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Accountability moves to the fore of the Post-2015 debate

As negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals intensify at the UN, attention is increasingly turning to the question of accountability, and the monitoring and review systems needed to ensure the new goals are met.

CESR's Executive Director, Ignacio Saiz, spoke at the Inter-Active Dialogue on Elements for a Monitoring and Accountability Framework for a Post-2015 Agenda convened by the President of the General Assembly on 1 May at the UN headquarters in New York. Contributing to the opening panel on "Concepts for a new accountability framework", chaired by the Secretary General's Special Adviser on Post-2015, Amina Mohammed, Ignacio argued that the post-2015 accountability architecture should be grounded in human rights principles, and buttressed by human rights accountability mechanisms.

Speaking to the findings of CESR's in-depth study, Who Will Be Accountable? Human Rights and the Post-2015 Development Agenda, published with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2013, he spelled out how human rights could reinforce the three constituent elements of accountability: responsibility, answerability and enforceability. Human rights standards can help clarify the differentiated responsibilities of states and other actors on the development stage. They set out the freedoms and capabilities that must be safeguarded if those in power are to answer to those facing poverty and deprivation. And a range of human rights enforcement mechanisms at the national, regional and international levels can act as avenues for accountability in the development sphere.

While highlighting the role that existing administrative, legislative and judicial mechanisms can play as part of a new ecosystem of accountability, Ignacio highlighted the need for more effective instruments to hold wealthier states, international institutions and the private sector answerable for the human rights and environmental impacts of their policies and practices, as these had proven the biggest accountability gaps under the MDGs.

The event was addressed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who called for an inclusive, robust yet flexible framework whereby all actors could be accountable for honouring their commitments. Speaking on a second panel on "Learning from existing review mechanisms", the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, spoke of the need to ensure an enabling environment for accountability, and of the positive lessons that could be learnt from the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council.  The meeting heard from other civil society advocates, including Roberto Bissio from Social Watch, who said that accountability is only meaningful if the powerful countries, intergovernmental institutions and transnational corporations can be brought to account. 

These points were echoed in the interventions of some of the member states present. For example, Bolivia, speaking on behalf of the G77 (the largest grouping at the UN) said that a central feature of the accountability framework should be to ensure developing countries are enabled to achieve their objectives, through capacity building, technology transfer and more effective development cooperation. Accountability and mechanisms for delivering can be expected to remain a controversial issue in negotiations going forward, however.  These issues will continue to be debated via a new thematic consultation convened by UNICEF and UN Women, with the support of Peru, South Korea and Canada.

  • Ignacio's statement to the Inter-Active Dialogue is available here.
  • The video of the meeting is available here, with Ignacio's presentation beginning at 1 hour 6 minutes.