Anthony Davis is a Policy Adviser at Plan UK.
In November, Justine Greening, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, appeared before the International Development Select Committee in Parliament to give evidence about the framework to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), after 2015.
The new framework is a hot topic in the development world today. It will shape the future of development cooperation, and therefore the lives of millions of people around the world. Of course, there is still unfinished business about the MDGs, of which we must not lose sight, but it is crucial we get the post-2015 discussions right from the start.
While the UN Millennium Declaration and the subsequent MDGs galvanised development efforts, they were by no means perfect. The MDGs’ targets and indicators have masked persistent and sometimes growing inequalities within and between countries. They failed to incentivise efforts to reach the most vulnerable segments of society, especially those marginalised because of their sex, ethnicity, disability or residence. Issues like child marriage, gender-based violence, early pregnancy and other forms of harmful practices were left out, despite their critical role in holding back the efforts in reducing poverty.
It is important to build on the existing MDGs, and any post-2015 framework should have human rights at its heart. It should reflect human rights values: of universality, non-discrimination, indivisibility and participation. It must be a progressive step forward from current international human rights standards.
One such standard is the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) which sets out the basic rights to be recognised to and enjoyed by all children. It is fitting the Secretary of State’s evidence session took place today, on the 23rd anniversary of this important Convention.
Girls and boys constitute around half of the population in many developing countries and they are disproportionately affected by poverty. Despite the overwhelming case for prioritising investment in children for sustainable and effective development, their rights are all too often invisible on the international agenda. Adolescent girls were excluded to a large degree from the existing MDGs, despite the fact that investing in adolescent girls’ rights to an education, healthcare and a protective environment is key to ensuring they lift themselves, their communities, and the wider world out of poverty.
The important role of women and girls (and their education) is recognised by the UK Government, as part of their continued leadership on international development within the international community. We welcome and support this focus, as shown through our global campaign on girl’s education – Because I am a Girl. One of the best tools for achieving progress in gender equality and tackling poverty is to provide girls with at least 9 years of quality education. It is vital that a clear definition of quality education, including the promotion of gender equality, non-discrimination and human rights principles, and the delivery of gender sensitive curricula and teaching methods, are at the heart of the post-2015 agenda.
Part of this commitment includes addressing the barriers that keep girls from realising their right to an education, including child marriage, violence in schools and lack of access to adequate healthcare. As the most widely ratified human rights treaty, the CRC is an important framework for supporting and informing the post-2015 development agenda.
The Department for International Development is a leading voice that will be listened to throughout the negotiations on the post-2015 agenda. We are calling on the government to champion its focus on the right to an education during the negotiations for the creation of a framework that encourages an empowering and protective environment for women and girls.
We urge them to use this voice to ensure children’s rights are not overlooked this time.
Bond Child Rights Group brieing: 'Children's rights and the post-2015 development agenda'