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A Peace Agenda for Global Development

MONROVIA, LIBERIA – This week, the 27 members of the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda gather in Monrovia, Liberia, to advise United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. At the meeting, the Panel will establish a “bold yet practical” vision for joint action on sustainable development.

While these discussions – hosted by Liberian President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and British Prime Minister David Cameron – take place, the nearby Sahel and the Great Lakes region continue to be plagued by violence and conflict. Indeed, large-scale displacement of people and unspeakable human suffering are occurring in many African countries (not to mention in Syria and elsewhere), threatening to reverse the continent’s unprecedented economic progress during the last decade.

The Panel (of which I am a member) must seize the opportunity presented by the Monrovia meeting to contribute to a global development agenda that addresses the vicious cycle of conflict and poverty that hampers economic activity and undermines human well-being.

For more than a decade, the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in two years, have provided the framework for international development cooperation, with a focus on combating poverty worldwide. In developing a new, comprehensive follow-up agenda, global leaders should recognize that, although the MDGs have enabled millions of people worldwide to escape illiteracy, disease, and hunger, their overall impact has been inadequate, particularly in fragile, conflict-ridden countries. World Bank statistics show that no conflict-affected low-income country has achieved a single MDG, reflecting the framework’s failure to address problems caused by organized violence and insecurity effectively.

That is why the post-2015 agenda should be centered on peace, security, and freedom from fear. It should aim to make justice and prosperity a reality for everyone. And it should reflect the understanding that development is impossible without peace, just as peace is impossible without development – and that lasting peace and sustainable development are impossible without respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Furthermore, as the Monrovia meeting’s theme, “National Building Blocks for Sustained Prosperity,” suggests, post-2015 global development initiatives should emphasize support for national efforts to achieve strong, stable, long-term prosperity. Strategies that would help countries to overcome domestic insecurity and conflict, transform their economies, and, ultimately, meet their potential include strengthening governance institutions and the rule of law, ensuring multi-stakeholder participation, and guaranteeing that all citizens have equal access to justice. International support for such efforts would mean giving African leaders and stakeholders the opportunity – and the responsibility – to eliminate underdevelopment and boost prosperity.

Moreover, while poverty eradication will remain a paramount concern after 2015, the focus must shift from national averages to local disparities. Measures must move beyond overall social needs to bolster progress in productive job-creating and income-generating sectors. And strong efforts must be made in conflict-affected countries to promote reconciliation and prevent the revival of violence.

Given Liberia’s recent success in post-conflict reconstruction and human development, following a 14-year civil war, it is a fitting setting for the Panel’s deliberations. Since 2003, domestic vision and commitment, together with international support, have enabled Liberia to hold democratic elections, reintroduce some essential public services, reestablish a public-finance management system, and make progress in addressing endemic corruption, rebuilding public institutions, and reconstructing national infrastructure.

The Panel should view Liberia’s ongoing efforts to secure peace, maintain stability, and initiate economic and social transformation as a blueprint for successful post-conflict transition. Other inspiring models can be found in Rwanda, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone.

The Panel is committed to creating an ambitious, coherent, and practical proposal for a sustainable global development agenda. The process will be open, inclusive, and transparent, and will be informed by the opinions and experiences of experts and stakeholders representing young people, women, the elderly, and the disabled, as well as legislative, academic, and inter-governmental actors. The Panel will also take advantage of extensive online and offline efforts to engage with people worldwide and gain insight into the future that they envision. Their perspectives will enrich efforts to develop an agenda that addresses their priorities.

In a world roiled by conflict, development efforts will always fall short. The post-2015 global development agenda must take a comprehensive approach, combining poverty-reduction measures with peace-building initiatives and strategies for economic transformation. In this way, global leaders can begin to lay the foundations for prosperity, justice, and sustainable development worldwide. Future generations are counting on it.

Read more from our "Visionary Voices" series