The Secretary General’s Open Working Group has been in session for over a year now, and in March produced a compilation of 19 ‘focus areas’, which is an excellent basis for its formulation of prototype Sustainable Development Goals over the next few weeks. 19 is almost certainly too many for the Goals – 10 is a better number to aim for, and there has already been some reduction by amalgamation. OWG members will probably be reluctant to leave anything out altogether, since the battle has already been long and hard! So this means finding ways of combining and including more focus areas into fewer goals, so that it can present to the Secretary-General a structure which is convincing and intuitive, but also neat and memorable – and so capable of mobilising support from individuals, civil society, the media and governments over the period necessary to implement the measures. Table 2 below produces such a structure – of 10 goals.
The 2014-15 Chronic Poverty Report has a proposal for a Poverty Eradication Goal which should help the OWG achieve a smaller number of goal areas. This goal is formulated in terms of tackling chronic poverty, stopping impoverishment and sustaining escapes from extreme poverty – three dynamic objectives necessary and sufficient to achieving the goal. This is the zero poverty tripod (Figure 1). Sustaining escapes from poverty provides a clear link to the sustainable development agenda – it cannot be done without environmentally sustainable forms of development. It also raises the issue of inter-generational equity, as the escapes of the current generation cannot be at the expense of future generations if escapes are sustained.
At the General Assembly’s full day of debate about Poverty Eradication, Social Protection and Employment in the post-2015 development framework on 23rd May, 30 delegates representing many more countries (the Bolivian representative spoke for the G77 + China; the EU rep for its 28 member states) stood up to endorse the idea that these three areas were strongly inter-related and that both employment and social protection are critical aspects of eradicating poverty – which all agreed should remain the central goal of the framework.
My presentation in this session is here. It argues that a poverty eradication goal should be formulated in terms of the poverty tripod, and the details left to each member state to work out – since the emphasis on one target or another will be context and time specific: some countries will need to stop impoverishment more intensively than sustain escapes from poverty, at least for a period of time, for example; while others will need to tackle chronic poverty first and foremost, depending on the nature of poverty dynamics and the character of national politics. This flexibility might be welcomed by some – for example the G77 and China.