Can the SDGs Really ‘Leave No One Behind’?

This post is written by Casey Dunning, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Global Development, and Molly Elgin-Cossart, Senior Fellow at American Progress and former chief of staff to the U.N. Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. It originally appeared on the Center for Global Development blog.

What does ‘Leave No One Behind’ mean in the context of the post-2015 development agenda? From the UN High Level Panel to the Open Working Group to the recently released zero draft of sustainable development goals, presidents, prime ministers, UN envoys, civil society, and citizens around the globe have rallied around the call. But how does this soaring rhetoric translate in practice, and how will we know if the world has succeeded in achieving it?

In its broadest sense, the pledge to ensure no one is left behind means that all goals, targets and indicators will not be considered met unless they have been met for every person around the globe. Leave no one behind is a call to guarantee that the poorest and most marginalized have the opportunity to fulfill their potential. No person — regardless of income, gender, age, geography, ethnicity or other social or economic identity — should be denied basic rights and services.

As a recent UNICEF report makes clear, the MDGs have not fulfilled this promise. Too many were left behind, individuals forgotten in the race to improve statistical averages. If the promise to Leave No One Behind is to lead to real change, it needs to be clearly defined and then measured.

Critically, the definition of Leave No One Behind should be based on outcomes for people, and not simply monetary inputs. Previous drafts of the outcome document for next month’s Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FFD) had proposed a cost-based approach: a per capita spending figure that would indicate national achievement of a global social floor. This input-focused construction misses the point and risks continuing a pattern of development practice predicated on increasing the quantity of inputs as the first priority. But an increase in funds does not necessarily mean an increase in quality of outcomes.

Without further definition, Leave No One Behind will be nothing more than a slogan. What is needed is a core package of measurable outputs and interventions which no man, woman, or child should be without by 2030. This requires translating global-level goals into outcomes and outputs for individuals and measuring progress through disaggregated data that tracks the most vulnerable economic and social groups.

The core package we envision would form a global minimum, but the concept of Leave No One Behind is greater. The global floor can and should be supplemented by national ladders — specific country and local packages to ensure the most vulnerable and marginalized are empowered.

Here is a draft proposal for what a minimum package might look like. The table below presents the SDG Target (the desired impact), the Promise to People (the desired outcome at a person level), and a Basket of Interventions (illustrative interventions that would be necessary — but not sufficient — services that governments and other stakeholders would need to provide to meet a global minimum standard).

SDG Target Promise to people Basket of interventions
1. Eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere Every person should be guaranteed at least $1.26 a day Direct cash transfers, social safety nets
2. End hunger and ensure access…to safe, nutritious and sufficient food Every person should have sufficient nutrition to grow and flourish Maternal micronutrient supplements, neonatal vitamin supplementation
3. Reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births Every woman should be able to give birth safely Family planning, access to skilled birth attendants and modern contraception
4. End preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age Every child should live a life free of preventable disease and death Skilled birth attendants, newborn care, access to vaccines and essential medicines
5. Ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes Every child should be literate and numerate by age 15 ‘No consensus on proven interventions’
6. Achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all Every person should have access to safe drinking water at home and in schools, health centers and refugee camps Point-of-collection water treatment systems
7. Achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation Every person should have sanitation and hygiene access at home, and in schools and health centers Behavior campaigns i.e. handwashing, new market structures & services, inexpensive, ‘next generation‘ toilets
8. Ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services Every person should have access to 250 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year in the home (and 500 kWh per year in urban areas). Grid extensions, off-grid solutions, realistic tariffs, technical standards, new technologies
9. Ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing Every person should have access to adequate shelter Provision of secure tenure (Basic services are covered elsewhere in this package
10. Provide legal identity for all Every person should have a form of legal identity Birth and death registries, biometric ID systems

In forthcoming analysis, we will explore the concept of Leave No One Behind, the business as usual trajectory of these objectives, potential interventions and solutions to bridge the gap between this vision and business as usual, and offer policy recommendations to ensure that no one is left behind in the post-2015 development agenda.

But first we need a specific, measurable basket of outcomes that would comprise a core set of promises to Leave No One Behind, and that’s where the development community comes in. Are the ten outcomes we propose above the right choices? What would you consider absolutely critical? Or, perhaps even more importantly, is starting with outcomes the right way we should be implementing a floor? We want to hear from you — leave your comments here or respond to us directly.

Read this post on the Center for Global Development blog.

1 Comment on "Can the SDGs Really ‘Leave No One Behind’?"

  1. Reblogged this on Charlesdienya.blogspot and commented:
    Nice thoughts

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