1st UN FfD Forum 2016 Round Up

by Matti Kohonen (27 April 2016) | The inaugural ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development follow-up  was  held from 18 to 20 April 2016 in the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.  The programme includes, on Monday, 18 April, will feature presentations by the heads of the major institutional stakeholders and of intergovernmental bodies of these institutions, followed by statements by Ministers and other high-level officials. In the afternoon, there will be an interactive dialogue between UN Ambassadors and Executive Directors of the World Bank and IMF. The next two days of the Forum according to its modalities will include a series of interactive multi-stakeholder round tables, which will feature more focused, expert-level discussions on action areas and other components of the FfD Agenda.

The theme of the Forum will be “Financing for sustainable development: follow-up to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.” According to its mandate, the Forum will address the follow-up and review of the Financing for Development outcomes and the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The modalities of participation will be those utilized at the international conferences on financing for development.    The Forum outcome was very short as priorities could not be put into a ‘package’.   The Forum’s outcome will be fed into the overall follow-up and review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

Two co-facilitators have been appointed by the President of ECOSOC, namely H.E. Mr. Jean-Francis Regis Zinsou, Permanent Representative of Benin to the United Nations, and H.E. Mr. Vladimir Drobnjak, Permanent Representative of Croatia to the United Nations. Informal consultations stated on 23 March 2016 and will continue in early April (pending date). A Zero Draft should soon be made publicly available for comments by Member States and other constituencies. The timeline is however still uncertain and it is expected that negotiations may be finalized at the Forum itself (a Main Committee may therefore run in parallel to the roundtables).

  1. Pre-meetings background
  2. Highlights of negotiations, UN FfD Forum Panels and communiqués
  3. Highlights of civil society meetings, and other meetings and seminars
  4. Conclusions and wrap-up
  1. Pre-meeting background

Representatives of the UN member states were preparing to meet in New York for an extraordinary week of events which would include not only the UN FfD Forum (established under the Addis Ababa Action Agenda), but also for a High-Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the SDGs on the 21st April, and the signing of the Paris COP agreement on the 22nd April.  Even though the SDGs and the Paris Agreement identified finance as key to achieving the SDGs and ending climate change – the attention was still on reaching the agreements on how financing should be spent, rather than the SDG financing gap or climate financing gaps.  The inaugural ECOSOC FfD Forum was cut to only 3 days in length, as a result of intense discussion between developed and developing countries with the understanding that this sets no precedent for the future (the resolution explicitly refers to this by stating “without prejudice to decisions regarding the timing and duration of future forums”).  However, civil society delegates proposed that 2 more days can be added after the World Bank and IMF Autumn meetings in 2016, and that in 2017 we can have a full five-day UN FFD Forum.

The second element of background is the immediate vicinity to the World Bank – IMF Spring meetings that took place from the 15th to 17th April, which highlighted the fragile state of the world economy, but without linking this fragility to seeking to advance the UN FfD process commitments and closing the SDG financing gap.  The World Bank did follow up on a commitment in Addis Ababa on establishing the Global Infrastructure Forum, but then conclusions on tackling illicit financial flows raised by the Panama Papers were not followed-up.  CSO expressed concerns that the GIF will advance large-scale mega projects without adequate safe-guards or linkages to sustainable development and human rights.  The Spring Meetings also provided a platform for launching a new Platform for Collaboration  to coordinate efforts between the IMF, OECD, UN, World Bank Group.  This discussion between agencies was already visible at the Addis Ababa FfD Conference, and civil society considers this as yet another distracting measure from addressing the key concern of developing countries in creating an inclusive Tax Body.

Third element is the pervasive notion of greater private sector financing to achieve the UN FfD Agenda, as seen in shifting of ODA priorities to financing Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) despite a mounting evidence that they can harm poor communities, lead to debt crisis and drain public finances.   Civil society has pursued a commitment in the AAAA (paragraph 48) in addressing standards for PPPs and other forms of blended finance.   Civil society wrote a letter to the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in response to its consultation on standards and capacity-building on PPPs, rejecting their approach as not inclusive enough as its limited to one region where the negative impacts of PPPs are less visible in comparison with developing countries.   The debate concerning standards is also important on all commercial private sector financing, which many governments consider will fill the SDG / COP financing gaps.

