Country should be judged on jobs and equality, says UN official

Adviser hopes that sustainable development goals will create ‘irreversible eradication’ of poverty by 2030

The global economy must learn to measure a country’s success, not on GDP growth, but on the number of jobs available and the empowerment of women, according to a senior United Nations official.

Amina Mohammed, special adviser to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, said nations must change their business models and learn to build economies without leaving the people behind. She says the new goals, scheduled for implementation from September this year, are part of a "universal agenda" that will affect both developed and developing nations.

"You need a consideration of what sort of world we are in," Ms Mohammed told The Irish Times. "It's one where there are more jobs needed globally. It's not just about jobs in the south, it's jobs in the north as well.

“In a sense,”she added, “there are no borders in the world we have today. We see that every day with disease, migration, the internet. This is much more of global village.”


Ms Mohammed was in Dublin this week to address a gathering of Irish ambassadors at Dublin Castle on the new Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – eight targets introduced in 2000 aimed at halving extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, and halting the spread of HIV-Aids by 2015.

Ireland and Kenya were appointed by the UN in 2014 to lead negotiations over the coming year for the new targets for the period to 2030.

Ms Mohammed says Irish and Kenyan representatives have “an incredibly difficult” challenge ahead of them in the coming months. “They’re going into a phase where they really have to lock down an agreement,” she said, adding that negotiators must reach out to the climate change process in advance of the conference in Paris in December 2015.

The new post-2015 goals will also focus on completing the unfinished MDGs, including the eradication of poverty, inclusive and equal educational opportunities for all and the empowerment of women.

Ms Mohammed hopes to see the “irreversible” eradication of poverty by 2030. “It’s the one thing that can be done in this generation. We’ve got the resources, we’ve got the skill sets. It needs the political will.”

She also highlighted the need to develop gender equality over the next 15 years. “Part of society is 50 per cent women and yet we don’t want to invest in that asset. We talk about our human resources being the greatest asset we’ve got, so you can’t ignore half of it.”

She said the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies is the glue that will allow global society to implement the sustainable development goals. “The question we ought to ask is those that are born today, what will their life look like in 15 years’ time?”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said Ms Mohammed's visit to Ireland signalled the "crucial role" Ireland would play in co-chairing the post-2015 goals negotiations.

“Ireland’s appointment as co-chair of these negotiations is a huge honour for our country and a great responsibility,” he said.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast