Freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all”, is an ambitious yet achievable agenda to tackle the inter-related challenges of poverty, security and human rights, as well as to reform the UN system. This report forces the development community to recognise that at two levels, a conceptual and a practical one, development, security and human rights are inter-linked. At a conceptual level the links have become evident and perhaps best expressed in the term “human security,” where in today’s world rich and poor are very vulnerable: a New Yorker to terrorism, an Africa villager to the ravages of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. But the threats are not segregated. Neither HIV/AIDS nor terrorism discriminates between rich and poor. And a development or a security strategy will founder if it does not rest on full respect of human rights.
At a practical level these three issues comprise a package of reforms that the Secretary-General has prepared for world leaders which have clear linkages. For example, the report suggests that commitments to ODA be among the criteria for Security Council membership - so there are clear incentives for the development community to concern itself with some of the broader issues raised in the report over the next few months.
As the Secretary-General has made clear, if we are to build a world in which people are able to live free from want, as well as free from fear and a life lived in dignity, it will require action by both developed and developing countries. The Secretary-General has called for every developing country to adopt a comprehensive national strategy bold enough to achieve the MDGs by 2015, to mobilize all its resources behind that strategy, as well as to improve its governance, support the rule of law and tackle corruption. And he has asked every developed country to support those strategies by increasing the amount spent on development and debt relief, and by taking action to reform world trade.
At the same time as it is clear that an immediate scale up in development assistance is critical if the MDGs are to be achieved by the 2015 deadline, it is equally the case that urgent steps need to be taken to increase the quality, transparency and accountability of ODA. Today, this is a common agenda shared by the UN and other multilateral institutions, and by developing and donor countries alike, as demonstrated in the recent Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, where ministers agreed to take comprehensive and measurable actions to reform the ways aid is delivered and managed.
In securing this global deal between the developing and developed world, to build one world of shared prosperity and security, donor countries have specifically been asked in the Secretary-General’s report to set timetables and monitorable targets for aligning their aid delivery mechanisms with partner country systems around MDG-based national strategies.
The United Nations, through its operational country based agencies has an important role to play in this changing aid architecture. While our contribution may not be that of a traditional donor, the UN is uniquely placed to facilitate the convening of all stakeholders, to help to manage negotiations, to provide solid, evidence-based policy advice with a legitimacy based on the UN's international experience, normative and human rights-based work and access to best practice, and to help build the capacity of national actors in their vital ownership and management roles in realising the MDGs.
We have a unique opportunity to be part of the gathering momentum this year to break the back of extreme poverty and insecurity in our world. It is an opportunity none of us can afford to miss.
Mark Malloch Brown is Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and Chief of Staff to the United Nations Secretary-General.