The European Parliament needs to take a more comprehensive approach to the different aspects of governance as well as the role of governance ‘of’ and ‘for’ the Sustainable Development Goals in the post-2015 development agenda.
Building on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the “Draft Report on the EU and the global development framework after 2015” (henceforth ‘the Draft Report’) of the European Parliament Committee on Development was put forth in October 2014. It acknowledges the need for good governance in the post-2015 development agenda and welcomes the progress made by the Open Working Group (OWG) while allowing itself to state that “the number of goals identified in its conclusions need to be simplified and significantly reduced”.
The currently proposed set of 17 goals and 169 targets put forth by the OWG in July 2014 are argued to be “action-oriented, global in nature, and universally applicable”. However, some argue that the number of goals is simply too high making it difficult for actors to remember and communicate core messages – even the UN Secretary General implicitly recognizes this in his recent report by calling for a clustering in six “essential elements”. Others argue that the ‘non-tweetable’ format of SDGs is a ignoring the lessons learned from the easily communicable MDGs.
However, the SDGs are not only adhering to a new scene in global development with an increasingly holistic approach in that it applies to all countries and is being brought together with the climate and broader environmental debate. Insofar it become obvious that the SDGs have a more complex and interconnected task at hand that may explain a more opaque goal quantity and formulation as proposed by the OWG.
Good governance, understood as the quality of the processes of decision making and their institutional foundations, is indeed a crucial aspect in the SDGs and Post-2015 Development Agenda but also a controversial term due to its function in international development assistance and has been seen as a form of aid conditionality. Good governance is in the EU Draft Report underscored as part of the identified priority area of “poverty eradication and sustainable development”. It is also mentioned several times throughout its explanatory statement in regard to, for example, the application of a human rights-based approach and mobilizing financial resources through transparent and accountable manners. These are without doubt important aspects but the document falls short in recognizing necessary additional aspects of governance, that is, “effective governance” and “equitable governance” and the role of governance ‘of’ and ‘for’ the Sustainable Development Goals.
Effective governance, understood as the capacity of countries to pursue sustainable development, goes beyond decision-making processes and means of implementation by focusing on, for example, technology transfer, official development assistance and capacity building as necessary for long-term planning. Still without a comprehensive measuring of delivery of effective governance, suggestions point to using ‘stress tests’ or ‘road marker indicators’.
Equitable governance, understood as the distributive outcomes of governance, includes equitable application of the rule of law and equitable distribution of wealth and societal opportunities. The need to reduce extreme forms of income inequalities must be paired with efforts toward governance reforms addressing equality at both national and multilateral levels in political, societal, and economic systems.
These three aspects of governance certainly have some tangents and overlaps but “will require separate political efforts” (Bierman et al., 2014: 1).
Therefore, the European Parliament, in their future deliberations on the Draft Report, ought to (i) consider the different aspects of governance in the Post-2015 Development Agenda to ensure that effective and equitable governance aspects enjoy similar priority as good governance; (ii) acknowledge the opportunities and challenges coupled with both a stand-alone governance goal and with pursuing an integrated approach; and, (iii) recognize the duality of governance in being needed here and now as well as a future development outcome. That is, effective, equitable, and fair governance as a goal and as a mean to achieve the other goals.
Frank Biermann, Casey Stevens, Steven Bernstein, Aarti Gupta, Ngeta Kabiri, Norichika Kanie, Marc Levy, Måns Nilsson, László Pintér, Michelle Scobie, and Oran R. Young. 2014. Integrating Governance into the Sustainable Development Goals. POST2015/UNU-IAS Policy Brief #3. Tokyo: United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability
Norichika Kanie, Ruben Zondervan, Casey Stevens (editors) 2014. Ideas on Governance ‘of’ and ‘for’ Sustainable Development Goals: UNU-IAS/POST2015 Conference Report. Tokyo: United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability.
Davor Ivo Stier (Rapporteur) (2014) DRAFT REPORT on the EU and the global development framework after 2015. Committee on Development. European Parliament.