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Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

European and Chinese perspectives on development and the MDG agenda:
What to expect from current reform efforts at the United Nations?

Thomas Fues

24-25 April 2006

Paper presented to the conference "UN reform and global governance: The perspectives of Asia and Europe"
Shanghai, China

SARPN acknowledges the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung as a source of this document:
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Development is rightly seen as the cornerstone of an equitable global system and an indispensable precondition for world peace and stability. UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, found broad international support when he pointed to the interconnectedness of security, development and human rights in his seminal report „In larger freedom: Towards development, security and human rights for all“ (UN 2005a). Following his line of thought, member states unanimously passed an Outcome Document at the Millennium+5 Summit in September 2005 which underlines the centrality of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other internationally agreed development goals (UN 2005b; Martens 2005; Stetten 2005).1 It also calls for a reform of the operational activities of the UN system in the fields of development, humanitarian assistance and environment.

Accordingly, this paper will trace the two distinct but related efforts aimed at strengthening the UN's position in the international development architecture. The first intergovernmental negotiation process focuses on the role of the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in monitoring the MDGs and in providing a global platform for dialogue and coordination on development issues. The second track analyzed here deals with streamlining UN agencies to achieve system-wide coherence at the operational level. Moving on from there, I will take a look at European and Chinese interests and positions in both areas. Finally, I will attempt to identify relevant issues where Europe and China might find common ground in contributing to a meaningful reform of the UN development system.

  1. For the sake of brevity I will from now on use the acronym MDGs when referring to the „internationally agreed development goals and objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals“ which is the official language in UN documents. Many governments, including Germany, as well as civil society organizations reject what they perceive as the narrow focus of the MDGs since they consider the complete Millennium Declaration of the year 2000 as the relevant point of departure. The Declaration also includes text on peace and security and other topics which are not adequately covered by the MDGs. Going beyond the Millennium Declaration, many state and non-state actors would look to the Monterrey Consensus on Financing of Development (2002) and the Plan of Implementation adopted by the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development (2002) as equally important normative pillars of the international development system.

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