Ending Poverty in a Generation: The Post-2015 Development Agenda

Written by John Podesta, Chair of the Center for American Progress in the Global Policy journal.

We’re here to talk about ending extreme poverty in a generation.

It will come as a surprise to none of you when I say that we are facing some truly historic global challenges. And I’m not talking about the Tea Party shutting down the government. I’m talking about trends that are far more serious. We live in the most prosperous epoch of human history, and yet there are people each day who starve to death. We live in an era of unprecedented medical knowledge, and yet children still die of preventable diseases. We live in an era that has seen the meteoric rise of new economic powers in some of the poorest corners of the globe, and yet that rise has been accompanied by an even more staggering increase in inequality.

We live teetering on the edge of catastrophic climate change; we live shaken by repeated extreme weather events. And yet we still pump toxins into our air and land and water. And there are even those, in our country and elsewhere, who deny that our actions are contributing to the planet’s stress.

Global challenges like these require global cooperation, global solutions, a global sense of responsibility. If we can’t agree in this country that being able to access health care is a basic right, how can we hope to save the poorest women in the world from needlessly dying in childbirth? If our government can’t pass a budget, how can we hope to build sustained and shared economic growth in the most neglected corners of the Earth?

Well, as I said, we’re here to talk about ending extreme poverty. So I think there’s hope. I think there’s a way forward. And I don’t think we have to look very far to find it. I think that if we look back to the year 2000, we will find a really inspiring, truly effective example of international, multilateral cooperation. We’ll find it in an agreement among all the world’s nations that created the Millennium Development Goals [or MDGs], a set of eight big, ambitious targets to—over the next decade and a half—dramatically improve the lot of humanity.

Now I think the past decade has been a tough one for multilateralism. From the Iraq invasion and its messy aftermath, to the inability to contain the spread of violence in Syria, with a last minute save to end Syria’s chemical weapons program, to softer failures of the Doha round and glacial pace of climate negotiations, multilateralism and global cooperation almost seem out of reach in today’s world.

But I think the Millennium Development Goals are a firm example of the fact that the sun has not yet set on the multilateral ideal. During last week’s U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York, a good deal of conversation, from official U.N. events to side meetings around town, was focused on issues around global development—both as we approach the end date of the MDGs in 2015 and look beyond them to a post-2015 agenda.”

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