Child survival – global empirical trends since 2000

Paying for Zero: A new global vision for sustainable development, Mar 7th 2014Movie All Is Lost (2013)

When the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were first established nearly 15 years ago, the half-joke reminder among global health experts was that they needed to replace the “M” with a “B” when talking about financing – meaning the solutions required budgets in the order of billions rather than millions of dollars. Today, as the MDGs approach their 2015 deadline and the world negotiates a new global vision for sustainable development, the time has come to shift mindsets from “B” to “T”, since the next frontier is talking about trillions of dollars in required investment throughout the global economy.

To that end, members of the Global Agenda Council on Poverty and Sustainable Development have this week released a report distilling key financing challenges to be addressed in establishing a new generation of global development goals. The report, Paying for Zero: Global Development Finance and the Post-2015 Agenda, stresses the crucial complementary roles and opportunities for public, private and “blended” finance at the domestic and international levels. The word “zero” is used to signal a broad theme of transformation for sustainable development: eliminating extreme poverty, eliminating the most pernicious forms of inequality, and eliminating environmentally unsustainable economic activities.

Stressing ongoing generational shifts in the global development landscape, the report argues that ambitious post-2015 goals will require accompanying ambition and innovation in development finance.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

The conclusions tackle a wide range of issues, including:

  • Development finance will increasingly be integrated across types. Flows from public finance will need to leverage additional private finance, and all forms of finance will need to adhere to common standards of transparency, measurement and reporting.
  • As many developing countries continue to make long-term economic gains, the process of graduation from official development assistance (ODA) needs very careful consideration. For example, emerging lower-middle-income countries, especially those with large numbers of extreme poor, should not face a stark drop-off in access to external finance.
  • It is crucial that the international community place special emphasis on protecting and enhancing properly-targeted ODA budgets. These will need to prioritize the poorest countries and programmes that most effectively reduce poverty. But even with complete success in eliminating extreme poverty by 2030, ODA will continue to play a crucial role tackling many deep global priorities through to 2030 and beyond.
  • Improving the capacity of developing countries to mobilize their own resources should be an important element of ODA, without imposing unwanted conditionalities.
  • Greatly enhanced instruments are needed to incentivize the amount and nature of required private finance post-2015. Big ticket investments in infrastructure, energy and agriculture will all require some degree of blending between public and private sources.
  • Many of the infrastructure investments for sustainable development will be the same ones that determine the future of the world’s climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The report’s release coincides with this week’s meetings of both the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing and the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals at the UN Headquarters in New York. The Global Agenda Council on Poverty and Sustainable Development brings together a variety of eminent leaders and practitioners from public, private and non-profit sectors around the world.  An earlier draft of the paper was circulated for public comment in January.

Author: John McArthur is a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and chair of the Global Agenda Council on Poverty and Sustainable Development.

Image: People walk past closed shops in a slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 23, 2013. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares.


23 months for the world to get organized

By: John McArthur

Oct 16th 2013

At last we have a roadmap. On 25 September, at a special event of the General Assembly, UN member states established a path and process for setting the post-2015 global development agenda. After an extended sequence of significant reports and recommendations over the past year, a short and matter-of-fact outcome document forged some core agreements, finessed some ongoing debates, and confirmed a basic timetable for the coming two years.

Many of the most important agreements were procedural. All countries agreed that the formal intergovernmental negotiations will start in September 2014 and will culminate in a summit of heads of state and government in September 2015. The word “summit” has a specifically elevated meaning in UN jargon, so this represents top-tier importance for the international system.

The General Assembly also commissioned Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to pull together “the full range of inputs” and to present a synthesis report before the end of 2014. Outsiders might consider this mandate trivial, but it represents a major de-escalation of intra-UN tensions. Following a series of intensive political debates, many General Assembly members have felt a need to remind the world that the Secretary-General works for them rather than vice versa. The mandate also provides clear space for Ban Ki-moon to make direct recommendations for post-2015, similar to Kofi Annan’s 2000 We the Peoples report, which helped to inform the landmark Millennium Declaration.

