With the adoption of the Millennium Declaration in 2000, the United Nations General Assembly set forth a humanist vision for the century ahead – a pledge to craft a different, more just and prosperous world, without poverty or violence and where all people live in dignity. The vision took shape in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with its time-bound and measurable goals and targets. There has been considerable progress since in implementing the MDGs – but progress has been uneven and insufficient.
The task now is clear: focus where needs are greatest, with an emphasis on Africa, SIDS and LDCs, to help countries accelerate progress towards the 2015 MDG goals and targets, and shape an ambitious new long-term agenda to follow. This agenda should build on achievements so far and tackle new challenges. As a laboratory of ideas, a standard setter and a catalyst of international cooperation providing policy advice and capacity development to its Member States, UNESCO is fully engaged in the global conversation on how the international community can channel the energies of humanity on a sustainable course beyond 2015.
Both the substance and the shape of the agenda will be of importance. The next agenda is expected to focus on the overarching objectives of poverty eradication and sustainable development. It will need to be based on human rights, and universally accepted values and ethical principles, including those encapsulated in the Millennium Declaration and the Rio+20 Outcome Document.
The new development agenda needs to empower people and harness the power of cross-cutting multipliers. In a world of limits, more must be made of the boundless energy of human ingenuity – through education, the sciences, culture and communication and information – to craft solutions that are just and sustainable.