Asia's Leading Role in Post-2015 Development Agenda

Feature | 18 November 2013

According to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon the world has an unprecedented opportunity to end poverty and set a course for a sustainable future.

In a written interview, Ban tells Development Asia magazine that the post-2015 development agenda must go further than the Millennium Development Goals to address new and emerging challenges like inequality, poor governance, and environmental degradation.

The consultative process for the successor framework is complicated and likely to feature vigorous debate. Is there a danger that the contentious nature of some of the issues could result in lack of consensus, and unfocused goals? Are you satisfied with progress so far?

Defining the post-2015 development agenda is a daunting yet inspiring and historic task for the United Nations and its Member States. I am satisfied with the progress so far. The UN-led consultation process was an exceptional effort and a significant success. The common ground identified through discussions far outweighs differences. This gives me hope that the intergovernmental process will lead to an agreement on the post-2015 development agenda. The goal of the UN System is to continue to bring these illuminating voices to the table and support Member States in their intergovernmental negotiations to arrive at a cohesive development agenda for the post-2015 era.

You've spoken out about the need to eradicate extreme poverty and it is shaping as a core element of the new goals. Is eradicating extreme poverty at the $1.25-a-day level achievable by 2030?

"Ours is the first generation with the resources and know-how to end extreme poverty and put our planet on a course of sustainable development before it is too late."

- United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Ours is the first generation with the resources and know-how to end extreme poverty and put our planet on a course of sustainable development before it is too late. Poverty has many manifestations and is aggravated by marginalization, inequality, insecurity and environmental and disaster risks. Therefore, the eradication of poverty calls for a multi-faceted approach, looking at both immediate and underlying causes, with sustainable development at the core. Only by mobilising social, economic and environmental actions can we eradicate poverty and meet the aspirations of eight billion people by 2030.

Given Asia and the Pacific's particular challenges - widening income inequality among them - how can the region benefit from the new development agenda?

Growth of inequalities across the globe is considered to be one of the most challenging issues of our time. Widening income inequality affects both rich and poor countries alike and hampers progress in social and economic development. A universal agenda to ensure that no one is left behind will be beneficial for all countries and regions. Such an agenda should ensure that no person - regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, geography, disability, race or other status - is denied universal human rights and basic economic opportunities.

Addressing inequalities should resolve not only the symptoms and immediate effects of poverty and deprivation, but also their structural causes, including discrimination and exclusion widely faced by women and girls, persons with disabilities, older people and members of indigenous or minority groups. There is also a strong need to enhance social protection systems for better social cohesion.

The twin goals of poverty and sustainability intersect dramatically in Asia and the Pacific - a region with high growth coupled with significant deprivation. Does this give the region a unique role in helping ensure the success of the new framework?

The Asia-Pacific region is growing the fastest and driving the global economic recovery. The region will have a critical role in ensuring the success of the new framework. The region as a whole has already reached the targets of reducing by half the proportion of people living on less than US$1.25 per day and halving the proportion of people without safe drinking water. It has also made progress in: ensuring gender parity at the three educational levels, reversing the spread of HIV and TB, increasing the areas covered by forests, and reducing the consumption of ozone-depleting substances.

The region is also on track to ensure that all children attend primary school. Globally, leaders must place education at the top of our common agenda as we shape a vision for the post-2015 period. I myself was born poor, after Korea was devastated by the Korean war. I owe everything I have now to education. I owe it to the world, to the United Nations, to do everything possible to give all people the same start. The Asia-Pacific region should continue to lead by setting good practices, fostering partnerships through South-South Cooperation and mobilising greater private sector engagement.

By 2030, will the new goals have had a bigger impact than did the MDGs after their term expired?

The post-2015 development agenda is not to maintain the status quo but to drive the world forward. We are aiming for a more ambitious universal agenda to tackle not only the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals, but to go further to address the new and emerging challenges. At the opening of the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September, I urged Member States to take bold steps and work together in crafting a post-2015 sustainability agenda with ending poverty as a top priority, sustainable development at its core and governance as its glue.

The new agenda must find expression in a single set of goals and the three dimensions of sustainable development must be treated equally. We cannot defer the environment or social injustice until later once economic growth is ensured if we are to have a greater impact and to ensure a life of dignity for all.

Read the complete interview published in Development Asia magazine with the title The Architect.

Development Asia is a publication of the Asian Development Bank.