You’re viewing a version of this story optimized for slow connections. To see the full story click here.

Development Goals will succeed only if "no one is left behind"

John Crump, Senior Science Writer

Story by GRID-Arendal August 16th, 2016

New sustainable development goals will only succeed if the most vulnerable people and states are included, Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende told an audience at an event on conflict and development at Arendalsuka today.

The Minister was joined by several other speakers at Conflict threatens development – how will fragile states achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the first day of Arendalsuka.

The SDGs, agreed to at the United Nations last year, are supped to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.” They follow the Millenium Development Goals, seen as “unrealistic” when agreed to in 2000, but which Brende said “were a success.”

Despite the “pessimism around these days,” Brende said, “we have seen extraordinary development since 1990.”

He cited “doubled global GDP” even though there are two billion more people on the planet than there were 26 years ago. “More than lived on the planet in 1900,” he added.

In the same period, the percentage of global population living in extreme poverty declined from 40% to 20%.

“Now it’s really about making sure there will be no one left behind,” Brende said, referring to so-called fragile states with weak governments or countries experiencing armed conflict.

The phrase “no one left behind” was used in the UN’s assessment of the millennium goals which found that despite successes “inequalities persist and that progress has been uneven.”

Credits: GRID-Arendal / Rob Barnes

Speakers at the event urged the Norwegian government to keep investing in the most fragile countries and to keep the focus on humanitarian assistance.

“Fragile states is nothing new,” said Hilde Frafjord Johnson of the Christian Democratic Party, a former Minister of International Development for Norway. “It’s been a priority for the world community for a long time. We have worked on it for many years.

“If we are going to take the Sustainable Development Goals seriously,” Johnson said, “we cannot walk away from fragile states.” The conclusion of the MDGs was “we have failed in those countries. Now we have to do better.”

Johnson said she’s waiting to see the government’s plan of action for fragile states. She said she hopes it’s not “what it has been” – investment that is prioritized “on the basis of security policy, migration and anti-terror.”

“If the poverty focus is to be retained, as is the agreed approach in the SDGs, it blurs the lines if you start looking at the strategic interest of countries as a guiding principle for your priorities.”

Fragility is “multi-dimensional,” according to Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Assistant Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). She leads UNDP’s Crisis Response Unit.

“We need to look at different dimensions of fragility in terms of really thinking of leaving no one behind,” Nakamitsu said.

Achieving SDGs in the context of poverty and war requires a “holistic” approach, she said, and consideration of “root causes – not least inequality, marginalization … governance challenges, access to justice and exposure to disaster risk.”

The SDGS require new thinking, Nakamitsu said, to develop an integrated and comprehensive agenda.

“The Millennium Development Goals have been hugely successful,” said Tørris Jaeger, acting Secretary General of the Norwegian Red Cross. “They have though failed on the last mile. So if we want to progress on the Sustainable Development Goals we have to make the last mile the first mile.”

Meaning, he said, reaching the people who are hard to reach and whose lives are affected by conflict today.

The discussion was sponsored by FN-sambandet and GRID-Arendal.

Watch the live-event here.

Credits: GRID-Arendal / Rob Barnes
Credits: GRID-Arendal / Rob Barnes
Footnote: Header Photo Credits: GRID-Arendal / Tom Skarning
Grid-Arendal, Teaterplassen, Arendal, Norway