Post-2015 Debate Must Include Voices From The Front Line

Lord McConnell

This week, as the world watched with baited breath the violent clashes in Gaza, Goma and Syria, the harrowing images and stories broadcast on our television screens offer a cold reminder of the human cost of conflict.

There is little dispute that conflict, development and peacebuilding are intrinsically linked. Yet the current development framework in the form of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) largely ignored this connection. And, as the 2015 deadline for the achievement for these global targets looms, the facts speak for themselves:

• No low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet achieved a single MDG;

• Of the 46 countries at the bottom of the UNDP’s human development index, 32 are conflict-affected or fragile;

• 60% of the undernourished, 61% of the impoverished, 77% of the children not in primary school, 65% of the people lacking access to clean water and 70% of infant deaths occur in fragile or conflict-afflicted states.

As we entered the new millennium, the dark shadow cast by a decade of atrocities and civil war was long. The fact that the Millennium Declaration and its subsequent goals gained the signatory approval of 189 countries was, by all accounts, a triumph. And relentless pursuit of their achievement by 2015 in as many countries as possible is still essential.

But they offered a ‘top-down’ approach to development that emphasised basic service provision. They were right for their time, but the time is now right for a new approach.

The MDGs encouraged schools for girls, but they have not attacked the sexual violence and rape used as weapons of war. They have delivered vaccines for children, but have not stopped their recruitment as child soldiers. They have improved access to clean water, but have not halted the flow of blood.

When we look beyond 2015 and to the future, we have to decide what worked well with the existing framework, together with what did not, and incorporate these lessons learned into a new and improved approach. But this time, the ‘we’ has to include, and indeed be led by, the voices of the developing world.

Looking at the evidence, it is clear that the MDGs have failed in fragile and conflict-affected states, and those states are failing the 1.5 billion people who live within their borders. The Goals have not sufficiently tackled the structural causes and drivers of conflict, choosing instead to treat the symptoms. Sticky plasters don’t heal wounds; they merely cover up the more fundamental problem.

Of course, developing and winning support for a new model is tough. Can global goals ever be made relevant to local contexts? Should national governments be responsible for setting measurable benchmarks? Can the need for a comprehensive framework work alongside the importance of clarity and simplicity? What financing mechanisms would be suitable for states with high levels of corruption? Can one framework truly capture the various issues that are to be addressed? Would it be better to forgo quantifiable targets all together?

These are difficult questions that will no doubt lead to difficult conversations, but they are ones that need to be discussed, negotiated and, ultimately, answered.

What is surely not a matter for debate, however, is the inclusion of the voices and needs of people in developing fragile or conflict-affected states in any emerging plan. Negotiations on the post-2015 framework must bring all stakeholders to the table if they are to be truly inclusive. They must also address the inequalities – real or perceived – that are often at the heart of conflict and fragility.

Developments, such as The New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, the joint statement by civil society on ‘Bringing peace back into the post-2015 development framework’, and recent comments made by David Cameron in his capacity as Chair of the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, are promising in this regard. But momentum and leadership are now paramount.

UK aid expenditure for 2012/13 in Palestine and the Democratic Republic of the Congo amounts to around £86 million and £165 million respectively. Recent events only go to show that, regardless of how much money you throw at a problem, conflict can very quickly escalate and reclaim any ground made in development. This is why the causes and drivers of conflict need to be addressed as a priority for the post-2015 plan, and the UK is in a unique position to ensure this becomes a reality.

7 comments for “Post-2015 Debate Must Include Voices From The Front Line

  1. Lord Blagger
    22/11/2012 at 11:44 am

    This is why the causes and drivers of conflict need to be addressed as a priority for the post-2015 plan, and the UK is in a unique position to ensure this becomes a reality.

    How is it in a unique position?

    It hasn’t got the money.

    A 4.7 trillion debt hidden off the books.

  2. 22/11/2012 at 2:26 pm

    A new campaign launches on 28 November to do just this – to give local people a say in peacebuilding and development activities in their own countries. It’s called Local First and full details are at, where you can find case studies and a downloadable summary of the arguments.

