Marguerite A. Peeters*

Original title, in French: Enjeux de l’Agenda de Développement Mondial de l’Après-2015, Liberté politique n. 67, Paris, Autumn 2015 ( FAFCE thanks the Author and the Publisher for giving the authorisation for its online publication and translation, realised by FAFCE Volunteers. Document or conference titles, quotations, are not always the reproduction of the original English but may be mere translations.

Panama apartment blocks


“2015 is the most important year for development since the founding of the United Nations”[1], asserts the Secretary-General who considers that mankind has now the potential, which had never before occurred in its history, to “eradicate poverty in all its forms” and to reach “welfare for all”. In opposition to this optimism, or rather to this utopianism, Ban Ki-Moon’s tone becomes alarmist when dealing with climate change: it is the responsibility of this generation – and not that of the next one, for it would be too late – to determine by its behaviour and its political decisions the survival or the extinguishment of mankind and of the planet before the end of the 21st century[2]. In either case, the UN gives itself a globally normative task which would be, according to the UN, the only path for possible safety for the whole of mankind. Utopianism, alarmism and messianism become intermingled and strengthen each other mutually in today’s UN vision on the eve of the adoption of its new global development program.

On next September 25th-27th the United Nations Summit for the adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda will be held in New-York[3]. The new development plan will follow the Goals for the Development of the Millennium (2000-2015) and will become effective as of January 1st, 2016. The UN Secretariat considers it as the “global normative framework” intended to govern any development activity until 2030, not only those of the 193 Member-States of the organisation but of all “non-state partners”, also referred to as “shareholders” or “stakeholders” of the global governance (NGOs, foundations, trade-unions, academic circles, women’s movements…). This framework will include, among others, the Sustainable Development Goals, 17[4]of them in the pilot study, and a certain number of targets aiming at the achievement of these goals (169 in the pilot study). Finally, there will be “progress indicators” compatible with the UN statistical requirements and enabling the UN system to monitor the implementation of the goals by governments and all other “concerned parties “.

At the Rio + 20 Conference in 2012, the very complex processes, intergovernmental but also and mainly multi-stakeholder, were launched with a view to establish the Post-2015 UN development program. Our purpose is not to discuss them exhaustively but to identify what are the new program’s main political and ideological stakes.

A Global Pax Romana

A distinctive characteristic of the UN vision for post-2015 is to offer mankind, for the first time in its history, a “unified and universal agenda”[5]: a firmly integrated, compact program, on the one hand, and unifying for the whole of mankind, on the other. Let us analyse both these aspects.

First of all, what does the UN Secretariat mean by “unified agenda”?

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, global governance has embarked upon providing mankind with a common political program for the 21st century: a globally normative framework for development, excluding any other framework. Since the 1992 Rio Conference on environment, this framework bears the name of “sustainable development”, an umbrella concept which includes social, economic and environmental standards drawn up under the UN aegis since 1990. Paradigms adopted at conferences and summits which both preceded and mostly followed Rio have been systematically integrated into the “sustainable development” framework. Therefore, this framework, which is intended to be totally inclusive, has never stopped broadening.

Today, at a critical turning point, global governance wants to achieve the unification of its development program: that all UN policies serve sustainability. Unification will be obtained through mainstreaming the components of economic, social and environmental parameters, melting one into another until they become indissoluble and until implementation of one parameter compulsorily relies on the implementation of another parameter, proceeding therefrom and leading thereto. Let us remember that the 1994 Cairo conference (sexual and reproductive health, reproduction rights, riskless abortion, family whatever its shapes, etc.) and the Beijing conference of 1995 (gender perspective, gender equality…) both comprise targets that are an integral part of the UN social goals. In the new development program, the UN wants to also integrate whatever may have been left aside until today from its normative framework, and in particular a political parameter: the “good governance” and the other new UN political paradigms (global partnership, participative democracy, science based policy making)… According to the UN Secretariat, integration is the main task of global governance from now until 2030.

Sustainable development aims at reaching a balance between its parameters. Indeed it is balance that defines sustainable development and distinguishes it from development as growth. The idea of growth stabilisation (economic or demographic), or of zero growth, or even sometimes of decrease, depending on interpretations, is inherent to the concept. However, new components continuously “weigh down” one or the other parameter: balance is constantly upset. Therefore, sustainable development is a process without a steady content.

Let us now see what the UN Secretariat means by a “global program”.