On matters of substance, countries made stepwise progress. They asserted poverty eradication as “the central imperative” of a post-2015 agenda, a subtle nod to continuing the core elements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). But they also called for a “coherent approach” that “integrates in a balanced manner” the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, “working towards a single framework and set of Goals” applicable to all countries. This amounts to strategic ambiguity around whether the poverty and environmental sustainability agendas will be pursued through a unified or parallel set of goals. In plain English, “It will be nice if we can arrive at a single set of goals that applies to everyone, but we don’t know whether we will get there.”

Underpinning the universality debate is the hot-button concept of “common but differentiated responsibilities”. All countries have agreed to the concept but still fight bitterly about what it means in practice. At the core of cores, it asks the extent to which developing countries should pay a different price for fighting climate change and related problems compared to the rich countries that caused them in the first place.

A related debate pertains to peace, security and various components of governance. Many have critiqued the MDGs for their top-line agnosticism on issues such as human rights and the rule of law. The question is how to set measurable targets that all countries, ranging from China to the United States to Brazil and Nigeria, will agree to. The new outcome document agrees that a post-2015 framework should “promote” these things, but does not commit to set targets around them.

Finally, the General Assembly agreed that the key responsibilities over the coming year are delegated to its open working group on sustainable development goals plus a targeted expert group on “sustainable development financing”, both of which will need to make their recommendations before formal negotiations begin next September. Whatever the final composition of any post-2015 goals, at this stage the biggest unresolved issues hinge on decisions of economic policy and development finance, so the expert group will likely form a fulcrum for intergovernmental breakthroughs. It is co-chaired by Ambassador Pertti Majanen of Finland and former Nigerian Finance Minister Mansur Muhtar. If they can achieve the robust engagement of finance ministries and investment leaders around the world, they will have a strong chance of success.

The world has never experienced such an intensive and broad-ranging intergovernmental process towards the confirmation of an agreed global agenda. Its multi-layered nature risks alienating outsiders who lack the time or inclination to master specialized diplomatic procedures. Fortunately, the General Assembly has also called for an inclusive approach that extends beyond traditional interactions with civil society and national parliaments and also includes local authorities, scientific communities, and the private sector. More than a million people around the world expressed their views over the past year. Empowered by the newly clarified timetable, hopefully hundreds of millions more will have the chance to share their perspective over the coming two years too. 

John McArthur is a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.

Can we slash poverty and starvation by 2015? Yes, if we get to work [op-ed]

Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

JOHN MCARTHURlfilm La La Land trailer

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

If global development targets followed a National Football League format, we would be approaching the two-minute warning. December 31, 2015, marks the final deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, the global anti-poverty targets that have mobilized an unprecedented generational success in tackling extreme poverty around the world, most notably the burdens of disease in the poorest countries. We are now facing the final moment to bend the relevant curves of progress. For decision makers, 2013 is the real 2015. [Read more…]

Part 3 of New Canadian Aid Conversation: Looking Forward

The final installment of my 3-part series at

 Roblox HackBigo Live Beans HackYUGIOH DUEL LINKS HACKPokemon Duel HackRoblox HackPixel Gun 3d HackGrowtopia HackClash Royale Hackmy cafe recipes stories hackMobile Legends HackMobile Strike Hack

 Roblox HackBigo Live Beans HackYUGIOH DUEL LINKS HACKPokemon Duel HackRoblox HackPixel Gun 3d HackGrowtopia HackClash Royale Hackmy cafe recipes stories hackMobile Legends HackMobile Strike Hack

 Roblox HackBigo Live Beans HackYUGIOH DUEL LINKS HACKPokemon Duel HackRoblox HackPixel Gun 3d HackGrowtopia HackClash Royale Hackmy cafe recipes stories hackMobile Legends HackMobile Strike Hack