    Local First is a development approach that looks first for the capacity within countries before bringing in external expertise and resources, recognises that much of this capacity is found outside central government, and understands that local people need to lead their own development.

    Lord McConnell is absolutely right to argue that local voices must be reflected in the post-MDG agenda, if development is to be effective and sustainable. We welcome all contributions to this campaign.

  3. Rhodri Mawr
    22/11/2012 at 6:09 pm

    Jonathen is at sound common sense again.

    However:signatory approval of 189 countries was, by all accounts, a triumph. Lord Mc connell’s approach is a very sophisticated one; talked about over the dining table easily, but personal action there is none.

    It is an easy way out for the talker and the debater.

    I noticed a philanthropist the other day, while I was doing some family research for a US citizen friend on Burma and the Shan people.

    Another US citizen who was a qualified medical man had decided to start an orphanage and he had decided to start it in the 9th worst economy in the world… Burma.

    Lord Mcconnell affects nobody once he has stopped talking and debating. The aformentioned anonymous gentleman affects a couple of hundred.

    Now THAT is statistics.


    I would say however that qualities of leadership are the one thing that most lead to peace or conflict. You can see ssomebody like Slob Milosevich is going to pull a carefully nurtured state apart like FRY apart.

    We may be able to see that Muselveni, although a military man, may carry his part of Africa through times of peace better than any body else would have done.

    Was it not Poirot who remarked, in his inimitable French accent, “You can see murder in a man’s eyes but there is nothing you can do to prevent it.

    The same applies to genocidal leaders.
    You can see genocide and severe conflict will arise but there is nothing whatsoever you can do to prevent it.

    The various UN organisations are the least UNABLE to do things to discourage conflict and war.

    Even then when Qhaddaffi was a young man, a colonel who had taken over Libya, he was seen as a man who knew what he was doing, and yet,
    dying in a drain, as he did, was not exactly the outcome his early supporters would have anticipated for such a handsome and debonair young leader.

  4. maude elwes
    23/11/2012 at 6:01 am

    Overseas Aid. What exactly does that mean?

    Why are we not centering on our own need for Aid? As blagger constantly reminds us, we are insolvent as a country. Yet, it appears our politicians refuse to see the reality of what that means to us, the British voters.

    What it means for the plebs is this country of ours is, playing the globalisation card is a game to take our eye off what is happening to our own part of the planet and to us within that part of the world.

    The salaries of pilots have been cut so low in the USA they are on food stamps. How long is that going to be before we are being flown by complete destitutes. And what that means in reality for our safety.

    Why are our politicians spending time considering what is going on elsewhere whilst negelcting the situation we are in here in the UK? What are you making out of our demise?

    • Lord Blagger
      26/11/2012 at 9:26 am


      The choice isn’t about aid/no aid.

      It’s quite simple. How is the government going to tell people we aren’t pay the state pension (worth 20p for every pound contributed)?

      What’s people’s reaction going to be to being forced into destitution?

      My take in the UK are there are enough people who have no choice and of those enough that will resort to violence. The hope that they address their violence at the scum who’ve run up the debts isn’t going to work. Why do you think MPs are so desperate at keeping their multiple homes secret?

      What you are already seeing signs of is people saying, look, if you won’t provide me with services, I’m not paying the tax. e.g. Just like Greece. Then the government is already at the point of desperation for tax revenues, whilst cutting. Hmm taxes are for services. Not any more.

      On the globalisation front. IP (intelectual property) taxes have gone. I’ll give you an example. One place I’ve worked at spent 1 million on hardware for some calculations. By putting that on Amazon, it dropped to 80K a year. That work can be moved from Ireland to the US, to Singapore in 10 seconds. Who gets the taxes then?

      It’s also like the EU. eg. The UK wants to stop spending so much. Lots of countries say the UK is scum as a result. Those receiving the cash. Well, if they can’t say thank you for the help, then people’s reaction is they don’t want to help.