The new development program, as opposed to the Goals for the Development of the Millennium that mainly dealt with developing countries, is global, applicable to all countries[6] – developed, in transition, developing – to all people, cultures, races, regions, individual citizens… All individuals in all societies at all levels must (obligation of the new ethics) take part in the world change aiming at sustainable development as stakeholders, beneficiaries, implementation actors, including “women, minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups, indigenous peoples, youth, adolescents and older persons “[7]. The UN wants to achieve “welfare for all at all ages”. Sustainable development objectives are all for all.

Sustainable development would thus become the unifying principle for 21st century mankind. A global Pax Romana is being set up under the UN banner, providing all citizens of the world with common targets, language and ethics. Such unification of the world through sustainable development tends to be global and constructivist. It benefits mainly the global governance experts, whose political power on the world increases in an exponential way as fast as the standards they have set up are being implemented locally everywhere.

A refounding process based on a postmodern perspective

It is important to understand that – through the present integration process in the works on the “global” level since the end of the cold war – a synthesis is being rebuilt after the one that preceded it (the modern and / or the Judeo-Christian synthesis) was deconstructed. Global governance radically reforms the international order, which it transforms into a global partnership, the new action plan’s catch phrase. Technocrats – not the people nor the governments – monitor the integration and reconstruction process. This process might end up dissolving – in a typically postmodern way – the “identity borders” of the parties, melting them into the big whole under construction.

It would be wise to wonder to what extent such a refoundation was needed. Indeed, and Pope Francis has just brought it to light in Laudato Si, modernity is not the panacea. Overuse thereof is henceforth widely acknowledged, on cultural and political grounds: paradigm of exponential growth disrespectful towards the environment and human beings; overdevelopment of reasoning, cut off from faith, to the detriment of consciousness and heart; a naturalistic or neo-pelagian conception of natural law; brutal and harsh political paradigm of the “reason-power coalition”… But building the new global consensus after the fall of the Berlin Wall was not based upon reality; it diverted mankind towards a postmodern perspective.

The UN denies that there is a refoundation. The September summit will coincide with the 70th anniversary of the United-Nations. The Secretariat is endeavouring to put forth continuity. It claims that the new development plan is based on “the raisons d’être and principles of the UN Charter”, that the new global partnership to implement this plan is “in the spirit of the Charter”[8]. In order to justify its “new paradigms”, the UN has always referred to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[9]. Yet a quick examination of the founding documents of the international organisation demonstrates at first glance that there is a significant change in language, that there is no continuity but indeed rupture.

The Charter uses plain and simple language. It refers to “sex” instead of “gender”, to “distinction” instead of “discrimination”, to international instead of global, to economic and social progress instead of sustainable development, to cooperation instead of partnership, etc. On the other hand, words and idioms designating the main components of the post cold-war consensus cannot be found in the Chartersustainable development, poverty eradicationgenderreproductive health, planetary borders, global leaders, global citizenship, future generations, good governance, women empowermentparticipative democracy, climatic change, food safety, quality education, global pactworldwide cultures… The words “nations”, “sovereign”, “religion”, which appear in the Charter, have almost disappeared from present day UN language.

A break has gradually occurred between the spirit of the Charter and the Universal Declaration – the modern and/or Judeo-Christian spirit – beginning in the 1960s, at a time when the western cultural revolution threw the world into postmodernity. Reality was converted into a text to be interpreted; language and its interpretation became liquid. Postmodern and civil ethics henceforth inform the interpretation of universal concepts such as dignity, rights, justice, freedom, equality, development, safety. These concepts have become ambivalent. The building blocks of the new synthesis are social constructions, deprived of any stable content.

On the other hand, the new development program is in full continuity with the post-cold-war conferences process, which it will continue to apply in an “integrated and coordinated” manner. These conferences have argued in favour of “changing”. They have operated a critical cut.

“Transformation is our watchword,”[10] states the Secretary General in his synthesis report[11]. A general and complete transformation of the world is the target for the post-2015 program: transforming societies, economies, policies, laws, institutions, consumer and production customs, mentalities, behaviours, cultures[12] and people themselves, environment, content of education… It is a duty for all, today and not tomorrow: “This generation is charged with the duty of transforming our societies”.[13] Everything, including mankind itself, must become “sustainable”.