 Roblox HackBigo Live Beans HackYUGIOH DUEL LINKS HACKPokemon Duel HackRoblox HackPixel Gun 3d HackGrowtopia HackClash Royale Hackmy cafe recipes stories hackMobile Legends HackMobile Strike Hack

 Roblox HackBigo Live Beans HackYUGIOH DUEL LINKS HACKPokemon Duel HackRoblox HackPixel Gun 3d HackGrowtopia HackClash Royale Hackmy cafe recipes stories hackMobile Legends HackMobile Strike Hack

 Roblox HackBigo Live Beans HackYUGIOH DUEL LINKS HACKPokemon Duel HackRoblox HackPixel Gun 3d HackGrowtopia HackClash Royale Hackmy cafe recipes stories hackMobile Legends HackMobile Strike Hack

Canada’s next generation global development efforts will draw from much more than public sector action.  Governments matter, but their matrix of responsibilities is shifting, both within and across countries.  To map out a way forward, Canada needs an organized national conversation across key stakeholders, aligned to the “post-2015” global development debates already underway.  Such an effort can develop a common understanding of the global challenges at hand, and then strategize as to how Canadians might best collaborate to help address them.  This needs to be done in the context of a rapidly shifting global environment.  And it could practice implementing through goal-oriented collaboration starting today.  The following outlines some thoughts as to how this could happen. [Read more…]

Part 2 of New Canadian Aid Conversation: History

The next installment of my 3-part series at

It would be a mistake to view Canada’s aid history in partisan terms. Despite ever-present debate at the policy margins, there has been no systematic difference between Conservative and Liberal governments’ respective investment levels or approaches to global development. Today, the most fundamental problem is that Canada’s aid policy and national political conversation remain too disconnected from objective standards of global need and responsibility.

I. Key Trends

The lack of partisan dynamics is reflected in aggregate budgets alone. Canada’s aid levels were consistent at nearly 0.5 percent of national income throughout the Liberal and Conservative governments of the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990s, it was a Liberal government that oversaw the largest aid cutbacks in the country’s history, down to 0.22 percent in 2001, before joining a global trend to rebuild over the 2000s. The current Conservative government continued the upward course, reaching 0.33 percent in 2010 (adjusting for the accounting tricks of debt relief), before signaling plans to taper off to 0.25 percent in 2015.

Beneath these numbers, three recent trends stand out: [Read more…]

The Origins of the Millennium Development Goals


DECEMBER 2014 UPDATE: I have revised and expanded some of the material in this piece and published it as a proper article in the SAIS Review of International Affairs.  Full article available here.


APRIL 2014 UPDATE: Note – an updated version of this piece was posted here.


I recently posted this short piece at Brookings regarding the origins of the MDG Targets following the September 2000 UN Millennium Declaration.  Original link here.  Full PDF document here.


More than a decade after the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), ample confusion persists regarding their genesis. In particular, many people misunderstand the relationship between the contents of the September 2000 UN Millennium Declaration and the original MDG Targets that were extracted from that Declaration. As recently as 2012, I have heard senior global policy figures state a belief that, “The Millennium Declaration did not establish any quantitative targets. Those were set afterwards.” This is not correct. All of the MDGs’ original formal Targets were established in the Millennium Declaration.

The roots of the misunderstanding probably lie in the U.S. government’s stance from mid-2001, when the MDGs were first used as a policy term, through September 2005, when President Bush first used the words “Millennium Development Goals” in public. During the interim period, U.S. officials would commonly state that, “The United States supports the goals of the Millennium Declaration but not the Millennium Development Goals,” or that “The United States supports Goals 1 through 7 but not Goal 8.” When looking at the actual contents of the Millennium Declaration and the original MDG Targets, neither statement is logical.

The following describes the issues through the form of an FAQ structure.

