The Global Agenda Council on Poverty and Sustainable Development is thinking about the post-2015 development agenda – AKA Millennium Development Goals, Round Two.

The original MDGs – the goals for global progress between 1990 and 2015, which included halving global poverty, reducing child mortality by two thirds, and ensuring gender equity in schooling – have been a rallying flag for global development over the past 12 years. But it is time to start thinking: what next? And the world has begun that process: UN agencies have produced a report, Realizing the Future We Want for All; the UN Secretary-General has appointed a high-level panel on the post-2015 agenda, which will issue a report in 2013; and one of the outcomes of the Rio summit earlier this year was the creation of a Sustainable Development Goals process, to be shepherded by an open working group of UN members.

A previous Global Agenda Council has provided the Global Agenda Council on Poverty and Sustainable Development with a great starting point: Getting to Zero: Finishing the Job the MDGs Started. The first recommendation of that paper, to set a zero poverty goal, has been gaining traction. It’s not implausible that by 2030 we could have a world almost completely free of extreme poverty, people living on less than US$ 1.25 a day. That would be quite an accomplishment given that nearly one half of humanity were living in extreme poverty in 1980.

There’s a live debate, however, on what else should be on the list. Health and education, for sure, but what about governance and rights, peace and security, jobs and growth? And that’s linked to the question: what is the post-2015 agenda for? The original MDGs were born out of an effort to provide a post-cold war consensus on the rationale for aid. The evidence suggests that the MDGs were a great success in that regard, but there is a widespread sense that the post-2015 agenda should be broader than that: providing a globally relevant set of goals for worldwide progress – the “future we want for all”, as the UN agencies report puts it.

And if the post-2015 agenda includes a broader set of goals, that means the global interactions that they are trying to influence spread far beyond aid flows. It is also about trade, investment, migration, the movement of knowledge and ideas, the global environment and global governance.

The more ambitious scope of the post-2015 goals is one reason why broad consultation on their content is so important. And it suggests why the World Economic Forum has a part to play. The post-2015 discussion needs to bring together governments, the private sector and civil society to build consensus on global goals for progress, and begin a discussion of what such goals mean for the way we structure international interaction and cooperation.

Hopefully, the Global Agenda Council on Poverty and Sustainable Development can be one element of that process.

Author: Charles Kenny, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development, member of the Global Agenda Council on Poverty and Sustainable Development

Image: Township children play around a communal tap servicing the Imizamo Yethu community near. REUTERS