What is the content of this new adamant compulsory demand for global governance? As usual, documents are eloquent as far as change as a process is concerned, but are elusive when it comes to the content. It is a matter of transforming towards sustainable development, which itself is an integration and balance process, the end of which is not in sight. A program based on change as a principle cannot lead anywhere. As the Secretary General says, “we are sailing” towards what he hopes to be a “sustainable future”. Let us underline that the “sailing” or “journey” notion is a postmodern theme, precisely because the process transcends the content in the new ethical perspective. Let us also underline that changing for the sake of changing is characteristic of any revolution. In the postmodern usual natural ability, process transcends content.

Post-Judeo-Christian aspects of the new program

We shouldn’t worry so much about the break from modernity than about the break from what the previous system still held as Judeo-Christian.

Let’s see how the new programme carries on such a break.

We notice first that the new UN programme tends to absolutize the sustainable development: to cut it from its source. It confers upon it a politically, culturally and ethically character binding for all. Everyone and everything should be put at its service: technology, finances, politics, demography, education, young people, parliaments, partnerships, statistics, nature, religions, etc. Sustainable development becomes the last and exclusive end of human activity. It transcends everything, including religion.

We notice then that if the adjective “universal” is strongly present in the post-2015 programme where it coexists with the word “global” and also sometimes “planetary”, it is no longer associated with the word “values”, but rather with the UN program itself, with sustainable development. When the word “universal” was associated with the word “values”, it was possible to interpret it under the light that God has shed in the heart of every man. When the word “values” is still employed in UN language, it is associated with the qualifying terms “common” or “shared”, or “UN”: the door once open to transcendence has been closed, since “common” or “shared” are immanent concepts. In the post-2015 programme, sustainable development, proclaimed as “universal”, surreptitiously substitutes itself for the law that God has written in every man’s heart. The experts at the origin of global norms are then the source of universality, a supreme authority taking the place of God. And what is now proclaimed “universal” transforms itself into a motor for secularization.

The absence of the words “man and woman”, “family”, “marriage”, “truth”,  “love”, religion”, “faith”, “inherent” (in the previously used expression  “inherent dignity”) in the synthesis report from the General Secretary reveals the lack of respect from the world governance towards the unique and genuine source of universality, all the more since the words “gender” and “sexual and reproductive health-care services”[14] are present in the report, as they are in the “proposals”: gender, 21 times in the English version![15]

How can a development programme presented as “universal” and “people-centered” do without the society’s basic cell- marriage- and man and woman? How could it be founded on gender? What is at stake then in the post-2015 programme is the globalization of hedonistic (absolutization of pleasure) and nietzschean (salvation by power) ethics.

Another problem is the enlargement of the UN paradigm “people-centered” to a new component, “planet”: it’s about the balance of the two components of this new paradigm. The new programme will be people and planet centered. The post-cold war UN “people-centered” paradigm, which means centered on their needs and their rights, was perverted from the inside by an individualistic and hedonistic anthropology. The balance that the UN wants to establish in the next fifteen years between the interests of the people and those of the planet[16] will not correct the UN ideological perspective, but aggravate it.  Balance ethics underlie the will to integrate transversally the environmental dimension in the new development programme. The world governance’s postmodern ethics is a pendulum system. The act of creating a balance amid the components of a given concept (for example, sustainable development) is not ideologically neutral. It aims indeed at equalizing the components and thus it deconstructs their respective identity and the legitimate hierarchies, for example the one that the Creator established between the human being and the rest of creation.

Ban Ki-Moon called the earth “the ultimate Mother”[17] of mankind which “has, since time immemorial, supported life in myriad forms”. Earth would be on the life side, while the human being would be on the side of death, pollution, environment’s destruction. In the end, a negative view of human activity, of the divine command to submit earth, of growth, underlies sustainable development. The scales are tilted. Let’s also note that world governance ethics celebrate the “Mother” after celebrating the father’s death…

Finally, we should notice that in the development programme after 2015, dignity is not qualified any more as inherent and it is cut off from its transcendental source. It is rendered reliant on well-being, economical status, power, equality and environmental protection- which are, according to a lay perspective, the final horizon of human development (from there the will to eradicate poverty). Having become purely immanent, dignity is not filially received; it must be conquered through our own efforts and political strategies.

Inasmuch as this new development programme will be followed, lay ethics which “balance” people interests with those of the planet, absolutize sustainable development by making a universal principle from it, replace family and man and woman by gender, risk to spread worldwide during the next fifteen years, accelerating the globalization of western secularization without making noise.