1. Which Targets were taken directly from the Millennium Declaration?
All of the original MDG Targets were taken directly from the Millennium Declaration. Following the September 2000 Millennium Summit, the UN General Assembly mandated Secretary-General Kofi Annan to prepare a long-term roadmap towards the implementation of the Millennium Declaration. Annan in turn commissioned Assistant Secretary-General Michael Doyle to coordinate a process to extract the development-related outcomes of the Millennium Declaration and thereby crystallize the priorities for follow-up.

In working through the prose of world leaders’ commitments embedded in the body of the Millennium Declaration, Doyle and his team (which included people like Jan Vandemoortele of UNDP and others from UNICEF, the OECD, World Bank, IMF, UNFPA and later WHO) identified a subset of 18 politically agreed commitments, which they categorized under eight overarching “Goals.” These 18 commitments were labeled as “Targets.” Ten out of the 18 Targets were quantitative in nature and nine out of ten set a deadline for 2015, the exception being the slum dweller Target for 2020. Table 1 lists the original 18 MDG Targets next to the relevant passage(s) from the Millennium Declaration. [The 18 Targets were later expanded to be 21, based on 2005 intergovernmental agreements, as described under point #6 below.] Appendix 1 includes the complete Development section of the Millennium Declaration.

A Guide to Post-2015 Debates – at

Today launched a new series on “post-2015 debates,” regarding the global deliberations over what policy goals should come after the Millennium Development Goals.  I wrote the short overview piece below as a “cheat sheet” for the debates.

Original link here:


A Guide to the Post-2015 Debates
John McArthur | February 4, 2013

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been a remarkable global political success. As targets established in 2000 to cut extreme poverty in its many forms in half by 2015, the MDGs have focused the world’s attention on tackling the integrated challenges of the poorest billion people on the planet – those who live on less than $1.25 a day and lack reliable access to food, safe drinking water, sanitation, or even the most basic education and health care. The MDGs have been fruitful enough in focusing attention that they have prompted a burgeoning global debate on what international goals should come next.

The post-2015 arguments have so many dimensions that any subset of global constituencies focused on resolving its own piece of the puzzle risks spending large amounts of time finding “solutions” that are untenable among players working on other key pieces. Even the jargon is tricky, since labels like “sustainable development goals” that took hold around the 2012 Rio+20 summit are loaded with disparate embedded meanings across a range of key constituencies, with some deeming the term essential while others consider it politically toxic. Meanwhile, in a case study of political semantics, the notion of setting “goals for sustainable development” has broader agreement as a more impartial conceptual starting point, surpassed by the even more neutral term of “post-2015 development agenda.”

To help distill the issues as the post-2015 debate grows, here is a cheat sheet describing what is on the table, who is involved, a typology of perspectives, the rough contours of a roadmap, and the implications for Canada.

The Substance
The post-2015 deliberations include four basic categories of topics, any or all of which might be included in a final intergovernmental agreement. First is the core MDG extreme poverty agenda, which has been most effectively advanced in recent years in areas of health and education. The world has made tremendous gains towards improving living standards and cutting the many forms of extreme poverty in half over the past generation. Many believe the time is now ripe to finish the job and set a goal of “getting to zero” on extreme poverty by 2030.

Second is the issue of environmental sustainability, for which the MDGs have prompted less success, even though one of the MDGs’ eight headline goals draws some attention to the issue. Concerns over the shortfalls have grown over the past decade as fast-growing emerging economies have struggled to manage their environmental footprints and we have seen an increase in global awareness of the threat of climate change. Neither climate nor so-called “green growth” issues are addressed in the MDG framework, and many believe planetary boundaries can no longer be ignored in any global development strategy, especially as the world’s population is slated to grow by two billion people by mid-century. The politics around climate issues are particularly tricky, since the post-2015 discussions cannot outrun the UN intergovernmental process for climate negotiations, which has a 2015 deadline for a new agreement but faces formidable challenges to reaching a comprehensive global policy solution.