The fourth element of background is the preparatory process, which saw Mexico hosting a retreat in Mexico City in February 2016 under the group of ‘Friends of Monterrey’ in January 28-29, and the President of the General Assembly (PGA) hosted a retreat near New York to advance the negotiations on the outcome of the modalities of the UN FfD Forum.  The lack of an open preparatory process highlighted the political tensions in the UN FfD process where the Japan, USA, Australia and New Zealand (JUZCANS) and the EU consider the UN FfD process only as an annex of the Agenda 2030 agreement and shifting the UN FfD Forum to coincide with the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in July, while developing nations group of G77 supported the independent nature of the process to be included in discussing concerning financial issues where they are left out and not aligned with sustainable development and human rights, while also reminding of the previous Monterrey and Doha conferences that established the independent nature of the FfD process.

The fifth elements of background is Inaugural IATF 2016 Report, the and the Note by the Secretary-General highlighting the main findings of the 2016 IATF Report following the modalities  as mandated by the AAAA outcome document.   The IATF includes the IMF, World Bank, WTO, FSB who conduct currently the main part of global financial governance with less representative and less commitment on human rights and sustainable development standards than the UN system.  The IATF also brings together UN agencies that are mandated to cover social, environmental and global governance related concerns.  The first ever report considered that there wasn’t much anything to report on as the AAAA was only 6 months old, a strange position given that the 1st FfD Monterrey Conference was in 2002, and the 2nd Doha Conference was in 2008 and none of these were ever followed-up due to disagreement over the role of the UN in economic governance issues.  There was good language on Public Private Partnership standards and Illicit Financial Flows (IFF) among other topics, but no specific follow-up action was agreed on the IFFs, while civil society wasn’t happy about the UNECE taking a lead on PPP standards.  The report was prepared very late, and it only indicated what paragraphs and issues it would cover in the future.

  1. Official negotiations

A draft outcome was circulated on the 7 April 2016 by the co-facilitators Jean-Francis Regis Zinsou, Permanent Representative of Benin, and Vladimir Drobnjak, Permanent Representative of Croatia.

The official meetings were mirrored by on-going intergovernmental negotiations that started on Saturday the 15th April in New York based on a Zero Draft that emerged from the various retreats.  By the time that the UN FfD Forum negotiations were kicking off on Saturday, they were discussing the 6th draft and developing countries group of G77 wanted issues ranging from ODA, capacity building, reporting mechanism and institutionalised system of Global Infrastructure Forum (GIF), role of UNCTAD and Doha Development Round negotiations as well as achieving a global framework for tackling illicit financial flows included.  Mexico additionally wanted migration to be mentioned.  EU opposed most of the developing country proposals, but wanted to include climate resilience, social protection floors and gender equality and women’s empowerment in the context of human rights into the final package.  The US was content in talking about the paragraph 18 of the AAAA in terms of identifying illicit financial flows as an issue of national rule of law, while developing countries considered the paragraph 24 that identified illicit financial flows as an issue of international co-operation.

By the time that the co-facilitators (Benin and Croatia) were feeding back to civil society and business representatives, the negotiations on the final outcome were stuck.  By the 18th of April, and the beginning of the Forum, the 7th draft outcome still had many areas in brackets, and paragraphs 18 and 24 from the AAAA concerning illicit financial flows were merged into a paragraph in the draft outcome to account for both the rule of law and international co-operation aspects of illicit financial flows.  The co-facilitators on Monday the 18th had an information session to feed-back to civil society, business sector and other institutional stakeholders, and at this event the representative of Benin admitted to the difficulty of the negotiations.  It seemed that since the extraordinary year of 2015, all urgency has now disappeared in even committing to the basic level of international co-operation on financial issues, as even an ODA commitment and commitment to greater resources to capacity building did not make it to the ‘package’.  In the end there was no ‘package’ of follow-up, and acknowledging of progress at all, as the final outcome ended up being as good as a blank sheet of paper.

