U.N. Panel Member Says Development Must ‘Leave No Person Behind’

Youth hold promise for the future.
Youth hold promise for the future.

By Kathryn McConnell
IIP Staff Writer
Washington,
21 February 2014

Extreme poverty can be eliminated in the world if development partners use a “leave no person behind” approach to economic development, according to a member of the United Nations’ high-level panel helping to set the stage for a post-2015 development agenda.

John Podesta, who also holds the post of White House counselor, said the panel embraced key goals for ending poverty, including achieving universal legal identity, land tenure rights, and access to financial services and infrastructure, and mobilizing domestic resources to attract external investment. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon formed the 27-member panel in July 2012.

“No amount of aid or private-sector investment will end extreme poverty if we don’t deliberately address the factors that leave millions of people around the world economically isolated and vulnerable,” Podesta said February 19 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. He added that transparency, the rule of law and good governance also are essential and should be universal.

The post-2015 development agenda is to be the successor to the Millennium Development Goals, eight specific poverty-reduction targets for 2015 agreed to by U.N. member countries in 2000.

Podesta said development partners must ensure that multinational corporations meet their responsibilities, including having strong codes of accountability in their supply chains and paying their fair share of taxes. Those taxes can go toward countries’ development goals and other national priorities, he said.

Podesta noted that the world will face different challenges over the next 15 years than it has faced since 2000, like a growing population of young people “often not able to find employment commensurate with their abilities.” He added that cities are growing at a rapid rate and that extreme poverty has shifted from stable, low-income countries to conflict-affected and fragile states.

He said that to end extreme poverty, sustainable development must be at the core of economic theory. Sustainable economic development is about “shaping enduring systems and institutions that respect the rights of individuals and give them the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty.”

That means increasing productivity and concentrating on efficiency, producing enough to meet the needs of an expanding population “without doing irreparable harm to the planet,” and producing the same amount of goods and services while using less energy and water, he said.

Podesta emphasized that the private sector, which had strong representation on the U.N. panel, is key to developing and distributing the right tools and in bringing investment to less-developed countries.

“Lifting people out of poverty means more opportunity for everyone,” he said. “Healthier, better educated and more prosperous families help drive trade and growth for all.”