Leaving no one behind – how to make it come to life

Written by Elizabeth Stuart, Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute

In the negotiating uncertainties of the Post-2015 agenda, there is one issue that seems to have substantial – I hesitate to say – universal, agreement: that the SDGs must not miss the opportunity to improve the lives of the most marginalized.

Although the Open Working Group outcome document didn’t reference it explicitly, leaving no one behind seems likely to be included in the Declaration, and supported by the Financing for Development final document (the zero draft for which came out this week and talks bout a minimum financial package to provide essential services ), and we can hope to see specific commitments to it in the final outcome document.

It’s not however a done deal: some question how it differs as a concept from inequality in general, while others favour the intent, but not the High Level Panel’s language of no goal being met until it’s met for all groups () viewing it as punitive for countries that have the highest numbers of disadvantaged people.

But precise framing aside, the bigger question remains: how to actually do it?

While these doesn’t answer the question in its entirety, here are three proposals for operationalizing leave no one behind:

-All countries within three years identify their most marginalised groups. While this sounds straightforward, this is in itself of course a political process – how the marginalised are defined, identified and measured is never a straightforward process, and with overlapping inequalities, always a negotiated one. But an incentive for countries to find a way to address the issue of marginalization in a way that works for the politics of that country will almost certainly be useful.

-After that time there should be a global leave no one behind summit, where countries share lessons on their progress and learnings. Again, the politics: this will not be an easy progress cof any country, but any pain will be mitigated by framing this event not as a place to point fingers, but rather a place where it is clear that marginalization is an issue faced by every country. And that progress on this issue will be recognized by the international community as well as domestic stakeholders.

-All data on the marginalized – that is disaggregated data, should be opened up by the collecting agency, be that a donor, a government or civil society. This is the prerequisite for the other two – without more information, the identification of who is being ‘left behind’ and how to help them systematically, is very difficult, and the possibilities for dodging the difficult issues are greater.


These would be important steps to ensure that leave no one behind doesn’t get left behind.

1 Comment on "Leaving no one behind – how to make it come to life"

  1. Reblogged this on Richard Cheeseman's blog and commented:
    Another vital post-2015 issue, because it is always the people on the margins who get left behind – such as women and children in poor rural areas whose health needs remain underserved while their relatively well-off neighbours in nearby towns and cities make progress;

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