The International Legal System Post-2015
The deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals is fast approaching. 2015 is just around the corner and it seems almost certain that there is too little time left to meet many of the targets agreed on by the international community at the turn of the millennium.
The global financial and food crises have hampered development efforts worldwide, and what progress we have seen towards the MDGs has been unevenly shared between nations. It would be easy to be pessimistic about the world’s prospects. However, we should not discount the progress that has been made, and moreover, the expiry of the MDGs present a golden opportunity to target the kind of difficult, structural changes in the international legal system that could have an enduring impact on global poverty.
The process has already begun. Earlier in the year the UN kicked off a broad consultation process with NGOs, academia, and the governments of both poorer and wealthier nations to arrive at a new set of development goals – goals which build on the MDGs while identifying new priorities in international development with the potential to realise huge gains for the more than three billion people who live on less than $2.50 a day.
The law must take a central position in this new agenda, as it touches almost every aspect of global poverty. Corruption in both the private and the public sector prevents developing economies from realising their full potential and raising the living standards of their own citizens. Weak rule of law fuels conflict and smothers civil society, killing off stable, accountable institutions before they can even get off the ground. And inequalities in international markets such as agricultural subsidies bar producers in poorer countries from fair competition with their counterparts in rich nations.
Where the MDGs sought to tackle issues like food security, clean water, and maternal health head on, the post-2015 agenda must take a more nuanced approach, trying to change international legal systems to prevent inadvertently stranding billions in abject poverty.
As of July 2012, only three of the twenty one specific targets set out under the MDGs have been met. The message is clear: business as usual in international development will not do if we are serious about our commitment to ending extreme poverty. Root causes must be our target, not symptoms. And the way to target root causes is through the law.