The UN High Level Panel met for the Fourth time in Bali. Their post-meeting communiqué articulated the need for a ‘people-centred and planet-sensitive development agenda which is recognised through equal partnership of all stakeholders’. It says that this ‘partnership should be based on the principles of equity, sustainability, solidarity, respect for humanity and shared responsibilities in accordance with respective capabilities.’ Significant emphasis was put on the need to ensure sustainable production and sustainable consumption. It also seems that the panel is heading towards a universal framework in which the agreement relates to all countries. These statements of intent are encouraging, but little is yet know about the detail of what they will actually propose.
One of the areas that the communiqué clearly articulates is a vision to end extreme poverty. We are encouraged by the focus on the very poorest, but the issue of inequalities was substantively missing from the HLP communiqué. 83% of participatory research projects in the What Matters Most synthesis raised inequalities as an issue. We hope that this will be clear and up front in the final High Level Panel report to the UN Secretary General.
One of the strongest calls from CSOs in both Monrovia and Bali – led in particular by those advocating for people with disabilities and older people -has been for disaggregated data. We know that the poorest and most marginalised aren’t being reached, but it is difficult to challenge this without strong evidence. This is one area in which it is clear that the panel has listened to CSO representation. More broadly the communiqué referred to the need for a ‘data revolution’ highlighting the ‘availability, quality and timeliness of baseline data’ and monitoring and evaluation at all levels, from planning to implementation. We have argued for embedding local participation in the conception, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all development programmes. In the communiqué, the panel calls for investments in capacity to support monitoring and evaluation that will inform decision-making, update priorities and ensure accountability. Capacity development must extend to those most marginalised to ensure they are included in decision-making and accountability processes.
In our two-hour workshop with the panel in Monrovia in February 2013, one of the six agreed outcomes for a development agenda was the need for ‘ownership at all levels’. Encouragingly, this was the wording in the Bali HLP communiqué. What we need now is for them to be explicit that this includes local ownership, which will only be achieved through extensive local participation.
The communiqué talks about the importance of governance at global, national, and sub-national levels. One of the central messages of the Participate report was that governance is crucial to ensuring access to infrastructure, services, support and opportunities for those that don’t have access, and that bad governance re-enforces poverty for the poorest and most marginalised. The best way to ensure good governance at a local level is to build in strong mechanisms of citizen-led accountability. Better governance must be based on values of accountability, transparency, trust, access to information, responsiveness and effectiveness – values that can be best achieved through citizen participation and influence in decision-making.
Participate looks forward to reading how these issues will be reflected in more detail in the High Level Panel’s final report to the UN Secretary-General in May.