  1. Agenda and highlights of the official meetings

The programme of the UN FfD Forum had two segments, the first day (18th April) was dedicated to the Special High-Level Meeting of ECOSOC with the BWIs, WTO and UNCTAD, a follow-up mechanism established as part of the 1st UN FfD Conference in Monterrey, but one that hasn’t been able to align the Bretton Woods Institutions with the UN’s broader human rights based agenda for over a decade of meetings.  The second segment (19th to 20th April) was Interactive roundtables on action areas and other components of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda dedicated to 6 round tables on topics that follow the chapters of the AAAA outcome.  Each round table had presentations form major UN and other institutional stakeholders, civil society and business, and a discussant from these same constituencies.  Some round tables were longer as two topics had to be squeezed in the same round table, being effectively two events combined as one.

Round Table A focused on Global framework for financing sustainable development Ms. Lakshmi Puri, from UN women called for a multi-stakeholder partnership called “Transformative Financing for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment” launched by UN Women and other partners in 2015, Ms. Maria Helena Semedo from FAO called for leveraging green finance and announced a partnership with Google Earth.  Then Isabel Ortiz, from the ILO called for support for social protection, including through reallocating public expenditure, increasing tax revenues, eliminating illicit financial flows, and managing debt.  Only one civil society representative was able to speak in this Round Table due to restricted time, Kjeld Jokobsen from ITUC, stated that the the cross-cutting themes that cover social protection has a funding gap that fails to cover approximately 88% of the social protection needs of the most vulnerable in the least developed countries must be addressed.  Given its importance for poverty eradication and sustainable development, this should constitute a priority area for a multi-year programme of work of the FfD Forum, and the FfD office should facilitate a multi-year programme on the subject with interested countries.

Round Table B focused on Domestic and international public resources (Action areas A and C) Amar Bhattacharya, Brookings Institution, said that we can “all do better” in terms of fossil fuel subsidies and carbon prices.  Armando Lara Yaffar, Chair, UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters, said the AAAA mandated the Committee to have two meetings per year, but noted operational challenges, including ongoing discussions on the location of those meetings in 2016 and highlighted the importance of civil society involvement. Peter Mullins, International Monetary Fund (IMF), noted that: revenue mobilization is a central focus of the IMF; developing countries should have strategies on how they will achieve their revenue targets; and the IMF is trying to strengthen its cooperation with the OECD and the UN to provide better assistance on developing revenue mobilization.  Khady Dia, Dakar Municipal Finance Program, Senegal, called on the IMF to increase partnerships with local governments for resource mobilization.  Only one civil society representatives was able to speak in this round table, but a second speaker addressed these issues in the Round Table C.   First, Claudio Fernandes (Gestos) in this round table said that both the 0.7 percent of GNI target of overall ODA and the 0.2 percent of GNI target allocated for LDCs are critical building blocks, however resources should not be spent on military aid and internal affairs related to the migrant events as new DAC rules suggest.  On south-south cooperation, we do welcome the creation of the technology facilitation mechanism, on MDBs they need to be transparent accountability instruments to decide where and when to invest, but we don’t expect basic sanitation, health, or education as they are investment banks interested in return to investment.  Second (but delivered in Round Table C), Savior Mwamba (Action Aid International) stated that tax revenue and tax policy is crucial to developing countries ability to fulfill their human rights obligations including providing quality gender responsive public services such as health, education, water and sanitation. Tax policies are also important and necessary instrument for addressing inequalities within countries.  Processes & International Platforms led by institutions ( e.g WB, OECD,IMF etc) will detract from the kind actions needed to bring about meaningful change to the global tax system and put an end to the use of harmful tax practices by MNCs.  As such need to upgrade United Nations Tax Committee (UNTC) into an International Tax Commission.  Also the Thabo Mbeki -led High Level Panel (HLP) report on Illicit Financial Flows, and African governments have made a major commitments to change corporate tax laws, review tax incentives, asses impacts of tax treaties undertake regional tax cooperation including exchange of information’s measures through ATAF, EAC, SADC.  However, developing countries efforts above are being undermined by the failure and constant blockage from rich countries to put in place significant measures at the global level that would deal with negative tax practices such as an intergovernmental tax body.

