The original Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) gave the international community a common platform from which to address the obstacles confronting the world’s least privileged countries and people. While not all the goals will be achieved by the deadline set, there is no doubt that they are now widely seen as desirable, and that some of these goals provide the justification for governments and other partners to focus their attention on areas that would otherwise have been overlooked.

The question now is: what happens next? The stories of Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone (collectively, the Mano River Union countries, or MRU), where I’ve been working for the last few years, show that peace and security must be at the forefront of a post-MDG development agenda. These countries – which face social and economic challenges, and which have only recently emerged from conflict – confirm how important peace and stability are for any of the goals to be achieved and sustained. Somalia, Afghanistan, the Middle East and even the recent events of the Arab Spring have taught us that where there is no peace and stability, even when progress on development is achieved, reversals can be quick and disastrous.

The first MDGs selected eight goals that would help raise the lot of people around the world. All were valid, but peace was missing from the list. The recently adopted Strategy for Cross-Border Security in the four MRU states recognizes the importance of regional collaboration, not only for managing and preventing violence, but also because development initiatives must directly or indirectly point towards promoting peace, or any progress will be unsustainable.

The key ingredient for any successful programme for peace, security and stability is the rule of law. Without the rule of law, citizens have no structured and fair method for dealing with grievances; foreign investment – so vital for expanding the economy – will find alternatives for protecting its investments (whether through bribery, inflated costs or short-term business strategies), and organized crime and other illicit activities will prevail. Yet in all four countries, international indicators measuring the prevalence of the rule of law rank them towards the bottom of the scale. Corrective measures are isolated, underfunded and undermined by political considerations. For example, in one country, almost every government elected since independence immediately sacked the sitting Chief Justice and installed its own choice. It is no wonder that opposition groups do not find the judiciary credible.

The rule of law is linked to good governance – in particular political governance. How are decisions concerning the running of the state made, and by whom? Democracy as practiced in the industrialized countries is arguably the best known system for good governance. Yet adopting the trappings or visible practices so successful in these countries has not yielded the same results in post-conflict countries. Elections are turning out to be socially divisive. There is an increasing acceptance that this is because the judiciary is not as credible or effective as in industrialized countries. Yet when 40% or more of the population do not feel represented in decision-making, and when this is exacerbated by the corruption and impunity that prevail because there is no rule of law, instability becomes inevitable.

For these reasons and more, the next set of development goals must include goals for peace, the rule of law and good governance. The international community, especially the developing countries, must identify appropriate indicators to build a common platform from which to tackle what could negate all progress in other areas.

Author: Herbert M’cleod is Adviser to the Government of Sierra Leone and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Fragile States and Conflict Prevention. The Summit on the Global Agenda is taking place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 18 – 20 November, and “Driving Inclusive Growth” is one of its thematic pillars.

Image: Children play in the port of Sal Rei, Cape Verde REUTERS/David Lewis.


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