Sightsavers blog

In the beginning, there was 2015…

Dominic Haslam, March 2015
Nacel sits in a dark room with her hand resting on a table.

“2015 is a crucial year when both global climate change and sustainable development talks should come to a conclusion”

If you’re reading this, the chances are you’ve heard of the ‘Post-2015’ discussions – looking at what will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire this year.

I’ve been involved in them in one way or another for a few years, in the general #Post2015 debate, as part of Beyond 2015 and helping to formulate Action2015.

Just in case you have missed it, 2015 is a crucial year when both global climate change and sustainable development talks should come to a conclusion. The frameworks being discussed are the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and the UNFCCC (an environment-related acronym so hard-baked in the policy consciousness that nobody knows what it stands for). Connected to these are the lesser-known Financing for Development process, the High Level Political Forum and an ongoing discussion on development statistics. 2015 is the year that’s spawned a hundred phrases beginning, “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to…”

But what should we really be aiming to do?

2015 itself has been so ever-present as a term in the debate that it has almost had its own voice. And that voice is one of pragmatism: let’s start from where we are, look at where we got to in the last 15 years and temper our ambition with that.

For me, it was only last year, as 2015 loomed large on the horizon, that I understood that naming the debate after the year the framework begins isn’t the right answer. What would happen if instead we focused on the year it ends – 2030?

Sightsavers has been talking about 2015 for a long time. If you’ve followed our work over the last year in particular you’ll know what we’re calling for – that this framework should be better than the last one by:

  1. including people with disabilities in the outcomes of developmental and environmental efforts, but also in the processes behind the frameworks – monitoring, assessing progress and adjusting plans.
  2. moving away from the specific disease-focused approach of the MDGs and adopting a health systems strengthening approach to ensure universal access to an agreed standard of health care – which should include eye health and neglected tropical disease control or elimination, but also maternal health, diabetes and oncology.

Why are these important priorities? Because in 2030 we want a world where people with disabilities aren’t an afterthought, but an included part of the population; where neglected tropical diseases like trachoma and bilharzia no longer blight the lives of 1.5 billion people; and where no one is blind from preventable or treatable causes.

That’s our vision. But I wondered what else Sightsavers’ staff living in Asia, Africa and Europe would say if I asked them to put aside 2015 for a minute and imagine the world they want to see in 2030? So I asked them, and the range of issues raised was enormous – from personal and national to global. Here are just a few examples:

  • “For an inclusive world, we need to address diversity, fairness, tolerance, accountability, justice, equity and inclusive decision making among others. This will ensure that there are fewer conflicts in the world and more space for dialogue and development.”
  • “Securing peaceful relations between major economic blocks (America, EU, China, Russia).”
  • “More accountability on the numerous commitments taken by our governments specially for our fragile African continent.”
  • “A breakthrough in cold fusion technology, finding a way to create power cells using hydrogen atoms thus generating tremendous energy with very cheap molecules and very little waste.”
  • “More perspective: it would mean more people questioning why something like Ebola still exists – or making sure that where it does, the health system can deal with it.”

We’re going to share more ideas from staff and partners in the coming months, and we’ll be asking you for your contributions too – watch this space!

The SDGs and the UNFCCC, when they are (hopefully) agreed, will take us a step in the right direction. Sustainable development and climate change aren’t things that individual governments can tackle; they need global cooperation.

But we know it’s not global development frameworks in isolation that change the world, it’s people. And many of those who will have an impact on the way the world is in 2030 haven’t had a say in any of these discussions. So let’s take this moment to imagine 2030 – when we know what we want the future to look like, we can plan how to make it a reality.

After all, 2015 is only the beginning…

By Dominic Haslam, Director of Policy and Programme Strategy at Sightsavers

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