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Devett O'Brien is based in Paris as the Secretary-General of the International Young Catholic Students (IYCS).  Here, he looks at evangelizing the global development agenda...



Since the year 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been the most successful poverty-reduction push in human history.  For all the many faults of the MDGs and the flak regularly directed at the United Nations, several of the eight goals have already been met, including the headline target of reducing extreme poverty by half.   Today, as we approach the MDG deadline of 2015, the UN and partners around the world are considering what should come next. The last week has marked a key point in that process, known as the Post 2015 Development Agenda.  After almost a year of consultations the High Level Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General to chart the course towards this successor framework has released their report.  The Panel, co-chaired by President Yudhoyono of Indonesia, British PM David Cameron and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, has called for ‘5 Big Transformative Shifts’: 1. Leave no one behind. 2. Put Sustainable Development at the core. 3. Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth. 4. Build peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all. 5. Forge a new global partnership. Most significantly they push for bringing together the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability that have until now been treated separately.  We must, they say, eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.  But this is ‘just the beginning, not the end’:

Developing a single, sustainable development agenda is critical. Without ending poverty, we cannot build prosperity; too many people get left behind. Without building prosperity, we cannot tackle environmental challenges; we need to mobilise massive investments in new technologies to reduce the footprint of unsustainable production and consumption patterns. Without environmental sustainability, we cannot end poverty; the poor are too deeply affected by natural disasters and too dependent on deteriorating oceans, forests and soils.

The report and its list of illustrative goals and targets will now be the starting point of much debate and negotiation before a new agenda is decided at a global summit in 2015 Summit.

This post-2015 Development Agenda, however it finally looks, will have a massive influence on all governments and all people over the next 15 years.  It will be a defining impact for a whole generation of young people around the world, influencing how their governments relate to them in terms of education, of health care, of energy, of climate change. And it will be crucial in determining what resources they have to do it.

As we Catholics take up the challenge of the New Evangelization, we must be conscious of evangelizing the whole person.  We cannot make the mistake of separating evangelization from the real and lived experience of people’s lives.

This means we need to evangelize and transform not only individuals but families, communities and social structures; infusing them with the Good News.  The UN and particularly this post-2015 development agenda are therefore a key site for the work of the New Evangelization.

The International YCS, and our 3.5million members, together with organizations such as CIDSE (the alliance of Catholic development agencies) and the Forum of Catholic-inspired NGOs are mobilizing for this purpose. We are working with each other, as well as in broader coalitions such as the Beyond 2015 campaign, to ensure Gospel values and principles of Catholic Social Teaching are central to what is agreed to. 

We have done this throughout the consultation phase and many of these principles are taken up by the Panel in their report.  But the haggling and negotiating will now step up a gear.  Over the next 2 years we have a real fight on our hands to bring these principles to the heart of the global agenda.  National and corporate interests will flex their muscles.  We must work to defend those principles, such as the Common Good, the Dignity of Work and the Option for the Poor that are already reflected, and advance those such as the Dignity of all Human Life or our Stewardship of Creation that are not adequately respected.

You can join in this crucial aspect of evangelization in our modern world.  Take the MY World Survey online to have a say about priorities, read the Report to find out more, and help us build pressure on your Government to push for a truly just world.