A New Agenda for a New World

24 June 2013

Minister Gunilla Carlson

Like every political agenda, the post-2015 agenda must be firmly based in a reality check. The current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have served the world well, and managed to focus the global development agenda on a specific set of challenges. But the world today is a very different place than it was when the MDGs were crafted, and is rapidly changing. Divisions of the world into ‘developed’ and ‘developing’, or ‘poor’ and ‘rich’ countries, are now more obsolete than they have ever been. Globalization, free trade, migration and urbanization are all processes that have brought the countries of the world closer together than they have ever been.

Minister Gunilla Carlsson at the June ReCom project meeting in Sida, Sweden.
Minister Gunilla Carlsson at the June ReCom project meeting in Sida, Sweden.

As we are becoming closer and closer, our challenges appear more and more common. That is why the next development agenda needs to be a universal one— one that does not only focus on the poorest countries of the world, but helps us all on the road to achieving a sustainable future.

The challenge of unemployment is an illustrative example. Today, about 40 per cent of the population on the African continent is under the age of 15, (1) and hundreds of millions of people are expected to enter the African labour market over the coming decades. The continent has seen remarkable growth figures over the last decade. Armed conflicts are becoming less frequent, and the institutional environment more investment-friendly. At the same time, populations in Europe and much of the Western world are living longer, making our retirement funds all the more important. There is great potential for capital in high-income countries to grow through investments in Africa, contributing to job creation and growth. Similar patterns are frequently reoccurring, where capital and labour in different parts of the world could contribute to mutual gains for all parties, and this is one of many examples of why the coming agenda must be universal. 

Another example is found in migration. Today, one in seven people is estimated to be on the move, either within countries or over national borders. The economic gains from migration are all too often lost in national political debates over social issues. While the issue of development assistance remains a much more debated topic, the remittances sent home by migrants to their families globally account for three times that of annual  ODA flows. More difficult to quantify are the political and social benefits of migration, but they remain important nonetheless. Migration enables ideas and thoughts to move over borders, contributing to innovations and political development.

The list of opportunities and challenges that provide reasons for the coming agenda to be a universal one could go on much longer. Climate change knows no borders, and is a threat that cannot be countered without collective action by all countries. Free trade can only be made more free, and bring benefits to more people, if the global community works together. While we keep the unmet promises of the MDGs, and work to fulfill them, I am convinced that the next development agenda needs to be a very different one, one that speaks to all countries.

Gunilla Carlson is Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation


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June-July 2013
ISSN 1238-9544