Two steps forward, one step back? Governance in the post 2015 framework

Written by Leni Wild, a researcher with the Overseas Development Institute

Last week, I participated in the final meeting of the global thematic consultation on governance and the post 2015 framework, hosted in Johannesburg by UNDP and UNHCR. Going into the meeting, Gina Bergh and I set out some ideas for what we hoped would be discussed. So, how did it go?

We have consistently argued that more attention needs to be paid to the question of how to integrate governance and accountability as essential cross cutting components of the whole post 2015 framework. Crucially, this should not be prescriptive about the form of governance or institutions in place, but rather based on some specific governance functions that support development outcomes, for instance in relation to health or education.  Graça Machel joined briefly on the second day, and argued eloquently for the post 2015 framework to include new narratives, new goals, but also thematic commitments – ‘the building blocks for prosperity for all’ – that might include aspects of governance and accountability.

The good news is that this seemed to make sense to many of those at the consultation. I felt there was broad agreement that governance and accountability should be both cross cutting, and that some stand-alone issues should be explored. For the former, a range of ideas are still being discussed but some of the common strands I heard focused on integrating particular indicators to monitor inequalities (particularly group based or horizontal inequalities), ensuring open access to data and information, and exploring indicators that can draw on, and facilitate, experiences with ‘feedback loops’ for users – from public audits to citizen scorecards and so on.

The tone of discussion at the consultation also felt like a sign of how much we have moved on, with some creative ideas on how to measure and monitor these trends as a useful debunk to the established mantra that issues of governance and unaccountability are inherently ‘un-measurable’. Crucially, this will mean recognising that we need to rethink what we define as governance and how to measure it – some interesting ideas came through around standalone commitments to fiscal and budget transparency; measures on the independence of public appointments; or on levels of birth registration (see Matt Andrews’ ideas on this).

I came away with less clarity about what a stand-alone goal might look like. While we discussed the need to prioritise, inevitably the nature of the consultation process meant we generated long lists of special interests. A lot of contributors raised ideas of ‘economic democracy’ (loosely defined to include the role of private sector/international corporations, issues of tax justice and tax havens, or tackling economic inequality). There was discussion of gender specific problems, such as targets on reducing violence against women, and various mentions of youth, among others.

Some big gaps for me were the lack of connections made to the Sustainable Development Goals (including around global governance) and a lack of reflection on the experiences of fragile and conflict affected countries – something that was being debated the same week in Dili.

So as I boarded the plane back, I had mixed feelings about what I could take from our discussions. On the one hand, it certainly seems like momentum is still building, helped along by some creative ideas for incorporating governance and accountability issues as cross cutting as well as stand-alone. On the other hand, it felt like we didn’t manage to get beyond generating long lists of issues and interests. What was really missing was a discussion on tactics and strategies, to identify areas of consensus and agree on ways to collectively push for a coherent (and communicable) agenda. As the High Level Panel prepares to reconvene in Bali this month, I’ll wait to see whether we can overcome this fragmentation to take the next step on the road to 2015…

1 Comment on "Two steps forward, one step back? Governance in the post 2015 framework"

  1. Great article! Last August UNDP published a useful paper on approaches to measuring governance in a shared post-2015 development framework, which discusses some of the issues that you mention. I will ink it here

    I’m also working with a community of practitioners, academics and (increasingly) government leaders to create a framework for measuring participatory governance in the post-2015 development agenda. We are trying to avoid being too “prescriptive” about the form of governance or institutions, as you suggest, but I also worry that this kind of sentiment can be used as an excuse to avoid difficult reforms that are back by strong evidence supporting their benefits. A federated republican government may not suit every country, for instance, but we KNOW with plenty of empirical evidence that some forms of local democratic and participatory structures encourage more responsive governance, pro-poor budgeting, increases in local education, etc. better than other structures. If you’re interested in this kind of work you’re welcome to check out our public website (still growing) (

    Keep up the great posts!

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