Round Table C focused on Domestic and international private business and finance (Action area B), Gavin Wilson, International Finance Corporation (IFC), explained how IFC uses the liability side of its balance sheet to promote local capital markets.  Fiona Reynolds, Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), observed that investors have become increasingly aware of the overlap between public and private interests. Steve Waygood, Aviva, said the indicator for SDG target 12.6 (on encouraging companies to adopt sustainable practices and report sustainability information) is undermining the target by measuring stand-alone instead of integrated reporting. He called for changing the mindset about capital markets, from seeing them only as a pool of resources to seeing them as a machine for delivering resources, but they need to deliver on sustainable development.  On international private business and finance, Keiko Honda, World Bank, explained that investors interests were aligned with Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). Richard Kozul-Wright, UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), observed the lack of evidence that governments cannot fill the financial gap needed to achieve the SDGs, and stressed that the success of development projects is not about the quantity of FDI but its strategic use. Bill Streeter, Global Clearinghouse for Development Finance, underscored the need for: establishing public performance benchmarks for companies; setting international standards; increasing financial literacy; and creating a national curriculum on financial literacy.  On the Global Infrastructure Forum (GIF), Joaquim Levy, World Bank, said the GIF will take place annually, with a Chair-ship that rotates among the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs). Pablo Pereira dos Santos, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), suggested developing institutions that protect good infrastructure projects from the uncertainty that comes from political cycles. He explained that adding sustainability to projects brings complexity but also resilience, which private investors like. Craig Steffensen, Asian Development Bank (ADB), said ADB will increase its investment in clean energy.  Civil society was able to have two short interventions in this round table, Matt Simonds (ITUC) said that the contribution of international private finance and of corporate activities at large to sustainable development should not be taken as a given.  CSOs have pushed for the adoption and implementation of stringent safeguards and accountability mechanisms to meet social, labour, environmental and fiscal standards (some references to these were included in P48 of the AAAA). Also AAAA left unaddressed the agenda of regulatory and policy frameworks for all governments to apply the following sustainable development principles and human rights frameworks to all private financing and activities – voluntary commitments to sustainability by businesses will not be enough. UN Member States should constructively engage in negotiations on a legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations as mandated by the Human Rights Council-approved resolution A/HRC/26/L.22.

Round Table D focused on Debt and systemic issues (Action areas E and F) Stephanie Blankenburg , UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), stressed the need to improve and extend databases to capture the complexity of current processes in debt sustainability. Lee Buchheit, the Law Firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton LLP, said while more robust collective actions are being introduced, it will take a decade to solve the fragility of the debt system. Jo Marie Griesgraber, New Rules for Global Finance Coalition, called for new mechanisms for the quick and efficient flow of remittances across borders.  Three civil society representatives were able to speak in this critical round table.  Bodo Ellmers (EURODAD) said that progress has been made in establishing the UNCTAC principles on Responsible Lending and Borrowing, now we need compliance, and we need to monitor compliance and good practice, and UN’s Independent Expert on Debt and Human Rights country case studies can serve as examples of monitoring. WB and IMF Debt Sustainabilty analysis does not take into account the SDGs and this should be done.  The latter could be done by the IATF report, and the report could also include an indicator on “debt service on public debt as percentage of government revenue”.   More work needs to be done on moving from voluntary to mandatory Debt Restructuring Frameworks, a mandate given by last year’s debt resolution to discuss it here.  Also Vulture funds legislation: We should showcase good practice and perhaps even start to develop a model law.   Finally, Bodo calls for to set up an Ad Hoc Committee on General Assembly level mandated to create the necessary institutions for the prevention and resolution of debt crises. This Committee should be informed by relevant expert groups.  Caroline Usikpedo-Omoniye (Niger Delta Women’s Movement for Peace and Development) noted that while the AAAA importantly notes in the first paragraph a commitment to respect all human rights, including the right to development, and that member states will ensure gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment, it lacks an integrated, consistent and explicit human rights based approach.    There needs to be a shift from ignoring systemic imbalances to creating a rights-based pro-development multilateral economic and financial architecture.  Gender equality cuts across different topics from ODA that contributes to the respect, protection and fulfillment of gender equality, human rights and sustainable development, to taxation where the planned the UN Tax body, needs to include gender expertise, to review national, regional and global tax policy according to gender equality and human rights obligations and finally on systemic issues, macroeconomic stability is imperative for achieving gender equality and promoting women’s rights. The multiple crises caused by fluctuating food and fuel prices and the ebb and flow of finance, and exacerbated by climate change, disasters, conflict, and war significantly impact women and girls of all ages. The third civil society speaker, Aldo Caliari (Centre of Concern), recalled that the AAAA reaffirmed the need to pursue reforms of the international financial and monetary system contained in Monterrey, Doha (and, by extension of the latter, World Crisis Conference outcomes).  Therefore, the forum should take steps to evaluate to what extent the IMF’s institutional view on capital flows management measures have helped developing countries deal with risks from large and volatile capital flows; assess efforts and obstacles to enhance role of Special Drawing Rights in the international monetary system and utilization as a development financing mechanism; examine the impacts of financialization on the vulnerabilities of developing countries, especially commodity-dependent ones.