Great leap forward of the power of technocracy at the helm of world governance

The UN Secretariat has always presented the great orientations of world governance as emanating from the will of its member states and object of their consensus and commitment. Yet, the UN recognizes itself, in all its documents for the past 25 years, that it has opened its doors wide, in its political initiatives, to the effective participation of a multiplicity of non-state actors and diverse “partners” (NGOs, experts, academic circles, foundations, women movements, unions…)

The partnership revolution has taken a revolutionary dimension, transferring political power to actual decision makers who hide among the complex web of the “multi-shareholding” and are often nongovernmental. The history of these “new paradigms” –from their conceptual creation to the verification of their application, through the building of a global consensus regarding them and the strategies implemented to enforce them – prove a leadership beyond dispute of technocrats sharing a same postmodern and ideological vision of the world. These technocrats are the first UN partners. Governments and “non-state partners” are from now on sharing an equal footing as direct shareholders of sustainable development. The scope of states’ sovereignty is thus dramatically reduced.

According to our analysis, the move to the next stage of development will reinforce the power transfer to the technocrats in command of the global governance.

Let’s first take a look at the semantic, political and ideological leadership of the 27 members of the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons created by Ban Ki-moon in charge of the post-2015 development programme. In their report issued in May 2015 and called A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development, this panel introduces a certain number of topics and a language which are already those adopted by the Secretariat and the UN system, of the governments, of the media, of the NGOs and sometimes also of the Church: for example, the topics of transformation, of poverty eradication, of a programme “for the people and the planet” and universally applicable, of the Earth interests, of a universal call to action, of a “universal pact which brings us all together”, of data revolution, of global partnership. These new expressions pertain to a strong language, revealing a determination to take action, to enforce once and for all universally the UN programme. A small number of experts have thus determined the direction taken by the majority for the next fifteen years.

We believe that the quiet political revolution, in progress for 25 years, should gather momentum for several reasons:

1. The introduction by the UN of new development programmes was always accompanied by a willingness to reinforce the UN system to enable it to enforce its new programme. The UN Secretariat expresses explicitly this willingness in the frame of the post-2015 programme. The system reinforcement benefits in first place those who direct it and determine the guidelines and the political priorities.

2. The environmental dimension of sustainable development mainstreaming, one of the post-2015 priorities, will lead to policies more and more informed by science and technique (“science-based policy-making”, “science-policy interface”).

3. The global governance aims at the largest possible integration of the sustainable development components into one another by 2030. The experts assign themselves the role of determining when “shareholders” have reached the “balance” point which produces sustainable development. This balance is obtained by an ever larger integration into the “whole” of the components deemed weak by the experts (the first concerned are the environmental and climatic components in the next development programme). This integration is done under supervision by the experts. The post-2015 programme will thus reinforce their power.

4. The new plan will be action oriented. It will aim to enforce the global goals on local and national levels. The UN seeks to better integrate its normative frameworks with its operational activities[18]. More and more, it assigns to governments the role  of adapting “globally agreed goals and policy priorities to nationally specific realities”[19]. The post-2015 programme insists in this way on the national appropriation of sustainable development goals, the application of which must be “impulsed by the countries”. Furthermore, it asks for the full engagement of local authorities in the application of the new programme. Yet, global goals are established by the experts.

5. The partnerships’ revolution will continue to gather momentum. . The partnership principle sets the “shareholders” or “stakeholders” under the normative global leadership of the technocrats, since the “mandate” of the partners, common for each of them, comes from above.  The exclusive goal of partnerships is the application of global standards, established by experts[20]. The sustainable goal 17 reads: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

6. The UN enlarges its paradigm of “public-private” partnership to the “people”. The new paradigm is “public-private-people partnerships”.[21] This means that from now on people and individuals constituting them will be considered as direct shareholders of sustainable development.

7. On the occasion of the adoption of the new development programme, the UN Secretariat introduces what it calls a “new paradigm of accountability”, or “new responsibility model” or yet “culture of shared responsibility”[22]: individuals, people, governments, companies, will be “held accountable” to the way in which they implement the UN “global commitments”. The Secretariat launches what it calls a “data revolution” to reinforce the statistical capacity of governments. An expert group – the Inter Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators has been charged, under the guidance of ECOSOC and UN Statistical Commission, with developing by March 2016 a global framework of “progress indicators” that governments will have to use in their implementation reports (at least every 4 years). This report will allow the experts to monitor governments and exert pressure on them.

The data revolution will be “multi-shareholder”. The UN Secretariat encourages NGOs and academic circles to contribute to the governments’ reports and to the monitoring process. The UN Secretariat refers to the monitoring as “participatory”[23] –participation having always concerned first the direct UN partners, the “experts”. The data revolution will entitle a minority of postmodern “transformation agents” with controlling people, companies and governments.

Necessity, at a time of “partnerships”, to highlight once again the principle of separation of Church and State

For more than ten years now, the UN has tried to establish a “partnership” with religions that is motivated by its will to universally implement its standards and goals. Religions, last bastion of potential resistance to the world governance secularist drifts, have let themselves, in a significant measure, to be seduced by the partnerships logic and dynamics.

In its partnership with religions, the UN takes the initiative. The exclusive purpose of the partnership is the adoption by religions of the UN framework – semantic, conceptual, strategic and ideological. The partnership thus erases the dividing line between Church and State, since the UN allocates to the Church the same goals, allegedly ethically imperative, than those of all other “partners” of global governance.

For its part, the Church does not respect the separation principle either when it enters into the framework of global governance, uses its language and supports its strategic goals. It then becomes an agent of ethics coming from somewhere else and no longer fulfills its function. These questions are of great importance to mankind and must be clarified.

The condition for a healthy and friendly collaboration between Church and State is a common search for the good of persons and societies. Yet the notion of good is absent from the ethics of global governance. The latter instruments religion to grant its lay ethics an authority they lack. But the partnership initiated by the UN does not open global governance to transcendence. On the contrary, it puts religion at the risk of being secularized.

* Marguerite A. Peeters is the Director of the Institute for Intercultural Dialogue Dynamics, Professor, Urbaniana University (faculty of theology).  Click here for more information:


Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*

Acknowledging that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.

Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

[1] The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet. Synthesis report by the Secretary-General on sustainable development program for the post-2015. A/69/700, December 4, 2015, § 161.

[2] “We could be the first generation to succeed in eradicating poverty, just as much as we are the last ones to have an opportunity to save our planet”. Final-study for the final document for the UN Summit to adopt a development program for the post-2015, Transforming our world before 2030, a new global action program, § 41.

[3] In the UN Secretariat’s perspective, the September summit is strategically linked to two other intergovernmental conferences: the Third International Conference on Financing Development (Addis Ababa, 13-16 July) and the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United-Nations climate change framework convention (Paris, November 30 – December 11).

[4] Voir annexe.

[5] A/69/700, Ibid., § 38.

[6] “All countries shall implement this Program in the framework of a collaborative partnership”. Pilot study, Ibid., Preamble.

[7] A/69/700, Ibid., § 78.

[8] A/69/700, Ibid., § 48.

[9] “This new Program is based on aims and principles of the United Nations Charter, including the total respect of international law. It also takes as a foundation stone the Universal declaration of human rights”. Pilot study, Ibid., § 11.

[10] Ibid., 4.

[11] Dignity for all by 2030: eliminate poverty, transform our lives and protect the planet. Synthesis report by the Secretary General on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. This report, distributed on December 4th, 2014, synthetizes all contributions to the post-2015 process at the end of 2014.

[12] It will require mobilizing the “power of culture”. A/69/700, Ibid., § 132.

[13] A/69/700, Ibid., §157.

[14] “By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.” (target 7 from goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages). And also: “Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences” (target 6 from goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls).

[15] Gender equality is a goal in itself, goal 5 :Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. This goal implies adoption and reinforcement of policies and laws for promotion of gender equality which may include right to abortion, for example, since gender is inclusive of reproductive rights, according to the experts in power.

[16] New global goals towards an “environmentally sustainable future for

our planet and for present and future generations.” Draft, Introduction.

[17] UN press release April 20, 2015 for Mother Earth day, April 22

[18] A/69/700, Ibid., par. 152

[19] A/69/700, Ibid., par. 37 e

[20] “The scale and size of this new Partnership require the global Partnership to be renewed and reinforced. This Partnership…. will facilitate the global intensive commitment in favor of the fulfillment of the goals and targets by uniting governments, private sector, people, UN system and other actors and mobilizing all available resources. Multi-actor inclusive partnerships will be necessary to handle the specific priorities if the Programme and mobilize the necessary resources. More generally, we underline the crucial importance of a commitment from all concerned parties by the implementation of the new Programme. In this regard, governments and public institutions will work in close collaboration with national parliaments, local authorities, international institutions, companies and private sector, civil society, academic world, philanthropic bodies, volunteer organizations and others.” Preliminary draft, par.36

[21] A/69/700, Ibid. par 81

[22] A/69/700, Ibid. par 146

[23] A/69/700, Ibid. par.142