Why the poorest and most marginalised must be made an OWG priority

Posted by & filed under Post-2015.

Participate has prepared the following response to the Open Working Group for Sustainable Development Goals’ revised Focus Areas contained in their Working Document ahead of the 11th session of the OWG on 5-9 May.

As the OWG continues to formulate the final post-2015 framework, Participate reiterates the call to members to ‘leave no-one behind’. Tackling extreme poverty and marginalisation alongside rising and intersecting inequalities, must be a priority for both governments and the international community. Targets that fail to address these issues, and that do not prioritise the social, economic, civil and political human rights of all people, or recognise the interconnected of these rights will continue to deepen the poverty of people left behind.

There must be clear accountability mechanisms for all institutions, within the public and private sectors to ensure that human rights are fully respected. In relation to this, the lack of emphasis of private sector accountability in the OWG focus areas is of great concern.

It is positive to read a reference to the ‘poorest and most marginalised’ but disappointing that it only appears in the footnotes relating to Focus area 15 (r) on disaggregated data. The principle of including these groups should not be exclusive to one target but made explicit throughout.

Participate’s own proposals for post-2015 targets sets out three foundational target areas which must underpin the others, and without which the post-2015 targets framework will be meaningless for the poorest and most marginalised people.

  • Livelihoods and pro-poor infrastructure development
  • Participation and citizen action
  • Tackle discriminatory norms

Participate has shared this response, which is grounded in participatory research with poor and marginalised people globally, with the Beyond 2015 civil society campaign who have built the central recommendations into their position for the OWG.

Participate analysis of the OWG ‘Working document’

Focus area 1 Poverty eradication, building shared prosperity and promoting equality

We strongly welcome the target to ensure equality of economic opportunity for all women and men, including secure rights to own land, property and other productive assets and access to financial services (f). Participate research highlights how marginalised groups (women in particular) are excluded from access to productive assets and formal land rights – a situation that makes livelihood security impossible.

However, in terms of how poverty is understood, an emphasis on intersecting inequalities has been lost. This is particularly worrying in relation to the establishment of an economic measurement of poverty (less than $1.25 dollars), which does not account for the multidimensional nature of poverty.

Focus area 5 Gender equality and women’s empowerment 

We are pleased to see the proposed target to ensure equal access to, and control of, assets and resources, including natural resources management. One of the major causes of poverty, in particular for women, is a lack of access to productive assets such as land and property, equipment, finance and markets etc.   However, access is not enough; people must be able to use those resources productively and effectively and individual and collective land rights must always be respected.

Focus area 8 Economic growth, employment and infrastructure

We are concerned with the assumption that economic growth leads to development for the poorest and most marginalised.  Post-2015 targets that focus only on providing infrastructure and formal employment will continue to deepen the poverty of people left behind.

We advise caution on the target concerning sustainable infrastructure accessible to all (g).  People are frequently displaced and their environments damaged in order to build infrastructure that does not benefit them. Sustainable infrastructure, that benefits the poorest while doing no harm to their livelihoods and environment is therefore critical.

We support the mention of the informal sector and informal employment (j) but would like to see greater recognition of their valuable contribution to economic growth.  Informal livelihoods and enterprise activities need to be supported, not criminalised, and recognised for building the social and material resources of development as well as providing a pathway into the economy.

Focus area 10: Sustainable cities and human settlements

The targets towards ‘universal access to adequate and affordable housing’ and to ‘eliminate slum-like conditions everywhere’ misses the devastating impact that slum ‘relocation’ programmes can have on the social capital and livelihood opportunities for their residents. Informal livelihoods and settlements that enable people to live a life of dignity must be recognised and supported.

Focus area 15. Means of implementation/Global partnership for sustainable development:

The discussion on the means of implementation needs to be substantially broadened.

Capacity building

While Participate broadly welcomes the target to a focus on generating disaggregated, timely and high-quality data (r), our research shows that disaggregated data is not enough – in order to truly understand the complexities of people’s lives and the ways in which they are impacted by different sorts of policies and interventions, qualitative data generated in participatory ways is essential.

In order to ensure that resources are invested in participatory processes we suggest a target that says: ‘Develop the capacity of local people to research their own realities, and develop strategies for responding effectively to problems in the their communities’.

Strengthened global partnership for sustainable development

People living in poverty and marginalisation need a development approach which is responsive to their needs and to their articulation of their rights. This requires a participatory approach to decision making at local and national level. Systems need to be built which ensure participation in the conception, design, implementation and evaluation stages of any development initiatives. This cannot be seen as something that comes after the development framework is set. It has to be embedded within it and seen as an integral part of it.

Focus area 16. Peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law and capable institutions

We welcome the way in which the targets under this focus area speak to a participatory democracy and social justice agenda. Development fails the poorest because decision-making processes that affect their lives exclude them. People living in poverty have a right to participate in the design, implementation and monitoring of policies and programmes and to hold public institutions, civil society and the private sector accountable.

We echo calls from the Beyond 2015 civil society campaign, to ensure that the framing of targets here is outcome oriented to ensure a vision for transformative change is enabled and achieved through the framework. In order for this to happen we would like to see the continued emphasis of the following areas:

  • Decision-making is participatory and barriers to participation are removed, particularly for those who are systematically excluded
  • Public and private institutions are responsive and accountable to citizens
  • A properly resourced and enabling environment for citizen action is ensured
  • Access and quality of justice institutions, legal services, and the right to identity for people living in poverty and marginalisation is ensured Institutions are free from discrimination and prejudice
  • Strengthened grassroots organisations of people living in poverty and marginalisation
  • Resources, programmes and policies focus on shifting discriminatory attitudes and achieving behaviour change



2 Responses to “Why the poorest and most marginalised must be made an OWG priority”

  1. Jason Brown

    I note with concern the omission of targets relating to corruption, and media freedoms.
    My submission would be for Participate and civil society groups to reconsider that omission and, in fact, to completely reorder their priorities.
    From my viewpoint as a resident on a Small Island State, corruption is the disease, and the societal problems and other challenges are the symptoms.
    The only effective and efficient cure is an empowered, informed, independent and free media.


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