EU must address root causes of poverty

Justice and effective institutions are essential pillars of the new global development framework, argues Davor Ivo Stier.

By Davor Ivo Stier

02 Feb 2015

In times of profound change, the EU is called to play a leading role in transforming the global development framework, and to launch with its international partners a new quest to eliminate poverty, reduce inequalities and promote sustainable social, economic and environmental development. 

Acknowledging the achievements of the millennium development goals, but also their shortcomings, it is time to address the root causes of poverty and move forward with more innovative and transformative goals.

In November, by a large majority, the European parliament passed a resolution advocating a rights-based approach as the underpinning concept of the post-2015 framework. Such an approach places special emphasis on building strong institutions, promoting good governance and fighting corruption as starting points in addressing key challenges to sustainable development.

Indeed, the current situation is unbearable. According to the OECD, citizens in developing countries lost around five trillion euros in illicit financial flows in the last decade, an astonishing sum that by far exceeds the official development assistance for the same period. Therefore, business as usual is no longer an option. Dealing with widespread corruption must be a priority - without this, poverty will not be eradicated and inequalities will continue to grow. 

A more assertive focus on strengthening the rule of law and global good governance is necessary. Building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions, as well as providing access to justice for all, should become the cornerstones of the new global development framework. 

"Building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions, as well as providing access to justice for all, should become the cornerstones of the new global development framework"

This conceptual change will not be easily embraced by all actors in the international community. In fact, it was already contested during the discussions at the UN open working group, which eventually managed to find consensus around 17 new sustainable development goals (SDGs) - including one on justice and effective institutions. 

It could be argued that this particular new SDG will not be properly addressed if it has to share development efforts with an extensive list of 17 different priorities. On the other hand, reopening the hardly achieved consensus on these SDGs could risk the elimination of the essential but still contested goal on justice and effective institutions.

Presented with this dilemma, parliament endorsed all 17 SDGs in its November resolution, but suggested the possibility of clustering them, while stressing the importance of promoting good governance and the rule of law in the new framework. The same approach was adopted by the European council a few weeks later, when EU ministers also unanimously backed the post-2015 synthesis report released in December by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon. The synthesis report actually clustered the extensive list of 17 SDGs into six pillars, 'justice' being one of them.

By adopting these documents, important steps were taken towards the transformation of the development agenda. Yet, there is still a long way to go until the September summit in New York and the final adoption of SDGs. The EU should remain actively engaged in the negotiations, speaking with one voice and strongly advocating the goal on justice and effective institutions as an essential pillar in the new global development framework.


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