Global Conversations Beyond Discipline

All That We Can Leave Behind

The HLP report released in May, urges that the post-2015 development agenda should move a holistic vision to tackle global issues which includes – leaving no one behind, putting sustainable development at the core, transforming economies for jobs and inclusive growth, building peace and effective open/accountable institutions for all, and finally forging a new global partnership. This new vision appears bold yet has a focus on reality and transformation. The MDG’s which were forged in 2000 has created an impact and the world appears to have accomplished some of the goals set out. Whilst the performance of the MDG’s in partner countries vary, their advent has been quite useful as the MDG’s set out a minimum set of aspirations that various development stakeholders in the world could buy in to. The post-2015 development agenda takes a holistic view of the need to have goals to deal with the holistic approach to achieve the vision expressed in the HLP report. Pascal Lamy has correctly expressed that ‘There is clear symbiosis between growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction and the growing recognition that a holistic approach is the best way to achieve progress is to be encouraged’. Pascal Lamy recognizes that ‘new actors — the emerging countries, the private sector, and philanthropic organizations — must be active partners. We are in search of a truly global partnership for development’ The new vision is bold and seeks to draw out a holistic, transformative approach. What shape or form will this ‘new global partnership’ take? How will it aid development and what are the challenges that stakeholders would face. The vision espoused in the report will count to a great degree on participation and partnerships across all sectors and spheres, be it the private, public or non-governmental or social enterprise sector. Matalan supplier among manufacturers in Bangladesh building collapse (Photo Credit – ) The final pillar in the vision for the post-2015 agenda stresses the need to forge a New Global Partnership, where there is a new spirit of solidarity, cooperation, and mutual accountability. Let’s put the ‘current global partnership’ to the test, Pascal Lamy describes that ‘the rise of value chains provides important new avenues for trade, growth, and diversification. For developing countries in particular, regional and global value chains lower the bar for entry into the global economy’. There is no doubt that growth through economic development is the great leveler in society and poverty would reduce. In the recent Rana Plaza factory building collapse near Dhaka (24th April), the authorities say 2,500 people were injured in the accident and 2,437 people were rescued, over a 1000 people lost their lives. In Late June this year The US has suspended trade privileges for Bangladesh until it improves workers’ safety conditions in the clothing industry. The EU is also considered taking action to improve standards. Some points to ponder in the current development partnership. One would logically assume that the main actors in such business ventures would be the overseas fashion retailers (or buyers), the local garment manufacturing companies, the local Bangladeshi government, workers unions and other related stakeholders. Firstly, economic development is a necessity, people need jobs to use their abilities and chart their own progress in life. However, where is the dignity in losing your life in the quest to support your family? The US has suspended trading privileges (after a 12 month review in to work practices) but that is tantamount to ‘shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted’. Secondly, there is importance in ‘value chains’ in creating employment and increasing trading opportunities. One has to ask question of the retailer’s up-stream in the value chain trying to source low cost output from third world. Thirdly, the partnership has clearly not worked the retailers are either naive of all the international labour standards, work safety and welfare. It is their duty to source from local business that ensures a minimum set of working conditions and practices for its workers. Fourthly, the Bangladeshi government has appeared to have failed in its duty of providing a minimum set of rules and guidelines for building safety and standards. Finally, the Bangladesh government has criticised Washington’s decision to suspend trade privileges over concerns about unsafe working environments and labour rights. It must be noted that no one can predict such events and it is a tragedy, but there at least on the surface appears a trail of failures on the part of key stakeholders in this business partnership. Not much has been reported of the view and position of the up-stream retailers. It appears that the key stakeholders in the venture has not been talking to each other, one could assume mutual lethargy, greed and most of all a lack of care for basic human dignity. Has the voices of the poor garment factory workers been heard, there were reports of them informing the owners of unsafe conditions of the building. They were ordered to continue working and then the rest unfolded. If this is the state of a 21st century business ventures then what would happen to partnerships for development in the post-2015 landscape. It is my view that the transformational shifts the HLP report envisions would also require a new culture and way of thinking by us all, to part with ‘all the things we can leave behind’ that hamper the development agenda – corruption, lack of respect for human dignity, inequality, the seeking and influence of power over the weak, disregard for indigenous knowledge and voices. Failure to protect human rights and the list goes on. If some or most of these are not discarded from the agenda, then the post-2015 vision will most likely hit the target in terms of achieving numerical targets, but would totally miss the point of bringing about tangible transformational changes in the world. (10 May 2013), Bangladesh factory collapse toll passes 1,000, BBC. (27 Jun 2013), US downgrades Bangladesh trade ties, ( 28 Jun 2013), Bangladesh anger at US trade privilege suspension,

This post is a comment to the blog post, In search of a truly global partnership on development, post-2015