Comment & analysis

Goals, targets and indicators in the new global development framework.

13 March 2013 Larry Attree

As discussions around what will follow the Millennium Development Goals continue, Larry Attree outlines how global goals, targets and indicators could help address conflict and violence as part of the post-2015 development framework.

In March, ministers and senior officials met in Helsinki to conclude a global thematic consultation on conflict, violence and the post-2015 framework. At the end of February, the UN Secretary General reiterated the need for the post-2015 development framework to include objectives to help the 1.5 billion people who live in fragile and conflict-affected countries that “have been left largely behind in our work towards the MDGs.” The fact that no low income conflict affected or fragile state has achieved a single MDG highlights how important it is that the post-2015 development framework addresses conflict and violence within its scope.

Global or local?

Though progress in achieving the MDGs has been mixed, having global targets and indicators to measure progress has been a strong motivating factor to ensure the world’s common vision becomes a reality. The simplicity of the MDG framework has also ensured a high public profile, driven political commitment, attracted financial resources and concentrated efforts on the ground. For these reasons we believe a new set of global targets and indicators should be agreed as part of the new development framework.

There is a valid case that each conflict-affected and fragile state has unique challenges and that a global model that fails to take into account each specific context may do more harm than good.  However, although each context is different, tackling conflict and violence is in the shared interest of all countries and essential for development. Having clear goals, targets and indicators can help all to pursue this shared interest.

To ensure global goals, targets and indicators are relevant at the ground level, global goals should be limited to genuinely universal key issues. Countries can also benchmark where they are against targets and indicators and define how to approach targets according to their own context. Viewed in this way, global targets set at the UN level need not remove the decision-making power from local actors, particularly as country-owned monitoring processes can be led, fostered and supported by affected countries with inputs from international agencies, other experts and civil society.

An integrated peace dimension

Setting the right targets and indicators requires detailed thinking, time and wide consultation. Targets, and the indicators through which they are defined, need to express broad, whole-of sector outcomes that add up to a coherent narrative to achieve sustainable peace, security and justice alongside other aspects of human progress. 

Saferworld’s latest analysis suggests that there are two viable ways to incorporate peace and security within the new development framework. Option 1 is through a single holistic goal to ‘achieve sustainable peace, security and justice’. This would would give a balanced and realistic framework for measuring overall progress and also provide supporters of peace-related commitments with a more straightforward ask to the developers of the new framework. Option 2 involves integrating peace as a dimension throughout the whole development framework. This recognises that peace-building and reducing violence are multidimensional and require integrated action across all sectors of development.

This second option – Saferworld’s preferred option – would aim to ensure that in all relevant sectors of development, targets and indicators would contribute not only to development but also to conflict prevention and violence reduction.  This would be a decisive move towards coherence between actors and sectors, and between local, national and global solutions for both development and peace-building.   

What can be done to ensure that the right indicators are selected?

When it comes to measuring progress towards lasting peace, indicators can only work well if they measure three key aspects of a target: capacity to address the issue at stake; the ‘objective’ situation in society; and crucially, the perceptions of all social groups on security, justice and other key peace-related issues.

For example, when measuring progress around security, increases in the capacity of the police (such as the number of officers per homicide) show that effort is being made to work towards improved security. But we also need to see improvements in an ‘objective’ situation indicator, such as the number of violent deaths per 100,000 population. Even then, statistics on violent deaths vary in reliability, may be manipulated, or can be reduced by heavy-handed approaches that jeopardise human security in other ways. So an indicator showing how safe the public actually feels can validate trends in capacity development and ‘objective’ situation indicators, illustrating whether the ultimate aim of security provision – increasing public security – is actually being attained.

All the peace-related commitments in the post-2015 framework need to be kept on target by balancing these three types of indicator. There are a range of potential indicators that could help measure targets in the areas that are most important for lasting peace and violence reduction. Click on the links in the table below to see diagrams illustrating these indicators.


Moving forward

The post-2015 development agenda offers an opportunity to address the multiple and overlapping issues that drive conflict and violence in a more proactive and coherent way.  The discussion around the post-2015 development framework must move quickly to determine the specific goals and targets that will be included within it. Even if the design of new goals, targets and indicators is sound, a lot of work will remain to build capacities to measure regularly the right things in a way that is global, ethical and impartial. Able and effective leadership by the Secretary General, and commitment from member states, has never been more critical. 2015 may seem a long way away, but in fact there is not a moment to lose.

Larry Attree is acting Head of Policy leading Saferworld’s work to ensure aid supports peace in conflict-affected states.

Read more about Saferworl'd work on the post-2015 development agenda.

“ The discussion around the Post-2015 development framework must move quickly to determine the specific goals and targets that will be included within it. ”

Larry Attree