Final countdown to shape the Post-2015 UN development agenda

published 24 March 2015 updated 1 April 2015

As negotiations on the United Nations new development agenda, known as the Post-2015 process, have entered the final stage, Education International is working to ensure the goals are evaluated in line with human rights standards.

The final round of monthly negotiations on the next Global Sustainable Development Goals, which began in January this year and are set to conclude in July, present the last opportunity for changes to the agenda before they are adopted in September at the UN General Assembly, in New York City.

However, with UN member states showing little appetite to renegotiate any of the goals and targets after 18 months of talks, this month’s negotiations are focused on the indicators, or rather the tools for measuring the actual implementation of the new agenda. Statistical experts of the UN system and member states have worked on an initial proposal of possible indicators, which are attached to each target to help monitor progress.

Indicators: it’s all in the details

While the development of indicators is a rather technical exercise, it is crucial to make sure that they measure the right thing. There will only be a limited number of indicators at the global level, and there is a fear by some involved in the process that these indicators will have too much influence and focus on implementation as well as financing.

Education International (EI) has been calling for rights-based indicators, which conform to human rights standards. In order to draw attention to the importance of rights-based indicators, and to look at what this means and how it can be done, EI hosted an event with a number of human rights organisations in New York.

The event looked at how human rights can be measured, how issues like discrimination and inequality can be captured and dealt with, and how indicators can support the most transformative elements of the agenda. Discussion also turned toward what the possible unintended consequences of indicators may be.

The right to education

During the event, EI focused on the right to education and how it can be captured in the indicators tied to the education goal and targets. Although most of the current proposed indicators focus on whether children and young people enjoy the right to education, EI highlighted that it also is necessary to have indicators that look at whether states fulfil their obligations to ensure this right. Only by reflecting both sides can we get a full picture, and identify – and solve – possible problems or weaknesses in the national education systems.

Still work to be done

Education International also pointed out where the proposed indicators fall short. For example, the indicators for target 4.1 ensuring that “all boys and girls complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes,” unfortunately focus on completion and on learning outcomes only. But this is only part of the story; it is also necessary to have indicators that capture the other elements of this target, such as “legislation and financing to guarantee free education”.

The March negotiations continue through to the end of the week.