How to build the world we dream of? Put children at the heart of the new development goals

By David Thomson, Director of Policy & Programmes, World Vision UK

What’s next for development? This is the question on everyone’s mind as the 68th session of the UN General Assembly approaches. World Vision, operating with over 60 years of child focussed experience and 45,000 staff, is working with partners across the globe to ensure that the new goals being negotiated for post-2015 help to build the future we dream of. Will leaders agree new goals to accelerate progress and ensure that those who have been left behind are included? Or will they get bogged down in everlasting processes?

In my years as an aid worker and as an observer of international negotiations I’ve seen breakthroughs, setbacks and disasters.  I choose to be hopeful.  Together, we can rid the world of absolute poverty, ensure that everyone has clean water to drink, that all children have access to quality education and health services. These are not empty dreams but real possibilities, proven by the facts. Since 1990, we have managed to halve the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day. More than two billion people have gained access to improved drinking water. We’ve made many crucial gains in primary education, child survival, reductions in tuberculosis, malaria and HIV and AIDS. This proves that “A Life of Dignity For All,” is possible. We know what works.

As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon gets ready to set out his vision for the goals, I’d like to offer some suggestions:

Promote Equality and Focus on Hardest to Reach: To ‘leave no one behind’ and to meet the zero targets (end preventable child deaths, eliminate all forms of violence against children, end hunger), we have to focus on the hardest to reach – those trapped at the bottom of the wealth scale and for whom the MDGs didn’t deliver.

Keep Children at the Heart of the Framework: Give children top priority when setting the goals. Research show a positive cycle of development when children are healthy and well educated, strengthening economies and societies. We have to focus on health and education, and the underlying issues of birth registration, nutrition, child labour, child marriage and discrimination. We must not fail our future. It is key that we listen, respond and help create the future they want.

Prioritise Fragile and Conflict Areas: Half the people living extreme poverty are in fragile and violent contexts. They have been excluded from the progress made in the Millennium Development Goals so far and so now we need to make extra efforts to deliver outcomes for children in fragile states. Unless we do this, we’ll never end extreme poverty or achieve any other goals that we might set for ourselves. We must recognise that there is no development without peace and no peace without development.

Promote Accountability: Enable citizens, especially the children, to engage in the oversight, planning and monitoring of programmes which affect their lives. World Vision’s social accountability programme Citizen Voice and Action is helping transform the dialogue between communities and government in 32 countries, improving services for children and their families.  We should aim for the same for the post-2015 agenda: ensuring those who are most impacted by the goals are able to hold the international community to account.

The task at hand cannot be underestimated. But neither can the difference it will make if we get this right. It doesn’t have to stay as a dream. A world without extreme poverty is within our grasp.

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