Round Table E focused on Trade, science, technology, innovation and capacity-building (Action areas D and G).  Hans-Peter Werner, World Trade Organization (WTO), highlighted the “unexpected breakthrough” on agricultural subsidies, very important for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 on sustainable agriculture, which took place during the WTO meeting in Nairobi (December 2015). Deborah James, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), noted that current trade agreements constrain the policy space for developing countries to achieve the SDGs, and called for safeguards for developing countries against imports that might distort their internal markets.  Andrew Hirsch, Director General, International Intellectual Property Institute, suggested leap-frogging in capacity-building to avoid repeating past mistakes. Ambuj Sagar, Indian Institute of Technology, called for deploying technologies at scale, and said there is no “one size fits all” approach to technology.  There were three civil society speakers in this round table, Ranja Sengupta (TWN), first noted that new Mega-Free Trade Areas (FTAs) are based on unequal partnership and lays down unequal rules.  For instance, aggressive protection and market access for foreign investment, especially in natural resources and critical services; high standards of intellectual property rights protection in medicines & seeds. In response to the Nairobi Ministerial meeting outcome of the (WTO) the agreement was very weak in terms of its development content; because of zero or near zero outcomes on critical issues. These include; agricultural issues such as Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) and public food stockholding for food security; weak LDC and Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) package, and the move to end the  Doha Development Round (DDR) and bring in “new issues” which are sensitive for developing countries and for countries with special needs.  Finally, we need see sustainable development impact assessments that incorporates international Human Rights (HR) standards including the right to development, which can feed into the Inter-Agency Task Forde (IATF) Reports and into this Forum annually, and finally; renegotiate these agreements based on such assessments.   Martin Tsounkeu (Africa Development Interchange Network) highlighted key developing country issues concerning trade including: the inability of developing countries to compete on the global industrial market, due to technology limitations in the fashionable context of liberalisation; the continued volatility of commodity prices as a result of financial deregulation that affect exports from developing countries.  The FfD process and the IATF monitoring reports should critically re-examine the contribution of the multilateral global trade system to sustainable and equitable development by strengthen the role of the UNCTAD in ensuring capacity building for developing countries, as well as a human rights-based and integrated treatment of trade and interrelated issues in finance, technology, investment and sustainable development.   Also it is important to provide adequate national policy space to implement development-oriented industrial, social and environmental policies. Elenita Daño () reminded that Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) is not a monopoly of the formal sector, nor are technologies and innovations only transferred and diffused by the private sector and by industrialized countries that innovations and technological capabilities in developing countries should include the utilization of traditional, indigenous and informal knowledge systems that are adapted to the needs and situations of communities, accessible to the people who need them, use readily available resources and build on decentralized innovations.  She called for publicly-funded technologies must remain in the public domain and must be made available to developing countries.  We welcome the establishment of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) and have high expectations on its potentials to address the obstacles to genuine technology transfer and cooperation, and to enable developing countries to harness their innovation capacities.  Systemic issues in technology development and transfer such as restrictive Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), trade issues and financing must be addressed head-on by the TFM as it provides guidance on STI for the attainment of the SDGs. Finally, there must be a coherent and synergistic link between the annual FfD Forum and STI Forum, especially since both will directly feed into High Level Political Forum (HLPF) to advance the implementation of 2030 Agenda.

