Achieving Development Depends on all Peoples Enjoying Human Rights and Democratic Rule in their Countries

Heidi Hautala

Over the last decade the international community has striven to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Thanks to global cooperation much has been achieved. For example, over 600 million people have been lifted out of poverty and 56 million more children get to go to school now. Despite these successes a lot remains to be done. Now the question is: what happens after the 2015 deadline for MDGs? In this crossroad we need wisdom, courage and commitment in order to update the global framework in such a way that it will help improve the lives of the poor and marginalized.

During this past decade the world has changed dramatically. Firstly, the structure of global poverty is different than it was in the turn of the millennium. Today two-thirds of the world's poor live in the middle-income countries. These are countries that have been able to raise their GDP, but at the same time inequality among citizens has increased. This is true also about differences between countries. This tendency has to be recognized and fighting all types of inequality needs to be a priority in our future work.

© UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
© UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Secondly, we need to update our idea of what sustainable development is. The international development agenda has, until now, been based mainly on three pillars: economically, environmentally and socially sustainable development. Recently, especially in the UN report ’Realizing the Future We Want for All’, the global community has started to speak with a stronger voice about the fourth pillar: peace and security. I believe there can be no lasting sustainable development without peace and security, but equally, there can be no peace and security without development. This is evident in fragile states: not one of them has been able to reach any of the MDGs.

The example of the fragile states also highlights the need to thwart corruption and support good governance, transparency and accountability. Many of the world's poorest countries have abundant natural resources which - if wisely and sustainably managed - could free them from aid dependency. Here also the developed countries need to look in the mirror: stopping illicit capital flight and plundering of natural resources requires also our action.

Finally, it is clear that the new set of goals has to be built both on the strengths and weaknesses of the MDGs. In addition to the actual themes and targets we need a clear set of indicators in order to measure success. Similarly, we should be wise enough to address the problems not divided into their separate silos, but as questions that are irreversibly interconnected. However, there is one specific set of goals I personally would like to see included in the new agenda - that is the goals for good governance, democracy, and rule of law. I believe that ultimately reaching the acceptable level of development depends on all peoples enjoying basic human rights and democratic rule in their societies.

Heidi Hautala is Minister for International Development of Finland. She deals with the Ministry’s development cooperation affairs and the Government’s ownership steering.

WIDERAngle newsletter
February 2013
ISSN 1238-9544