CAP Chair Calls For New Thinking On International Development

Friday marks 1,000 days until the end of 2014, the date when the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) — a set of eight goals designed to end extreme poverty — are scheduled to be met, starting a new ticking clock for global leaders.

CAP Chair John Podesta has served as a member of a High Level Panel charged with proposing what comes after the MDGs since 2012, when U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon appointed him to the spot. Since then, he and leaders from around the world have been working on composing that new framework, with the goal of presenting their findings by June. Podesta spoke about his experience with the panel thus far at a United Nations Foundation-hosted event on Friday, laying out what he hoped to see in the group’s final recommendations.

Throughout his talk, Podesta highlighted just how far the world has come since the original MDGs were developed in 2000, citing the shift from a world easily classified into Global North and South, or developed and developing countries. Instead, the world now includes developing countries like Brazil and India who have large populations who require assistance, but are themselves donors and political forces. These changes, according to Podesta, require a new way of considering development and sustainable economic growth:

PODESTA: We know now that sustainable economic growth is not simply about increasing the size of national economies but about shaping enduring systems and institutions that respect the rights of individuals and give them the tools they need to help lift themselves out of poverty. Sustainable economic growth requires ensuring the poor have what I call “connectivity.” “Connectivity” broadly encompasses issues like access to health care, education, and job opportunities; connections to physical, social, and energy infrastructure; and the opportunity to actively participate in the civic and economic lives of their countries and to be recognized legally by their governments.

Podesta also rejected the idea that Americans don’t support the MDGs, despite foreign aid being the most-often maligned area of the budget. “[W]hen asked about targeted programs for health care, education, and poverty reduction, a very different picture emerges,” Podesta said. “And at the same time, Americans are personally supporting the development agenda in record numbers. American private giving to international development is far greater than that of any other country.” President Obama in his State of the Union address called for the U.S. to support ending extreme poverty within two decades, well in line with the MDGs goals.


Rather than laying out the specific points the Panel will put forward in May, Podesta instead informed the audience about the goals he hoped to see in the group’s final recommendation. “For example, I would like to see the High Level Panel embrace the existing G-8 and G-20 commitment to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies,” Podesta said, noting that just 7 percent of $700 billion spent underwriting fossil fuels benefit poor households. He also called for efforts to reach zero net deforestation and zero net desertification, as well as efforts to dramatically reduce food waste, replenish fish stocks and sustain fisheries, improve energy efficiency and rely more heavily on renewable energy.

“We need to understand that ending extreme poverty and promoting sustainability are not at odds with each other but are indeed mutually reinforcing and beneficial,” Podesta declared, reinforcing the position he laid out in a white paper on development last year. Once the final report has been presented to Secretary-General Ban, the process of drafting a new set of goals will fall on the United Nations’ member states.