Round Table F Data, monitoring and follow-up André Vallini, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie, France, called for reinforcing synergies among partnerships. Robert York, International Monetary Fund (IMF), stressed the need for adequate financial, human and technological resources for the development of statistics. He said political commitment needs to be: strong; continuous; and expressed in robust legal and regulatory frameworks for statistics, to avoid competition among agencies in countries. John Pullinger, National Statistician, UK, underscored the need to build data capability within governments and make them advocates for improving statistics. Stefano Prato, Society for International Development, said the FfD Forum has provided space for discussion but not for planning, and proposed using the extra two days not used this week in the fall for actual planning, including stakeholders.  Civil society had two speakers in this panel.  Omoyemen Lucia Odigie-Emmanuel (Centre for Human Rights and Climate Change Research) called for the respect of fundamental principles and creating a monitoring and follow up system that will suffice for today’s people centered development, and which leaves no on behind are access to data for monitoring and follow, transparency and accountability. These principles are rooted in the right to information which is an important aspect of the freedom of expression and opinion as recognized by the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR Article 19) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR Article 25).  She called upon Member States to commit to the implementation of existing open data standards and to publish in acceptable and accessible open data, comprehensive formats – accurate, timely, gender disaggregated and standardized and comparable data on revenue, expenditure, contracting and results, including publication of key budget documents.  Also, many international goals and commitments, including a number of those contained in the Monterrey and Doha outcomes, have been left without any follow-up mechanisms and may never been implemented by governments, we demand a strong commitment to strengthen an institutionalized process to guarantee a robust implementation of the FFD agreements made in Monterrey, Doha and Addis in the FFD follow up process.  Secondly, Cordelia Lonsdale (Development Initiatives) talked about the potential for big data, citizen generated data to contribute to monitoring, but these innovative approaches need to be a complement, not a substitute, to a firm bedrock of core administrative data collected from government institutions, and reliable, timely and comprehensive national statistics.  The financing problem in regards to data is, partly about lack of money but also about source and direction and approach of existing financing.  She ended urging member states to prioritise the issue of long-term financing for better data in their deliberations, and in future. The report of the Inter-Agency Task Force, needs to do much more to highlight existing data gaps as well as the data that is available.

Closing the Forum, Oh Joon, ECOSOC President, said the willingness of Member States to seek “win-win solutions” is more important than putting words into an outcome document. He called for keeping the spirit of collaboration alive at all levels.  A civil society response was given by Lidy Nacpil (Jubilee South – Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development) stating that The FfD process is supposed to unlock the means of implementation to realize the aspirations expressed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.   However, this inaugural Follow-up Forum was a missed opportunity to move the implementation of FfD agreements forward.  Insufficient time was given to envisioning and organizing the follow-up process, including and with special emphasis on the necessary articulation of a medium term plan of work for the coming years.  The outcome document labelled “intergovernmentally agreed conclusions and recommendations” is deeply unsatisfying –  it does not go into the substance of very urgent issues and does not draw from the richness of Forum discussions.  It fails to articulate clear mechanisms and steps for ensuring that concrete and decisive actions are taken towards realizing agreed aspirations.  She reminded that civil society is deeply involved, to act with greater urgency that is comparable to the gravity of the multiple crises our people face every day.

  1. Highlights of civil society meetings, and other meetings and seminars

The UN FfD Forum had an extensive side-event programme, showcasing different initiatives linked to the AAAA as well as providing a space for advancing the agenda in key areas where consensus was not reached.

