David Steven

About David Steven

David Steven is a policy analyst, strategic consultant and researcher. He is a Senior Fellow at the Center on International Cooperation (CIC) at New York University, and a Director of River Path Associates where he specialises in development policy, the 2030 Agenda, and leads on CIC's Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies programme.

The State of the World: A Report Card on International Cooperation

Guest post by Megan Roberts, associate director of the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations

Last week the Council of Councils, a global network of think tanks, released its third annual Report Card on International Cooperation and the results are not pretty. The Report Card, which surveys the heads of member think tanks to evaluate the world’s performance on ten of the most important transnational challenges, found that global efforts earned a barely passing C-, a steep drop from the B earned last year. Moreover, across the ten issue areas that the Report Card covers, only one – combatting transnational terrorism – registered an improvement over 2016.

Few who pay even passing attention to global affairs will find the results surprising. The past year saw some of the most significant shocks to international cooperation since the end of the Cold War. After Brexiteers narrowly beat out Remainers in the United Kingdom, Americans voted Donald Trump into office. The scandalous longshot in a crowded field of Republican candidates, Trump made a number of campaign pledges to withdraw the United States from international entanglements that he viewed as unfair and incompatible with his vision of ‘America First.’

Echoes of this isolationist call have been felt in subsequent elections, most recently in Marine Le Pen’s bid for the French presidency. And while liberal candidates prevailed over nativist calls this year in France and the Netherlands, there’s reason to believe that populism, far from being beaten back, has merely reached what the New York Times recently called “an awkward adolescence,” too small to win elections, yet large enough to disrupt national politics.

This matters all the more so because many of the world’s most pressing challenges cannot be stopped by borders. As the Report Card notes:

Around the world, a surge of populist nationalism poses a political challenge to globalization and calls into question continued support for multilateral institutions. At the same time, many of the most important challenges confronting governments and citizens – from economic shocks to climate change to infectious disease – are inherently transnational, crossing borders that leaders have vowed to reinforce.

Digging deeper into the ten issue areas, the Report Card reveals more pessimism. Once again, the Report Card reserves some of its poorest grades for international efforts to prevent and respond to violent conflict. Though the Report Card identifies conflict management as a high priority going forward, it is not expecting to see opportunities for breakthrough this year. In contrast, the areas that scored highest marks – mitigating and adapting to climate change, promoting global health, advancing development – were all seen as relatively lower priority areas for policymakers. In short, according to the Report Card there is little expectation for progress on important issues, where the world is already underperforming. And while there is hope for progress in areas already performing relatively better, these gains matter less.

Two issue areas – combatting transnational terrorism and promoting global trade – buck this trend in opposing directions. Despite scoring a middling grade for performance in 2016, international efforts to combat transnational terrorism ranked as both a high priority for policymakers and the top area where the Report Card expected to register progress this year as the international coalition fighting the Islamic State has rolled back significant swaths of the group’s territorial control.

Efforts to promote global trade, in contrast, received some of the Report Card’s poorest marks, as major mega-regional trade agreements failed, and the Council of Councils ranked trade as a low priority, in part because it did not see any hope for progress this year. In an environment of continued anti-trade rhetoric, the most that may be expected is that the world can avoid worst outcomes – a China-U.S. trade war, the collapse of NAFTA, orderly Brexit negotiations – but this is a low bar indeed.

To learn more about how events over the last year have shaped expectations for international cooperation in 2017, visit the Report Card on International Cooperation.

Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies: A Call to Action to Change our World

In Agenda 2030, the world’s governments expressed their determination “to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence.” They set ambitious targets for reducing all forms of violence in all countries, for ensuring access to justice for all, and for building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions.

The Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies is a group of UN member states, international organizations, global partnerships, and other partners. It is convened by the governments of Brazil, Sierra Leone, and Switzerland to build the intellectual foundations and alliances that turn the ambition of the SDG targets for peaceful, just and inclusive societies into reality.

At a retreat in November 2016 and following a series of earlier meetings, the Pathfinders made the decision to develop a roadmap for the delivery of the Agenda 2030 commitment to increasing peace, justice and inclusion. The roadmap will set out the strategies, tools, resources, and partnerships that are needed to accelerate progress.

This discussion paper explains why a roadmap is needed and sets out recommendations and options for its structure, content and use. (March 2017)

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Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies – Brief

“The new agenda recognizes the need to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies that provide equal access to justice and that are based on respect for human rights (including the right to development), on effective rule of law and good governance at all levels and on transparent, effective and accountable institutions.”

Agenda 2030 states that “there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.” The new agenda sets ambitious targets for tackling violence, insecurity and injustice, and for strengthening the governance and institutions that will underpin a more sustainable future.

The Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies is a group of UN member states, international organizations, global partnerships, and other partners. It is convened by the governments of Brazil, Sierra Leone, and Switzerland to build the intellectual foundations and alliances that turn the ambition of the SDG targets for peaceful, just and inclusive societies into reality.

This brief outlines the establishment of the Pathfinders initiative and the next steps they are taking to develop a roadmap for delivery of of the Agenda 2030 commitment to increasing peace, justice and inclusion” (March 2017)

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SDG Targets for Fostering Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies

Agenda 2030 states that “there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.” Peace is identified as one of five areas of ‘critical importance for humanity and the planet’ – along with people, prosperity, the planet, and partnership.

SDG16 is the main goal for fostering “peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence,” but the agenda includes 24 targets from seven other SDGs that are linked to this aspiration. This briefing and accompanying presentation presents in graphical format the 36 SDG16+ targets, broken into the three clusters of peaceful, just and inclusive societies; illustrates the direct links between the 12 targets from SDG16 and the rest of Agenda 2030; and sets out six reasons why we need an integrated approach to peaceful, just and inclusive societies that includes, but is broader than, SDG16 (July 2016)

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Turning Ambition into Reality – Platforms and Partnerships for Delivering Agenda 2030

Partnerships are expected to play a critical role in sharing the knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources that will support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. This report analyzes the role that global platforms and partnerships can play in catalyzing delivery of the new goals, brining together actors from multiple sectors behind a common set of objectives, enabling each other to play to their strengths and maximizing the contribution of others. (July 2016)

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From Declaration to Delivery: actioning the post-2015 agenda

This report, prepared for Save the Children, is based on the outcomes of a series of dialogues with 8 countries that have already begun exploring how to implement the post-2015 agenda. The roundtables were held in Denmark, Ghana, Mexico – with the participation of Colombia, Guatemala and Peru – Pakistan and Tanzania.

Each roundtable took the proposed Sustainable Development Goals and associated targets as their starting point, looking at examples from UN member states who have already started work on implementation.

This report identifies themes or ‘reality checks’ drawn from the roundtables to illustrate the opportunities and challenges of delivering a sustainable development agenda (June 2015)

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Time to Deliver the Post-2015 Agenda’s Promises to Children

The post-2015 agenda has a clear vision for children: the protection, survival and development of all children to their full potential. Four resonant and ambitious ‘core promises’ to children can be drawn from the child-focused goals and targets.

The core promises are:

  • No child should die from a disease we can prevent.
  • Every child should have the food needed to grow normally.
  • Every child should be able to read and write, and should be numerate.
  • No child should live in fear.

These core promises represent minimum levels of wellbeing that children must enjoy if, as adults, they are to contribute to a sustainable future. This new paper by David Steven sets out an agenda for those working to deliver the most urgent priorities to children (June 2015)

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