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Africa

Köhler: 'A new common development agenda is possible'

The UN is drawing up new development goals. Former German President Horst Köhler was a member of the high-level panel shaping the global development framework beyond 2015.

DW: While you were director of the International Monetary Fund and German President, you advocated a "partnership between equals" for developed and developing countries. Why are you so convinced that such a partnership would be the best way of promoting development?

Horst Köhler: Conflicts in the world abound because most people seem to care only about their own interests. They ignore the fact that we all live on the same planet and are all in the same boat. This applies especially to the extreme poverty and environmental degradation in the world that causes much suffering. If there is no improvement here, then ultimately our own prosperity will be in jeopardy.

A question now for Horst Köhler, the economist . What sort of economic interdependencies should developing and developed countries be concerned about?

The value chain - the creation of value in modern economies depends on supplies from around the world. I suspect that Germany's star product, the car, contains hundreds of components from other countries. If the link with the supplier is interrupted, or cut off by natural disasters or social unrest for any period of time, then the value creation process will be affected, which in turn will impact on our prosperity. It is in our interest that social stability and employment with decent wages takes root in developing countries. This makes our own production processes more reliable and helps keeps crises at arms length.

Does that mean that the classic mode of development work between nations, whether bilateral or multilateral, is now obsolete?

No, it is not obsolete, but it needs to be brought up to date. In the report by the high level panel for the United Nations, we have have tried to draw up a new development agenda for post-2015. All members of the panel, 26 participants from all over the world, came to the conclusion that we must work together to tackle the challenges on this planet. Despite differing interests, it is possible to achieve a new common development agenda. This makes me very optimistic.

This new agenda which you help draft at the UN will replace the current Millennium Development Goals which are only valid until 2015. What is new about this agenda?

The Millennium Development Goals were focused on very specific social indicators. The most notable one was the halving of extreme poverty by 2015. The new agenda seeks to be more comprehensive. It seeks to address the question which developmental framework would encourage people to help themselves? People will be able to help themselves more effectively when a better trade regime is in place, one that encourages development. It would also help if we were to construct global financial architecture that is less crisis-prone than the present one and if we were to agree on measures that curb global warming. We are not seeking just social development, but social development harnessed to envrionmental concerns that safeguard our natural resources.

What role will business play in this new development agenda?

Of all the demands made on the private setcor, the most important is that companies are successful. They should create jobs and generate income, because only then is social security possible. By 2030, we estimate that there will be more than 400 million young people on this planet. They will need jobs and wages. If we don't offer these young people the prospect of a decent future, then they will rebel as they did in North Africa. Under the new agenda, we keep the dialogue going with the private sector. We already have the UN Global Compact under which some 5,000 companies are committed to abide by ethical principles. We need to broaden this approach still further. In our expert report we say that big companies should be required to report publicly on social and environmental aspects of their corporate activities.

In many ways, the new development agenda goes beyond the old goals. Basic prosperity for all is one of the more ambitious goals. How will this be possible, given that our resources are dwindling and that the population is constantly expanding?

We recognize it's going to be a huge challenge, but we can't just bury our heads in the sand and say, 'It will somehow work out.' We have to understand that it is a big task. There is ample scientific evidence that we can achieve growth while at the same time conserving our environment. We have to show determination.

How will these new development goals monitored?

These UN goals will be submitted to the UN General Assembly in 2015. I think this is the right place for such a forum since the entire international community will be present. It has been agreed that this new development agenda should be monitored annually and obligations to the population laid down. I have suggested that in addition to a political control mechanism, we would also need an independent group of experts that can assess the situation, professionally, objectively and independently. Accountability is for me, an important part of this new agenda.

Horst Köhler is a former president of the Federal Republic of Germany.

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