Side-events on Monday the 18th April included an ESCAP reported back from an Asia-Pacific regional FfD follow-up forum, the dialogue process was instrumental in setting up an annual regional review process to better understand the implementation of the financing for development outcomes and the means of implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals including: (i) recognizing the need for an Asia Pacific Tax Forum;  (ii) encouraging harmonization and standardization of legal and regulatory frameworks of securities markets and work with securities regulators to encourage cross border flows and market integration with due consideration for financial stability; (iii) highlighting importance of a regional Infrastructure Financing Forum which would enhance the support for cross-border capital flows for infrastructure projects; (iv) suggesting that ESCAP work with regional networks, in particular the Alliance for Financial Inclusion, to harness financial inclusion policies to support sustainable development; (v) suggesting the possibility of a Regional Center in the Pacific for capacity building on climate change adaptation and mitigation; and (vi) suggesting that countries with special needs establish a focal point within one of their ministries to deal with South-South Cooperation and Triangular Development Cooperation and to develop a regional platform for technology transfer and capacity building and advisory services.  The Inter Agency Task Force launched its inaugural report where over 50 intergovernmental agencies and stakeholders fed in, initially to identify areas of monitoring of the AAAA (but not referring to Monterrey and Doha).  The OECD showcased the Tax Inspectors Without Borders, which it claims has delivered an additional 185 million in revenue through revenue authority capacity building.  GPEDC held an event to highlight the Nairobi GPEDC high-level meeting, UNDCF organised an event on municipal finance to follow-up the AAAA commitment to that “expenditures and investments in sustainable development are being devolved to the sub-national level, which often lack adequate technical and technological capacity, financing and support” (para 34) and calls for greater “international cooperation to strengthen capacities of municipalities and other local authorities”.  UNCTAD, WTO and ITC organised a joint event on how trade contributes to sustainable development, to look into AAAA commitments where trade is recognized as an engine for inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction (Paragraph 67) and how countries are encouraged to integrate sustainable development into their trade policy and to do so at all levels (Paragraph 82, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda).

Side-events on Tuesday the 19th April included an event organised by Sweden on sustainable energy addressing SDG 7, showcasing innovative ways to finance clean energy, such as the “Beyond the Grid Fund” that has recently been launched in Zambia in cooperation with Sweden.  ILO with Belgium had an event on financing social protection floors recalling that AAAA committed to establish a new social compact. This social compact includes social protection (cash transfers) and social services (such as education, health, water, sanitation and housing).  Government of France, Global Fund for Cities Development (FMDV), and private sector actors organized an event on country implementation of financing for development.   The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) presented its research on a paper titled Age of Choice for development finance: Evidence from country case studies, offering a new ‘age of choice’ in financing options to developing countries.  OECD with Denmark and Ferdi held a side event on financing the Agenda 2030 and especially vulnerable countries, and to tackle vulnerabilities in countries most in need. In July 2015, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) was endorsed. It provides a new global framework for financing sustainable development. The aim is to align all financing flows and policies with the vision outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to strengthen the means of implementation to achieve all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

There were two civil-society co-hosted side-events, the first being an UNCTAD, UNCTAD, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the Addis Ababa CSO Coordinating Group where Jose Antonio Ocampo presented an extensive report on measures to follow-up AAAA including points on tax co-operation, systemic issues and multi-lateral development banks.  The AAAA clearly has positions on systemic issues and debt agenda that preceding conferences had been already started in Monterrey (2002) and Doha (2008), while increasing the emphasis on ensuring sustainable development. What we see now is a “business as usual” responses to get it back on its feet, especially after the Great Recession of 2008-09, the pursuit of such agenda is becoming increasingly urgent. The UN FFD follow up process, in the reconstituted form agreed in Addis Ababa, holds promise as a venue to build consensus and advance policy proposals to address these challenges.   Questions will contribute to the Forum’s work on addressing the follow-up and review of the Financing for Development outcomes and the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

A second CSO-hosted side-event was organised by a diverse group of civil society under the The CSO for FfD and WWG on FfD with the title: “Holding the private sector accountable for sustainable development and human rights – A call for government action” to discuss initiatives for ensuring that private sector accountability and its human rights impact are central in national strategies, tools and instruments for the implementation; the role of investors in advocating for an increasing number of companies reporting ESG as well as integrated reporting formats; recent developments in guidelines and standards for PPPs being discussed at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the World Bank Group, among other forums, although neither of these efforts meet commitments included in the AAAA; updates on the important process in the HRC on elaborating an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises; and the gender equality and women’s rights impacts of lacking corporate accountability and why women’s economic empowerment and access to finance and assets alone is not enough.

