Civil society is talking…is the High Level Panel listening?

Written by Gina Bergh and Paula Lucci, researchers at the Overseas Development Institute.

Last Thursday while the High-Level Panel on Post-2015 was meeting in London, the UK’s parliamentary groups on international development and the Beyond2015 global campaign brought civil society representatives from around the world together to discuss their priorities for a post-2015 development agenda. This event aimed to raise the voices of the poorest in the global conversation – those who will be most affected by any new goals, but who all too often remain unheard.

Lots of the same things that have been the focus of post-2015 meetings in recent weeks came up, which, judging by their rate of recurrence, the HLP can’t afford to ignore. It’s already clear that the most important stuff is certainly not the easy stuff: tackling unfinished business on MDG8 for a global partnership on development, finding ways to fix gaping inequalities, and strengthening national and global tax systems to raise funds for development.

Other key asks were on things either left out of or weakly addressed by the MDGs, like agriculture. Participants emphasised how essential this sector is to development, as the engine for incomes, food security and growth in the poorest countries. Gender equality, more and better jobs and social protection were also high up on the list, as were core challenges around the environment and accountability.

While this may point to something of a ‘shopping list’ approach to future goals, many of these things go hand in hand – which should make the job of defining a framework (slightly) more straightforward. For instance, many are pointing out how sustainability and poverty reduction are interlinked, or how MDG basics like health and nutrition will rely on bigger things like food security, and in turn more stable trading systems and climate resilience.

The question at the heart of the politics and practicality of a new framework also came up: should new goals be for poor countries only, or universal? There seemed to be agreement that we need global goals that apply to all, in which different countries (or groups of countries) have different responsibilities, based on their own circumstances. This could help fix problems of ‘one size fits all’ approaches to the MDGs, and means that the HLP would need to think through how to define common goals that can be applied in different ways.

But in the midst of the good ideas we were left wondering – will governments and the HLP rise to the challenge on the difficult stuff, like MDG8, inequality and tax systems? As one participant put it, will they “put their weight” behind such tough challenges?

One thing is certain, it would be hard for them to do this alone, and this time round there is a real opportunity for civil society to speak up. The most important part will be making a clear and focused ask. After all, as the Chair pointed out, “power concedes nothing without a demand”.

3 Comments on "Civil society is talking…is the High Level Panel listening?"

  1. So far I haven’t seen one word of feedback from any members of the High Level Panel to the NGO community or members of the public.

    Has anybody seen some dialogue and/or interaction? If so, please forward to me at


    Geoff Holland,
    Global Futures Bulletin
    Institute for Global Futures Research (IGFR)

  2. The High-level Panel engaged in a live-streamed interactive Town Hall dialogue with approximately 200 representatives of civil society organizations on 2 November in London, and several Panelists responded at length to comments from the audience. You can watch a video of the full event here:

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