      MPs and Peers are prime examples of then ‘tax payers are scum’ way of thinking.

  5. MilesJSD
    23/11/2012 at 3:52 pm

    Bear with me, this is about “right use of words, if at all”:

    After the UN Declaration of Primary Health Care in 1978
    (NB Health “care”, NOT Illness “treatment” nor medical-management)
    was supported by Britain’s Susan Rifkin partnered by Australia’s Mary Johnston in “Health Care Together”
    (oddly I think, under the curious ‘wing’ of the UK’s Epidemiology Branch [there being neither then nor since a British Health Service only the UK National Illnesses Sector posing as the NHS]
    but nevertheless a non-epidemiological manual of know-how for a ‘participative democratisation’ or ‘social-cooperativisation’ of both neighbourhoods of people and their leaders, right up through to national-level)

    but both this clear people-participation ground work and the peaceful win-win-win advance made by the Method III of cooperative problem solving
    were and still are being both ignored and repressed, evidently not just by individual nations but complicitly by the UN itself.

    There is a similar ‘stuck-in-the-mud’ problem in this Needs-&-Hows-Solving matter:
    Sense-wise (practice-on-the-ground)
    “participative” (the People formally construct the constitution, objects, rules and definitions of a Body and of its projects, in the very first formative stage and at every stage thereafter) and contrasts with “directive” (which is delineated, defined and dictated from the Top, such that the term ‘cooperative’ comes to mean “This is the Plan, just cooperate with it”);
    and “cooperative” (win-win-win) contrasts with “competitive” (win-lose: the Directorate wins even luxuries, while the Others lose something vital)).

    So when I see a main-aim to be “getting People to ‘have their say'” and
    “local voices must be “reflected” in the agenda”
    I know that both the Top and the Bottom are ob the wrong tack, possibly unconsciously but given their levels of western-education, I have to say “deliberately” – ‘ignorance is no excuse for error’.

    It is not primarily anyone’s mere “voice”,
    and certainly not just to have a seriously-submitted peoples-need “listened to” and in some manner “reflected” probably non-verbatimly, non-faithfully,, somewhere in a directorate-pre-established Agenda, that needs to be both cleanly sand clearly worded and verbatimly-followed through in Action;

    it is the Needs of every-one, resolved Method III participatively and successively ’round-table-wise’,
    that must be agreed.

    In this essential sense, that
    “conflict, development and peace-building
    are intrinsically linked” has to be seen as a conflational-fallacy;

    only after the first-resort “friendly” problem solving Method III and Participative-Planning have failed
    does the “conflict” (negatively second) stage arise, extrinsically to the first-resort Cooperative and Participative stage.

    { Overviewed, the three main stages of Needs & Hows Recognition and Best-Meeting are increasingly difficult, as
    1) friendly cooperative and participative needs & hows recognition and ‘best-met’;
    2) inimical but collaborative conflict-resolution
    3) ‘Crisis’ management (the process(es) have crashed down a slippery-slope, and blood-spilling is already ‘escalating’. }
    For this Topic’s matter where wrong or loosely-applied words could pre-emptively undermine and sabotage the whole length, breadth and depth of the problem-solving Task and of eventual Results ‘on the ground’,
    I would recommend, among such currently-taught apposites as may be at hand, familiarisation with “Let’s Do Theology” (Laurie Green 1990) especially pages 6 to 11 inclusive:
    [a quote: ‘Preach the gospel to all you meet. Use words only if necessary’ (St Francis) ].

    Clearly the first and best-requirement for both leaders and followers is “right deeds”,
    doubtless including “right and sufficient lifesupports” –
    which is where your first requisite is to list every one’s (each individual subject’s) real needs and best-affordable-hows,
    ‘verbatimly’ and ‘up-front’.
    It is pusillanimous and puerile to spin-doctoredly direct that “the people’s voice be merely reflected (hidden) in some agenda or other”.

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