Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Towards a New Transformative Development Agenda: The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Towards a New Transformative Development Agenda: The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality

Article excerpt

The global discussion of the post-2015 development agenda has provoked wide engagement and dialogue. The discourse has revealed an evolving consensus on the centrality of social and economic justice, human rights and equality, and broadly-shared expectations for a truly transformative vision for development. This evolving consensus can be leveraged to promote a wider commitment not only to the universality of rights, but also to the universality of duties. One key aspect of this is the potential to leverage the recognition of such duties by men and boys as a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for advancing gender equality. Efforts to address the impacts on women of patterns of unpaid care work and to end violence against women and girls are instructive in terms of the potential role of men and boys. The new development agenda can be a shared manifesto for change among those who recognize their role in achieving the goals of development. The extent to which it succeeds in bringing men and boys, as the disproportionate holders of power in the status quo, to make their full contribution to gender equality and development will be an important indicator of the new development agenda's success.


A global discussion of the post-2015 development agenda and its linkages to the proposed Sustainable Development Goals has been underway since the 2010 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit. (1) Arguably, however, the discussion of the future development agenda began even earlier, with the formulation of the MDGs in 2000, when supporters highlighted their merits, while critics argued equally assertively about their deficiencies. (2)

The ongoing debate on the strengths and weaknesses of the MDGs has provided key lessons that are being considered in the discussion around the formulation of new development goals. It remains to be seen whether the proposals based on these lessons will survive the political processes that ultimately determine the substance of the new development agenda.

Whatever the outcome, the discussion to date has robustly addressed fundamental development issues such as: linking environmental sustainability, poverty reduction and development more effectively; the centrality of gender equality and women's empowerment; the relationship between development and a human rights perspective; tackling inequalities and structural discrimination; framing development as a universal issue of shared concern and responsibility between the Global North and South; and data quality. (3) This contrasts markedly with the MDG process in 2000, which was, by necessity, a shorter and less transparent process during which technical experts provided the bulk of the content that was ultimately included in the goals and indicators.

The debate around the post-2015 development agenda has been more substantive and extensive. More importantly, the processes driven by the discussion have mobilized a wide range of constituencies and individuals across sectors to engage in a conversation about development. (4) This includes more than one million people who have participated in country and global thematic consultations led by the United Nations Development Group (UNDG). (5) UN Women has been closely involved in the process, including as a co-chair of the UNDG MDG Taskforce guiding these consultations, and as a co-lead with UNICEF of a dialogue on inequalities that generated 175 written papers, engaged 3,000 people in a dedicated online dialogue about inequalities, and engaged many more through broader social media sites. (6) However, the UN has not driven these consultations alone.

The issue of shaping the new development agenda is being intensively discussed by civil society, including by traditional human rights and development organizations, foundations, media, the private sector, and many others. (7) There have also been a number of major reports published on the topic by groups such as the UN System Task Team, the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (an independent panel to the UN Secretary-General), the UN Global Compact, the UN Regional Commissions and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. …

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