A third category focuses on governance, broadly defined. The term means many things to many people, from transparency to fiscal accountability to human rights to democratization to system building in fragile states. The MDGs did not include governance targets, in order to avoid ideological debates and focus on ends rather than means. But many think the global views have evolved to a point where at least issues like budget transparency can be agreed upon by all countries.

A fourth category focuses on inequality and social inclusion, in line with the growing concern that the spoils of global development are disproportionately benefiting the most privileged – whether the top 10 per cent, one percent, or even 0.1 per cent of any society – while the less privileged are either left behind or directly excluded. Many advocates worry that global goals based on country averages overlook primary concerns of discrimination, whether by gender, ethnicity, or age. Others are focused on jobs and unemployment, especially among youth. Concerns around inequality reflect perhaps the deepest zeitgeist of the post-2015 discussions, even if they remain among the most difficult to tackle through internationally agreed-upon targets. Everyone agrees, for example, that less child mortality is better, but there is ample room for debate on what counts as an optimal level of income inequality, and countries like the U.S. are unlikely to endorse an internationally agreed-upon number as a benchmark any time soon.

Who Is Involved
The MDGs took shape at the turn of the millennium, when concerns were rife over the divisions between the rich and poor countries. Amidst the ongoing transformation of the global economy, today’s world can no longer be neatly geopolitically divided between developed and developing states. Accordingly, there are big debates as to which countries should even be implementing post-2015 goals. There are still three-dozen low-income countries with annual per capita incomes of $1,025 or less. This includes an array of fragile states where governments still struggle to provide even the simplest services and progress is generally stuck. But the majority of the world’s extreme poor now live in relatively fast-growing middle-income economies, which face rapidly changing social and environmental pressures, with enormous consequences for the entire planet. Most of those emerging economies want to tackle domestic challenges, but have little patience for rich-country dictums on governance or the environment that might form roadblocks to shared prosperity. Meanwhile, many of the high-income countries are struggling to balance domestic and global priorities amidst long-term fiscal strains. Countries like the United Kingdom stand out for their courageous ongoing leadership on the MDGs, including the forthcoming achievement this year of the longstanding foreign aid target of 0.7 per cent of national income.

At the same time, there is a growing sentiment that global development goals should no longer be the preserve of governments alone. Companies increasingly want to contribute, and want transparent and predictable metrics for holding themselves accountable. Non-governmental organizations similarly want a voice at the table, and seek to ensure that powerfully resourced actors are accountable to citizens of all forms procurer viagra. Meanwhile, some key players like the Gates Foundation play a unique role in catalyzing and bridging innovations across governments, civil society, and scientific communities all at once. It remains to be seen whether a global intergovernmental framework of goals can foster a consistent yet decentralized system of goals for actors outside of government, too.

A Typology of Views
Across the complex range of issues and stakeholders, four distinct types of perspectives seem to be taking shape.

  • A “conservative” view wants to stay focused on the specific challenges of extreme poverty, tweaking the MDG targets as needed, but warning that broadening the agenda weakens the focus on one of the greatest successes ever to come out of the United Nations.
  • An “upgrading” view wants an MDG-plus agenda, modestly expanding the existing goals to include one or two other top-tier global priorities, like governance, inequality, or climate change.
  • A “geostrategic” view wants to focus on the priorities of the rapidly growing large economies like Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia that account for nearly half the world’s population. Such countries face, in varying degrees, the middle-income challenges of managing very modest domestic resources, rather than the low-income challenge of having incredibly scarce resources. Their voices are increasingly heard in venues like the G20. In many respects, these countries’ forthcoming challenges of economic transformation amount to the world’s overarching challenge of sustainability.
  • A “comprehensive” view sees 2015 as the one big chance to forge an integrated global agreement tackling all countries’ challenges of extreme poverty and social inclusion while operating within planetary boundaries. In this view, the fates of people and planet are too deeply interwoven to be subject to separate agreements.

