National consultations and citizens’ voices will shape the punch of the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals charter

When the high level panel of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) sit together to chalk out the post-2015 charter with fresh priorities, it will not have just its own judgment to fall back on. This time round, unlike the MDG plan in 2002 when it was just four people who formulated the blue print, the panel will have to consider the voices and choices of billions of people from villages, shanties, towns and cities from 100 different countries before it comes up with a concrete agenda.

The opinions, expressed by common citizens, will come to them through a variety of ways — through the Internet, mobile phones and even hard copy forms filled by those who are too marginalised to access technology. Called the ‘My World’ campaign, it is an invitation to citizens from around the globe to vote on which are the issues that need to be taken up with utmost seriousness for them to see a better and more equitable quality of life.

Apart from this, the major priority weightage will come from the outcome of country-specific reports culled from national consultations that the U.N. has had with civil society organisations and government representatives.

The week saw the launch of one such promotion ‘Mark a Difference’ where actor and UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador Priyanka Chopra launched the mobile application for the ‘My World’ campaign, opening out access in different languages to all those who own a handset in the country.

Strategically, the MDG administration is roping in educational institutions, celebrities and civil society to take the campaign to the maximum number of citizens. Through the celebrity charisma of Priyanka Chopra and Aamir Khan, students are not only urged to take the survey but also influence family, friends and community to actively participate in it. One of their stops was the SP Jain Institute of Management in Mumbai where Ms. Chopra egged its students to further the cause to a standing ovation. This, however, was one among a series of campaigns being conducted by the U.N.’s partners for the campaign such as the Nine is Mine campaign, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan, World Vision India, Art of Living, Samarthan, SOVA, VSO, Chintan Foundations and Jawaharlal Nehru University among others. Some of the grassroots work of collecting opinions through paper ballots will be conducted by some of these organisations.

But what are these choices that citizens are being encouraged to make? They are asked to prioritise between the given 16 basics that deeply impact their lives. The issues include a good education; better job opportunities; better healthcare; access to clean water and sanitation; affordable and nutritious food; equality between men and women; support for those who cannot work; protection against crime and violence; freedom from discrimination and persecution; protecting forests, rivers and oceans; better transport and roads; reliable energy at home; phone and Internet access; political freedoms; action taken on climate change.

This world’s ‘to-do’ list, as it’s called, will be given the last mile priority direction on what should replace the MDGs through what issues emerge from the citizens’ survey and more importantly, the national consultations.

“It gives people a direct voice in the choices involved in constructing the post-2015 development agenda, and gives policy makers and politicians an essential evidence base to feed into their deliberations,” said Lise Grande, UNDP Resident Representative who was part of the ‘Mark a Difference’ campaign. Explaining the underlying need for such a campaign and the importance of national consultations, she was hopeful that the charter replacing the MDGs would have a “more even playing field”.

With India’s national consultation report yet to be out, it remains to be seen how the priorities have panned out in it and the role the country can play in a process that can bring about a shift in global equations in the future.