A Verbose, Hollow Post-2015 Agenda
by Bhaskar Menon on 17 Aug 2015 1 Comment

I have just finished reading the agreed draft of the “development agenda” the United Nations will put before world leaders next month. It has every characteristic of what UN insiders call a “Second Committee text;” that is to say, without vision, guided entirely by precedent, and wholly unrealistic. 

Usually negotiated by Second and Third Secretaries too low on the diplomatic totem pole to dare go beyond their written briefs, such texts are classic MEGOs (Mine Eyes Glazeth Over).  Words lose all meaning in Second Committee texts and exist only as pointers to previously agreed texts.

For instance, the Preamble to the document claims it is “a plan of action” that “also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom.” The only “action” proposed in the text comes at the back end of its 29 dense pages and involves something dear to every Second Secretary’s heart, further committee meetings. 

In this case, a great number of them, for the document will launch “a Technology Facilitation Mechanism” that will service “a multi-stakeholder collaboration between Member States, civil society, private sector, scientific community, United Nations entities and other stakeholders.” 

How will that work? 

A “United Nations Interagency Task Team on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI)” will “promote coordination, coherence, and cooperation … enhancing synergy and efficiency, in particular to enhance capacity-building initiatives.” 


It will work with 10 UN appointed representatives from civil society, the private sector and the scientific community to operationalize an on-line clearing-house platform on STI initiatives, mechanisms and programmes “within and beyond the UN” and prepare for an annual two-day meeting of a “Multistakeholder Forum.”

And how does the document “also” seek “to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom”? 

The matter is a complete mystery, for none of the 17 references to “peace” in the 91-paragraph Declaration says anything about issues normally related to “universal peace in larger freedom.” In fact, every reference is narrowly phrased to avoid giving offence to those profiting from gargantuan military expenditures, the proliferation of ever more devilish arms, terrorism and proxy wars. 

There is a promise to “foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence,” but the text studiously avoids mentioning drug trafficking (the single largest money-maker for global organized crime), terrorists and proxy wars.

Nor is there any mention of money laundering, which siphons off trillions of dollars from poor countries. The text does say governments will “combat” all forms of organized crime by 2030 but is silent on what is to be done.

There are three references to terrorism. The first says it is endangering development. The second notes the need to “strengthen support and meet the special needs of people living … in areas affected by terrorism.” The third calls for strengthening “relevant national institutions … to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime.”

The “relevant” institutions are those currently engaged in massive surveillance, indiscriminate violations of human rights and torture. They are the antithesis of sustainable development. 

Another grand goal is to facilitate “orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.” 

How is that to be done? There is not the vaguest indication.

The rotund pomposity of the text descends into the ridiculous when it claims to be guided not only by the UN Charter, full respect for international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but also international human rights treaties, the Millennium Declaration, the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, the Declaration on the Right to Development, “the outcomes of all major UN conferences and summits which have laid a solid foundation for sustainable development,” the “Rio Declaration on Environment and Development; the World Summit on Sustainable Development; the World Summit for Social Development, the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Beijing Platform for Action; and the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+ 20).” 

The text further reaffirms “the follow-up to these conferences, including the outcomes of the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States; the Second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries; and the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.” 


It pauses for breath before reaffirming also “all the principles of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, including, inter alia, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, as set out in principle 7 thereof.”

To make all this more entertaining, the text asserts that the “challenges and commitments contained in these major conferences and summits are interrelated and call for integrated solutions. To address them effectively, a new approach is needed.”

What “new approach” it does not say, but this follows immediately thereafter: “Sustainable development recognizes that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, combating inequality within and among countries, preserving the planet, creating sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and fostering social inclusion are linked to each other and are interdependent.”

Perhaps the Second Secretaries see that as a “new approach.” If the General Assembly adopts this document at the summit level it will signal the organization’s terminal incapacity. 


I suggest that a committee of ambassadors and special envoys from capitals be convened immediately to shape an intellectually respectable new text. If that does not happen, Civil Society organizations should put out their own document commenting on the official one and indicating what needs to be done.


Bhaskar Menon blogs at http://www.undiplomatictimes.com and http://undiplomatictimes.blogspot.com  

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