What do we need to do in 2014 to ensure a post-2015 framework which contributes strongly to ending poverty?

Written by Andrew Shepherd, Director of the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network.

The OECD’s Development Assistance Committee has just issued its 2013 Development Co-operation Report on Ending Poverty. It has lots of good things in it, including a chapter on ‘How do we get to zero poverty – and stay there?’ which lays out the chronic poverty agenda and proposes a poverty dynamics framing of the Poverty Eradication Goal (Figure 1). Other nuggets include a piece by ex-President Lula on the politics of poverty;  a chapter on how social assistance can be developmental; and a chapter on what Africa can learn from China’s agricultural success. There are also a raft of local solutions and global approaches reported.

The fact that the DAC (the donors’ club) is publishing an edited report with chapters written by authors mostly outside the donor community suggests that the post 2015 framework remains open to discussion, debate and influence. In fact there is a growing consensus across the various reports so far submitted on a group of goals which look very much like the MDGs, plus a Sustainable Energy for All goal and a general Gender Equality goal. Then there is a raft of issues which are recognised as important but contested on environmental sustainability, economic transformation, governance, peace and security; and a further set of questions which remain quite unsettled.

At the launch of the report in London on Thursday evening, and a follow up roundtable organised by CPAN in DFID the following morning there was a lot of discussion about the need for an inequality goal, and inequality indicators to make sure no one is left behind. I made the point that an inequality goal would be politically challenging for several member states, that it was also not necessary in order to eradicate extreme poverty, and that the above poverty dynamics framework could be used instead: the policy implications are the same, as are the underlying pre-conditions (a strong social contract between state and citizens, and tax revenues to invest massively in health, education and infrastructure), and the language is less politically challenging.

There was also a lot of discussion about politics, and how political will is all that is needed to end poverty, as the resources and knowledge are there. There was some debate about whether the knowledge about what policies work is adequate, but no one disagreed with the resources being available. On politics, there was a view that political will is the beginning of the story; and that a post-2015 framework needs to provide incentives to political elites to follow progressive or inclusive policies: things like peer pressure among countries, public information on progress empowering the citizen and civil society, and the various international legal instruments and their monitoring systems could be brought to bear. I also expressed the view that governments which had been successful in tackling chronic poverty (or the intersecting inequalities on which it is sometimes based) were often of particular political character – left of centre democratically elected parties (like Lula’s Brazil), Communist governments committed to markets but also achieving political stability through inclusive policies, more opportunistic populist regimes, and, in the case of intersecting inequalities regimes based in marginalised communities – more about this in the upcoming CPAN Middle Income Countries Policy Guide.

The two sessions did not go very far in laying out an agenda for 2014 which would address chronic poverty, prevent impoverishment and enable sustained escapes from poverty. This is something we will do in the next few weeks. A few thoughts to get the ball rolling:

·         Develop detailed framing for the goals where there is consensus

·         Agree on how employment is going to feature – it should be central, both in terms of quantity and quality of jobs (see our Employment Guide on the latter)

·         Agree on how agriculture is going to feature – this is critical for ending poverty – there is so much evidence on this. But this is a contested area – people can agree on phrases like ‘sustainable intensification’ (IFAD Rural Poverty Report, 2011) but with everyone including large agri-business talking about sustainable agriculture, it has unfortunately become a weasel word.

·         Improving governance is also something people want (See MyWorld), but honest and respectful government may not deliver the eradication of poverty. Working out what is needed, which can also be agreed by member states, will be a creative act. CPAN is working on governance reforms which empower the poorest people.