Decisions on a new global plan for ending poverty and protecting the environment must be informed by the voices of poor people, Christian Aid Chair Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, says in a new report published this week.
Urging governments to step up their commitment to both the existing Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the new goals that will follow them, he says: "We are looking at the kind of world we can envisage in 10 or 20 years’ time.
"Do we actively want widening gaps between rich and poor, with all the instability that entails, all the global insecurity, displacement, violence and misery it means – ultimately, for everyone on the planet?
"In all this, it is essential that we hear not just the voices of experts but also the words of those on the front line…those facing challenge and crisis."
The comments come in the foreword to a Christian Aid report published today about what should follow the MDGs when they expire in 2015.
The new report, The World We Want To See: Perspectives On Post-2015, carries commentaries by 17 Christian Aid partner organisations from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, about the future world they want.
Issues that must be tackled, they stress, include climate change, women’s rights and the importance of powerless people having a greater say in decisions which profoundly affect their lives.
A contribution by Alvin Mosioma, Director of Tax Justice Network Africa, highlights the vital need for the post-2015 goals to include action against tax dodging. "The question of how governments the world over fund schools, hospitals, roads and other vital services is not rocket science," he says.
"Tax is the only stable, reliable and sustainable source of income that can enable governments to fulfill their obligations to citizens in guaranteeing access to basic essential services... Addressing all the challenges and malpractices that deny developing countries their duly owed tax revenue should lie at the heart of any new global development framework."
Another contribution, by Iara Pietricovsky, co-director of INESC in Brazil, argues: "Any new goals need to be built on an ethic of human rights, social justice and sustainability. They must be relevant to the financial, economic, political and food crises we face, and must translate into national contexts to generate the public policies and budgets that we need.
"We believe that governments are stepping back from human rights, women’s rights in particular, and have instead become hostages of corporations and financial capital…A post-2015 agenda must face these issues urgently."
The report’s editor, Helen Dennis, who is Christian Aid’s Senior Adviser on Poverty and Inequality, said: "Defining new global development goals should not be a responsibility that world leaders take lightly. This process could make an enormous difference to the lives of people living in poverty, but only if decision-makers listen to those in the global South and don’t shy away from tackling the difficult issues like inequality.
‘We have the resources to end poverty and address climate change – the question is whether there is the global political will."
In his foreword, Dr Williams recognises the progress some countries have made towards the MDGs and highlights the acute problems that remain - including gender inequality and climate change.
"Maternal and perinatal health is still a major challenge; and issues of gender equality – not least in education – still fail to make it to the top of the list in many national strategies," he says.
"Worst of all, the instance of gender-based violence and abuse still stands at shocking and unacceptable levels in many countries. Our hope at Christian Aid is that these issues will be taken up with a new level of urgency."