How Can the Post-2015 Development Goals Address Inequalities and Foster Inclusive Growth?

IDG News - On March 7, 2013, UNCDF together with UNDP and UN-DESA convened a workshop in New York City on how the post-2015 global development agenda can address inequalities and foster inclusive growth. The workshop's findings are captured in UNCDF's Inclusive Future report.

As part of the workshop, the Urban Institute's Dr. Jamie Boex was invited to comment on the role of the local public sector, inclusiveness and spatial equality in the formulation of the new global development agenda.  His remarks can be summarized in six points.   

1. Subnational governance and the local public sector is an important cross-cutting issue.

Like good governance, equality and inclusiveness are important development objectives in their own right, but perhaps more importantly, equality and inclusiveness are central to the achievement of development goals across the full range of thematic consultations being pursued as part of the 2015 dialogue. For instance, whether it is ensuring education for all, or universal access to basic health services, drinking water, or food security, these goals are impossible to attain without considering equity and inclusiveness.

2. All development is local.

In order to understand spatial or territorial angle to equality and inclusiveness, it is important to recognize that most development-and most pro-poor public services that people rely on day-to-day- takes place at the local level, whether it is schools for their kids, the provision of health care for mothers and children, supplying seeds and fertilizer to farmers, or access to clean water and sanitation. The delivery of all of these public services is local in nature.

3. Inclusiveness and equality has a vertical and a horizontal aspect.

Because the local level is where the public sector interacts with the people that it aims to serve, equitable and inclusive development requires us to think carefully about the (1) the structure of the public sector and (2) the concept of territorial equality. Does the public sector provide people equal access to opportunity and public services across a country's national territory, and do local governments and other local public sector entities facilitate equal access for all residents within their jurisdiction? 

4. In order to be inclusive, the public sector has to be 'close to the people'.

Inclusive and equitable public services require funds to flow close to the people in order for people to have a meaningful say in public service delivery. As shown in the graph, however, the public sector is 'closer to the people' in some countries than other countries. For instance, in South Africa over half of public sector spending takes place below the national level (the blue shaded areas). This includes spending by provincial and local governments, but also national government spending on 'local' services.  In contrast, however, in Bangladesh less than 20% of public resources reach the front line for service delivery. Initial evidence suggests that considerable variation exists across countries in the 'vertical allocation' of public sector resources. As such, an important part of equity and inclusiveness (from a territorial lens) is that public resources should be governed and managed close to the people.

Bangladesh graphic


5. In order to be equitable, the public sector has to distribute resources fairly across the national territory.

What is also needed in order to achieve equitable and inclusive development is an inclusive and equitable territorial (or horizontal) allocation of resources. The graph below illustrates a situation which is found in many countries-where some local jurisdictions receive much greater allocations per person or per capita than other places-often up to 5-10 times more. While an equitable allocation of resources would require the local jurisdictions with greater needs to receive more resources, it is often the politically well-connected places that receive the greater allocations, while poor, rural communities are often left to fend for themselves.

jb graphic 2

Concluding thoughts.  

To the degree that development is about empowering people over their own lives, and to the degree that we wish to promote inclusive development that provides people an equal opportunity to benefit from progress, we cannot ignore the structure of the public sector, nor can we ignore the territorial allocation of resources. Inclusiveness and equitable development requires the public sector to be inclusive and responsive not only to the needs of marginalized constituents, but to all people.

In fact, political economy realities dictate that a broad-based global development agenda should focus its efforts on the development ambitions of the entire human family, rather than focusing on any particular subset. Instead, by creating an effective and responsive local public sector, a post-2015 inclusive and sustainable development agenda will be able to empower women and men, the youth and the elderly, minorities and majorities in pursuit of equality, but will make the concept of empowerment meaningful by empowering the community at large over the delivery of key pro-poor public services, such as primary education, basic health services, local roads, water and so on.

This vision for the post-2015 global development agenda requires the introduction of a series of metrics and indicators to ensure that the opportunities that are created in education, health, water and in other public spheres are distributed evenly across society and across the national territory.