How Will the Arguments Be Resolved?
It is impossible to predetermine political outcomes on any contemporary global issue. Nonetheless, there are a few key players and checkpoints on the road to 2015. The first is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is responsible for convening the global political negotiations and using his good offices to help distill and shape the agenda among UN member states. He has a talented team helping to guide the process, including Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and Assistant Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. He has also commissioned a high-level panel co-chaired by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. That panel is scheduled to recommend its priorities later this spring, in time for the General Assembly’s consideration before a major MDG-focused event in September.

Concurrently, the General Assembly has formed its own “expert group” to recommend a path forward on sustainable development goals (however those end up being defined), in line with the agreements of the Rio+20 conference. Meanwhile, the UN Development Programme is actively engaging in country-level consultations in more than 60 countries, alongside the “MY world” online collaboration with NGOs to solicit citizen votes on priorities from around the world. It remains unclear how all of these pieces will fit together, and how they will align with the practicalities of negotiation among global powers. But there is a good chance that 2013 will bring clarity on the substantive priorities to be tackled through post-2015 goals, and that 2014 will then see gradual convergence around specific goals. By September 2015, there needs to be enough convergence for an intergovernmental agreement with teeth. Hopefully, this will include a serious agreement on climate change, either as part of a post-2015 deal or as a parallel UN agreement.

How Does Canada Fit In?
The post-2015 negotiations prompt two key questions for Canada, each of which merits significant public analysis and debate. First, how has the country performed on the MDGs? Canada has supported the MDGs rhetorically, and has made important contributions to global health and, more recently, hunger. But by any quantitative standard, the country has fallen short in matching the MDGs’ core issue of scale. The divergence between Canada’s relative stasis and the U.K.’s leadership path over the past decade is striking in this regard.

Second, what does Canada want to prioritize globally and how does it want to position itself in a post-2015 world? A senior government official recently told me, for example, that the further the post-2015 negotiations delve into climate issues, the less supportive Canada will be. Will the government ramp up its efforts on extreme poverty in order to divert attention from environmental issues? Will it latch onto governance as either a legitimate priority in development or perhaps a bargaining chip with emerging economies? Is there a possibility of changing course on climate and environmental policy if the second Obama administration takes a new approach? Everything is on the table.

Canada’s political leaders have ultimate responsibility to set these policies on behalf of the nation. But their decisions must be the product, rather than simply the driver, of active societal debate. Such deliberations require years to evolve and take shape. Canadian voices need to be heard, and to engage with the broader world. The year 2015 is fast approaching, but there is still time for rich discussion. On that note, let the deliberations begin!

Short ForumLive Interview with Prof Chan Yuen Ying

On Saturday I did a short (if sleep-deprived) ForumLive interview in Davos with Prof Chan Yuen Ying, Director of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at Hong Kong University.  In it we talked about some of the issues covered in the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Outlook 2013, which includes some commentary from Prof Chan (and my friend Michael Elliott) on the role of journalism in restoring trust in public institutions, plus some commentary from me and Wu Changhua regarding the MDGs and the post-2015 development agenda.

Video here:


Ottawa Citizen Op-ed on responsibilities of public opinion leaders

I have an op-ed in today’s Ottawa Citizen focused on the responsibilities of Canadian public opinion leaders, although the same point applies broadly across geographies.  The opening paragraph:Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Pundits are not policymakers and they should not be held to the same standard of public responsibility. But opinion leaders do need to take responsibility for their role in shaping public debate and, at times, contributing to policy failure. I was reminded of this last week when reading one of Jeffrey Simpson’s Globe and Mail columns, in which he lamented Canadian foreign aid cuts and asserted that the country’s “once-sterling reputation for caring about Africa is over.”

Full piece available here.