NGO air miles? Whose bright idea was THAT?

Remember a time when people went out and joined hands in the streets to demonstrate their passion about the issues they cared most about? Well, forget all that sentimental crap and get with the 21st century, my friend. These days, it’s all about the NGO airmiles.

NGO air milesThis is an excerpt from the website of the Global Citizen Festival, next weekend’s jamboree in Central Park at which Coldplay, Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, and Pearl Jam will extol the virtues of the Sustainable Development Goals. Wondering how to get hold of a ticket? Answer: you have to go on an “Action Journey” (yes, really). Once you accumulate 65 points from taking actions like the ones above, presto! – you’re entered into the lottery for tickets.

Now, call me old fashioned, but isn’t the point of mobilising people for demonstrations to show politicians clearly that said demonstrators really care about the issue in question? True, that clarity may have got a bit blurred once demonstrations started turning into free U2 gigs like Live8. But that’s nothing to the mixed messages we’re sending politicians once they start to wonder if the people tweeting them about water and sanitation are actually just after free Beyonce tickets.

Worse than that, we’re also sending people the implicit but still unambiguous message that the SDGs aren’t worth caring about in and of themselves; that we understand that of course we’ll need to throw in some freebies in order to get you to give a shit about ending poverty by 2030, or bringing today’s levels of inequality under some kind of control, or ending violence against women and kids. Seriously? Is that really our model of activism?

Why the SDGs flunk the partnership test

Among the many useful elements of this year’s OECD Development Cooperation Report on partnerships, which is out today, is a handy 10 point checklist for what makes for a successful partnership.

The list comes courtesy of Hildegard Lingnau and Julia Sattelberger, who have co-authored a summary chapter that distils lessons learned from the various contributors’ chapters (among them one by me on public-private partnerships) and from a dozen case studies that explore a range of different partnerships in practice.

And while the list can certainly provide a good basis for gauging partnerships – more rigorous quality control of which would definitely be welcome – the thing that struck me as I read it was that their ten criteria were also not a bad basis for evaluating the larger undertaking that all these partnerships are supposed to contribute to: the Sustainable Development Goals themselves and the emerging Global Partnership that they are intended to help catalyse.

So, partly humorously and partly seriously, I went through the OECD’s partnership checklist and gave the post-2015 story so far marks out of 10 on each of the checklist’s points – an exam grade, if you will, on the state of the SDG agenda. (more…)

Sustainable Development Goals: what just happened?

An interesting paragraph in the draft outcome document from Rio (which is now more or less the final draft, if media reports are to be believed):

248. We resolve to establish an inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process on SDGs [i.e. Sustainable Development Goals] that is open to all stakeholders with a view to developing global sustainable development goals to be agreed by the United Nations General Assembly. An open working group shall be constituted no later than the opening of the 67th session of the UNGA and shall comprise of thirty representatives, nominated by Member States through the five UN regional groups with the aim of achieving fair, equitable and balanced geographic representation. At the outset, this open working group will decide on its method of work, including developing modalities, to ensure the full involvement of relevant stakeholders and expertise from civil society, the scientific community and the UN system in its work in order to provide a diversity of perspectives and experience. It will submit a report to the 68th session of the UNGA containing a proposal for sustainable development goals for consideration and appropriate action.

Question: if the General Assembly sets up its own working group on SDGs this September, to report back to its 2013 session, then where exactly does that leave the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on the post-2015 agenda (see this earlier GD post), covering exactly the same agenda and working over exactly the same timescale?

If I’m reading this right, then it looks a lot like the G77 reasserting its place in the driving seat on post-2015 and signalling its dissatisfaction over the Panel (the G77 is deeply suspicious of High Level Panels set up by the SG at the best of times, seeing them as an illegitimate means of circumventing the General Assembly’s decision-making role).

If so, then it doesn’t make the political context for the post-2015 agenda look terribly auspicious. G77 / developed country relations are in terrible shape to start with on numerous fronts, especially where sustainable development is concerned. If we now have two rival processes attempting to frame the post-2015 agenda, then the chances of a major dust-up over flashpoint issues like “sustainable production and consumption” or “common but differentiated responsibilities” just went up several notches. The MDGs’ clarity of focus on poverty reduction could be a very early casualty of such a dust-up.