ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA, September 6, 2013 — The St. Petersburg Development Outlook released today is a mixed bag with a number of encouraging signs but a few concerning elements.
The Outlook doesn’t mention children once, which is worrying in its implication. Specifically improving the health and education prospects of children under the age of five makes economic and moral sense. Evidence shows that for every five percent decrease in the number of their children dying under the age of five, a country’s economy grows by one percent every year, for ten years. We would like to see this recognized officially and in practice by the Development Working Group.
We particularly welcome its assertion and recognition that economic growth needs to benefit all, and lift people out of poverty. But there is no specific mention of addressing inequality, which is key to ensuring economic growth tackles poverty. Economic growth does not on its own improve poverty, the trickle-down effect is a myth. The Outlook doesn’t go far enough on this and leaves too much wriggle room.
The Outlook continues the G20’s recent positive progress in linking food security and nutrition, and recognizing that it’s about quality, not quantity. We welcome the focus on nutrition for everyone but are concerned that there is no acknowledgment of the need to focus on pregnant mothers and children under five. We know the “best buy” for nutrition is focusing on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, when their physical and mental development is so vulnerable. It needs to recognize that undernutrition in children contributes to a lack of cognitive development, which in turn has a major impact on productivity.
The Outlook’s human resource development plans fail to address two key areas: the need to target the health sector, and, again, the importance of cognitive development, The Development Working Group needs to recognize the importance of early childhood education and development in building human resource. Evidence reflects the critical nature and long-term impact of early childhood development. The Outlook talks about “adequate skills for employment” but this is only possible if children are invested in from the beginning.
We particularly welcome the asserted need to strengthen dialogue with civil society. As organizations working with the families and communities most affected by these development decisions, we have vital contributions to make, and so far, we have not been included in the G20 development process as much as we could be.
It is good to see a focus on policy coherence. With a number of working groups in the G20, and their potential impact, co-ordination and collaboration are vital.
However, with four long-term objectives, and five core priorities, and a lack of clarity on how they relate to each other, the Outlook lacks the transparency it needs to ensure accountability. Reporting on accountability needs to be done annually and in co-ordination with G8 accountability reporting.
There is a strong emphasis on action, which is very encouraging to see from a group as diverse as the G20. We just need to make sure that they follow through on those actions, and World Vision looks forward to working with them in the lead up to the G20 in Australia to follow through – they just need to involve us.