On Wednesday the 20th, side-events included a Business Sector Steering Committee event where speakers stated that there is a surplus supply of private capital, both locally and globally while the informal sector as an under-estimated and under-recognized driver of local economic growth that can stimulate sustainable economic and inclusive growth in developing countries and small island developing states.  The challenges are building the technical operational processes for improving national enabling-environments and capital markets (such as local expertise hubs) as well as the identification and development of investable entities — projects, instruments, and facilities — that can successfully harness mobilize and secure private capital, create local hubs of expertise, and ensure sustainable development impact.  French development agency AFD and UNDP co-hosted an event on the Least Developed Countries, highlighting their financing gaps, need to manage volatility, such as international financial and economic instability, disease outbreaks and extreme weather events that can derail development. The volatility associated with these shocks can be especially hard to manage for the poorest and most vulnerable countries which have more limited capacities to cope.

The UN ECE organised an event on public private partnerships, presented as a solution to the financing gap of the SDGs and to implement the AAAA.  Sandra Vermuyten (PSI) from a civil society perspective stated that quality public services are the foundation of democratic societies and successful economies. They ensure that everyone has equal access to vital services, including health care, education, electricity, clean water and sanitation.  She questioned the ongoing worldwide push to privatize healthcare and social services, and While the UN ECE is developing a PPP standard on health, UN-DESA’s paper, “Public-Private Partnerships and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Fit for purpose?”, indicates that “PPPs are less likely to deliver efficiency gains in the social sector such as hospitals and schools where access and equity are major concerns”.  Therefore PSI proposes to avoid the promotion of PPPs for the provision of health care, while attempts at establishing standards for PPPs in health should be inclusive of all governments (including local authorities) and the major stakeholders (users of health services, health sector workers, and others). PSI also proposes that criteria be established for the evaluation and periodical review of existing PPPs in health.  Putting people first – instead of profitmaking – is exactly what we want. What we need is a clear commitment and investment in public goods and democratic and transparent provision of public services that guarantee universal access and quality. Also at the UN ECE event Omoyemen Lucia Odigie-Emmanuel (Centre for Human Rights and Climate Change) said that arguments for PPPs have not consider or have deliberately ignored the realities of the impact of the private sector on human rights  and development in the last three decades and the need to hold the private sector accountable for sustainable development and human rights. Cases of human rights abuses as a result of private sector businesses are abound.  A focus on profit over public services can distort national development priorities and put people, communities, states and regions to risk which cannot be reversed by more conferences and years of deliberation.  Transparency, participation and accountability are imperatives for successful PPPs, these elements are missing and therefore a support for PPPs is premature and the least option for financing for development. If at all needed, CSOs perspectives on PPPs should not be ignored because they have always acted as global conscience and should be actively involved in assessment of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), such assessment must be based on human rights impact and assessment of states human rights obligation with active consultations with stakeholders.

  1. Conclusions and wrap-up

Where now?  One proposal by the CSO for FfD group presented by Stefano Prato in round table E on follow-up and review is to have the 2 days of UN FfD Forum discussions in October 2016 to advance on this urgent agenda as the April UN FFD Forum achieved nothing apart from a blank piece of paper.  The October slot would be after the World Bank and IMF Autumn meetings have taken place, and it would allow for high-level participants to come together under the UN setting after the Autumn meetings have ended as was the case in doing the 1st UN FfD Forum back to back with the Spring meetings.

The first UN FfD Forum provided for a space for highlighting that there isn’t enough financing to achieve the ambitious agendas of the SDGs and COP, and future commitments under the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) to be held in May 2016 in Istanbul.  Whenever world leaders discuss climate change, sustainable development goals, gender equality, humanitarian action and other issues that success on these issues is often about the availability of financial means and resources – not uniquely as technology, data, capacity building also play a role – but we should not make the mistake of thinking that non-financial means of implementation somehow have surpassed the financial means of implementation.

The 2nd UN FfD forum in 2017 also needs to be much better prepared, and the UN should take much greater leadership in addressing the current affairs such as the state of the world economy, the vulture fund issue costing Argentina $10 billon, tackling issues such as financial secrecy highlighted by the Panama papers through international co-operation, advancing international tax co-operation under the UN’s umbrella to work towards a global Tax Body, and to advance  international standards for all private sector financing modalities and actors to align them with sustainable development and human rights standards – the purpose of the FfD Forum is not in doubt – but the sense of urgency seems to have been lost.  Civil society has a role to play in putting and keeping these issues on the agenda, and producing shadow reports and analysis of the key policy questions.