In this guest blog post, Laura Kerr, leader of the Glasgow RESULTS group, reflects on her weekend at the RESULTS National Conference 2013.

I wrote this blog post as I made the 5 and a half hour journey back to Glasgow after the Results National Conference 2013; and I’m very happy to say that no matter how many hours I would have to spend on a train to get to the conference I would.

I heard from so many interesting, engaging and inspiring people throughout the weekend that I feel I could write a book on how much I learned so excuse me if I try to fit to fit too much into this blog.

The main theme of the conference was the Millennium Development Goals and what comes next after 2015. I thought I knew quite a bit about the MDG’s before this weekend but the expert speakers taught me so much more about the positive and negative impacts of the goals.

On a positive note the goals have help to facilitate the significant reduction in extreme poverty, ensured that that we have almost reached our goal in terms of boys and girls being enrolled in primary education and  helped change the development sector for the better (just to name a few). They have encouraged everyone to work towards similar outcomes and as Pushpanath Krishnamurthy highlighted, they have created a much wider impact than just facts and figures; they have changed the development discourse and allowed civil society, activists and NGO’s to all be seen and heard much more widely and in a way almost facilitated a platform for the grassroots individual to be heard.

However, as in every balanced conversation, the negatives of the MDG’s were also pointed out to. The second session of the Saturday was entitled ‘Failing the Final Fifth: the impact on inequality on reaching the MDG’s’ and I learned so much from Mahesh Chandrasekar (International Policy and Campaigns Manager at Leonard Cheshire Disability), Shoba Das (Director of Programmes at Minority Rights International) and Luisa Orza (Programme Co-ordinator at the Athena Network). From Mahesh, I learned about the extreme hardship, and much ignored, practical issues of being disabled in a developing, and even middle income, countries. From Shoba I learned 900 million people are part of minority groups, and consequently often excluded from the benefits that have been made with the MDG’s. Luisa spoke passionately about the interconnectivity of violence, HIV/Aids and gender equality that had not been considered in the MDG’s. By this point, it was clear, the MDG’s are often seen as success tools to simply measure progress, but in reality, their worldwide impact, whether positive or negative, was far much more than that. For one, Shoba showed us an excellent illustration  to highlight the importance in understanding what we are fighting for; it’s much more than equality, it’s about justice.

This was a point picked up upon in a later session in the day entitled “The World We Want: What should replace the MDG’s”, when discussions were focused more widely on general aspirations post 2015 and what justice or equality might look like. The issue of equality and the importance of reducing the divide between the richest people at the poorest had been discussed and was becoming more important as the day went on. One of my favourite quotes of the weekend came from Bernadette Fishler (Policy Analyst on Post MDG’s at Beyond 2015) when she said,“We have to live within our means to ensure everyone has the means to live”.

It exemplifies that the focus now is not just helping ‘the poor’ but for progress to be made, all nations must work together:  Ultimately we all have a role to play and no longer can we ignore the fact that it is often politics and business in wealthy countries that now have to reevaluate how they act. Further, David Satterthwaite correctly pointed out, those which the MDG’s are trying to help have an invaluable voice which we must listen to. They are the ones who can really tell us what they want the goals to achieve for them and what would actually work. I did not know until this weekend that 1 billion people live in informal or illegal dwellings. That’s 1/7 of the population. I agree with David, in that we must listen carefully to this massive population to understand what equality and justice post 2015 would look like to them.

The importance of minority groups, grassroots organisations and civil society were all highlighted throughout the day but one important actor was also identified: big business. Erinch Sahan, Private Sector Policy Advisor at Oxfam explained in detail about the impact that responsible business can have in both a positive and a negative way. However, we can only ultimately conclude that even though big businesses recognise’s the need to be ethical and responsible there is still a lot to be done to ensure that these decisions are not limited to instances when a strong, profit making, business case can be made and responsible business practices become a priority for  investors, Directors and CEO’s.

And that’s not even half of what was covered! On the Sunday we were tasked, after hearing everyone else’s views of what the post MDG’s might look like, to design our own goals (if we thought goals were even still a good idea). This was TOUGH! After hearing so many views yesterday, I realised what an extremely tough role the High Level Panel on the Post MDG Framework have, especially when considering  accountablity, country politics and negotiating development in world struggling to tackle climate change and a financial crisis. However, it was a great day of debate, mind mapping and envisaging what we would like the world to look like by 2030. Ultimately we want people to be healthy, educated, have access to water and sanitation, have enough food to eat, to be treated equally… and the list goes on. The very long list was made up of things many of us would take for granted and I certainly left reconfirming my view that these are things that everyone has the right too and hoping desperately that the post MDG’s will achieve these very basic rights for billions of people around the world.