And they’re off….

The focus of the post-2015 world today is New York where the High-Level Panel appointed by the UN Secretary-General to provide him with advice on the post-2015 agenda has its first meeting this afternoon.  It’s the first meeting and the 26 panel members will probably spend most of the time going round the table and introducing themselves.  But should they be looking for advice, there’s no shortage of it around.

Maybe too much.  We’re still very much in ‘Christmas Tree’ territory, and it’s not clear how the long agenda that is emerging is going to be whittled down.  Essentially, the panel’s job is to prioritise between the 101 good ideas that are out there, and to tell a story explaining the decisions they have made which is convincing enough to persuade others that it’s the right way to go.

One way to do that might be to go back to thinking about what a new agreement might be for.  I wrote about this here a while ago, but the conversation has changed a bit since then.  There seem to be three (why is it always three?) ideas around:

  • The  first is closest to the current MDGs and is focused on how a post-2015 agenda can be used to push resources (both from aid and from domestic sources), innovation and political attention towards specific improvements in people’s lives.  To the existing health, education and income agenda that is central to the MDGs could be added energy provision and infrastructure, to bring the goals more into sustainable development goals territory, but the central idea is of using goals to drive extra resources to specific people, places and things.
  • The second is more ambitious, hoping to use the post-2015 agenda to solve some tricky problems in global governance - around, for example, migration, trade or even environmental agreements.  This agenda is less focused on using resources as the lever of change and more concerned about changes to rich country policies which have an impact on all of ust.  This is the ‘universal’ agenda – ambitious, necessary, but much more politically challenging.
  • The third is equally ambitious, but focused on a different target.  An emphasis on goals to deliver high-quality jobs, or to make societies more equal, both put the onus on domestic policies of developing countries (or all countries, if the goals are universal), and on tricky domestic choices and trade offs between different constituencies.  Politically, this may prove to be the hardest of all.

It’s still far from clear where we’ll end up with this.  But the panel will meet at least four more times before the final report comes out, so be assured – we can all keep talking about this for months to come.