Comment & analysis

Will the High Level Panel answer the world’s call for a progressive post-2015 framework?

5 April 2013 Larry Attree

The debate on what will replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015 has intensified in the first months of 2013, with growing recognition that a new framework must address conflict and violence to be effective. However, asks Larry Attree, could the lingering doubts of a few key actors keep the progressive agenda on ice?

The last few months have seen growing momentum for conflict and violence to be addressed in the post-2015 development framework.  In January the High Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda issued a very progressive communiqué from its Monrovia meeting – emphasising the importance of peace, security, justice and governance in a more transformative future development agenda. And comments made by UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon, on 26 February also reaffirmed that “transforming violent conflicts and fragility into peace, justice and shared prosperity” must be central to post-2015 plans.

There is also evidence of growing consensus among governments, key UN agencies and civil society on the importance of including peace and security issues in a new framework. In February, the Dili consensus saw more than 30 countries from the g7+ group of states and countries from Asia Pacific affirm that development efforts must be underpinned by respect for human rights, fairness, justice and peace, together with an intention to promote international policy consensus on peacebuilding, building on the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States.

Also in February a Communication by the EU (see Saferworld’s comments on this) set out a common EU approach to the post-2015 development framework – listing peace and security as one of the five priorities the framework should focus on. And while the EU’s buy-in to this agenda was perhaps to be expected, there has also been welcome support for it from Japan and Indonesia in recent months.

Elsewhere, the signs are that both the thematic and country consultations being undertaken by the UN will strongly endorse this growing consensus, as has the MYWORLD initiative to poll people around the world on their priorities for the post-2015 framework:  200,000 people had voted at the beginning of March, and ‘protection against crime and violence’ and ‘honest and responsive government’ ranked among their top seven issues to be addressed.

Building on these consultations, a global meeting of civil society in Bonn, Germany, on the post-2015 framework last month also reaffirmed the primary importance of peace and conflict issues for human development. This prompted the Beyond 2015 coalition to make peace and conflict one of eight ‘red flag’ issues against which it will judge the recommendations of the High Level Panel.

And most recently, just this week, the interim report from in-country consultations undertaken by Beyond 2015 and the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) affirmed the need to address peace and conflict as part of the human rights agenda.

Emerging consensus

These diverse actors may vary their terminology, but their conclusions echo one another. The EU Communication, the Dili consensus, the CSO discussions in Bonn, and the outcomes from successive rounds of the UN thematic consultation on Conflict, Violence, Disaster and the post-2015 framework in Monrovia, Panama and Helsinki, all revolve, with minor variations, on the same key issues. These are: reduced violence including against women and girls, confidence in security, fair access to justice, livelihoods, resources and services, participation in decision making, reduced corruption, and progress in addressing external stresses that lead to conflict.

The High Level Panel’s dilemma

Given this growing consensus, it is easy to assume that the post-2015 High Level Panel must surely address conflict and violence as a key issue in its report due in May. But worryingly there are credible concerns that its report may not go as far as it should: calling for conflict to be addressed, but only in a minimalist way.  For example, it would advance the debate very little if the High Level Panel were to assert that the post-2015 framework should only set a course to achieve the absence of violence, but not to address the key issues that determine whether societies suffer from violence over the longer term. 

So what could cause the High Level Panel, whose co-chairs are all world leaders that have publicly called for development to include conflict prevention, to hold back on expressing its members’ more progressive views? The key factor is that although many stakeholders would support a progressive peace agenda, some important countries have divergent, and strongly held, views on what development means.

Saferworld and its partners have been exploring this by initiating dialogue with rising powers such as India, China and Turkey on conflict prevention, development and post-2015 issues. Initial conversations certainly show that there is much to be done to convince certain key but cautious states that a wider definition of human development is needed.

For example, a recent roundtable hosted by Saferworld and ORF in New Delhi in March suggested that the Indian government will be cautious in supporting an expansion of the concept of development to include a broader range of governance-related issues. Chinese officials have shown scepticism towards attempts to advance particular models of governance in the post-2015 framework and argued that security issues should not fall within its mandate. And our recent engagement in Turkey has indicated that although the country has become a prominent actor in several conflict-affected states and its government has stated that a post-2015 agreement must recognise the links between conflict and development, it remains unclear whether and how it will promote a peace agenda.

But these indications of states’ sensitivities do not necessitate tip-toeing around: instead they call for pro-active dialogue that can dispel misunderstanding and extend the global consensus on the relation between conflict and development to the few remaining sceptics. Saferworld’s analysis suggests this is by no means impossible, especially if there is an openness to understand and learn from rising powers’ important experiences and perceptions on these issues.

In the meantime, the High Level Panel’s task is very definitely not to guess at a limited vision that governments could… one day… compromise over. It is rather to articulate the best possible future global development framework – one that the world’s poor and conflict-affected people need and deserve. 

Larry Attree is Head of Policy at Saferworld.

Read more about Saferworld’s work on post-2015.


“If the High Level Panel were to assert that the post-2015 framework should only set a course to achieve the absence of violence, but not to address the key issues that determine whether societies suffer from violence over the longer term. ”

Larry Attree