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Cecilie Kern represented the Loretto Community at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) which took place July 13-16, 2015. Read about the Women’s Forum on July 10 and a Civil Society Forum on July 11-12 here.
The third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) opened on Monday, July 13 at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A Main Committee chaired by the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs, was established during the opening plenary to consider the draft outcome document of the Conference. High-level statements, which started during the opening plenary as part of a general debate, continued in the afternoon. A multi-stakeholder roundtable on “Global partnership and the three dimensions of sustainable development” also took place in the afternoon.
The Main Committee failed to convene to consider the draft outcome on Monday. The high level of ambition called for in plenary by many participants struck hollow in the face of the continued delays in agreeing to an ambitious outcome draft. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for flexibility and compromise, but bilateral discussions and informal consultations continued, with unresolved issues on a global tax body, the application of the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and the link between FfD3 and the post-2015 process still remaining in the draft outcome document. Developed donor countries employed a highly coordinated “divide and conquer” strategy against the positions of developing countries, hoping to avoid reopening the draft outcome document and risking the entire document unraveling. Since the outcome from Addis has a strong bearing—both practical and psychological—on the post-2015 negotiations and the climate change negotiations, government delegates were under substantial pressure to deliver an outcome.
The Women’s Working Group of FfD and the Addis Ababa CSO Coordinating Group organized the first side event of the conference: “Financing for Women’s Development, Human Rights and Gender Equality.” The event presented analysis and the state of play of the outcome document of FfD3 and highlighted key issues that were at stake given the potential of the FfD process to either contribute to the achievement of economic justice and advancement of the realization of human rights for all or to further entrench human rights abuses and exacerbate gender inequality. Panelists, including ambassadors from Uruguay and Iceland, the Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, a representative from the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, and experts from civil society identified concrete proposals to overcome the systemic imbalances that underpin poverty, inequality, environmental degradation and climate change, and unequal distribution of power and resources in the global political economy. The Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development also launched a publication with recommendations for the FfD process.
On the second day of the conference, high-level statements continued in plenary. Roundtables 2 and 3 also took place, on “Ensuring policy coherence and an enabling environment at all levels for sustainable development” and “Global partnership and the three dimensions of sustainable development.” The Main Committee met briefly for the first time in a closed meeting in the evening, to discuss the draft outcome document. It adjourned to allow for further informal consultations.
“Transformative Financing for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Catalyzing Action on the Addis Ababa Accord,” was a high-level side event organized by UN Women, the Addis Coordinating Group and the Women’s Working Group on FfD. It featured speakers from the governments of Sweden, Brazil, Rwanda, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Nepal, as well as representatives from the African Development Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and FEMNET: The African Women’s Development and Communication Network. Panelists identified and examined key and specific policy and financing actions to translate commitments in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda into prioritized, well-resourced actions for gender equality and women’s empowerment, including changing cultural mindsets including dismantling discriminatory structures and stereotypes, allowing women to own land and occupy decision-making positions, closing pay gaps, tackling violence against women, addressing unpaid care work and paternal leave, and preventing tax evasion and illicit financial flows so that resources can be used for achieving gender equality.
The conference continued on Wednesday, with high-level statements in plenary and multi-stakeholder roundtables on “Ensuring policy coherence and an enabling environment at all levels for sustainable development” and “Global partnership and the three dimensions of sustainable development.” The afternoon meeting of the Main Committee at 1:30 pm on Wednesday followed the FfD3 trend, with the Ethiopian Presidency announcing that agreement was still pending and informal negotiations were still underway. The Main Committee reconvened again at 8:30 pm to finally announce a breakthrough. A compromise had been reached on the last remaining tax issue, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda was finally agreed.
“Integrating Human Rights in Financing for Development” was organized by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The event explored the significance of human rights considerations in the FfD process, including strengths and weaknesses in the outcome document, foreign debt and its impact on human rights, private sector accountability for human rights and development, and existing efforts to integrate human rights in financing development and development partnerships with the objective of increasing awareness of links between human rights, FfD, and the broader development agenda. The ambassadors from Switzerland and Uruguay spoke about human rights as being vital to sustainable peace and development, and highlighted food security and the rights of women and migrants as important areas of focus. They also spoke about using human rights principles such as transparency, inclusiveness and meaningful participation, as well as increased data collection to ensure accountability, monitoring, follow-up and review. A human rights lawyer from the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development took a much more critical view of the process, pointing out the current unbalance in the international trade system, closed negotiations on international trade agreements, and lack of human rights impact assessments on these agreements. She also spoke about the context of extreme poverty in which the FfD conference was taking place, and the role of the private sector, which has no interest to protect human rights when providing public services, and the lack of legal accountability for corporations. The Independent Expert on Foreign Debt and Human Rights insisted that new development banks should have strong human rights standards, targeted illicit financial flows as a human rights issue relating to rule of law and tax justice, and spoke at length about the debt crisis in Greece, warning that Greece could fall into a humanitarian crisis. Finally the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation spoke about financing the human right to water and sanitation, increasing accountability and transparency, and tackling inequalities to ensure service delivery to marginalized groups and remote areas.
“Unlocking People’s Capacity as a Means of Implementation: The Human Face of Financing for Development” was organized by Bahá’í International Community in collaboration with the NGO Committee on Financing for Development and other partners. Panelists discussed how to tap the potential of people’s participation as a key means of implementation across the board and offered ideas on how the FfD conversation can be people-centered and ensure that the needs of the most marginalized groups are directly addressed. The first panelist was an incredibly inspirational blind Ethiopian lawyer who spoke about her advocacy and encouraged policies to focus on the gifts and abilities of persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development agenda. Other panelists spoke about investing in children, the importance of volunteer energy and commitment for achieving the SDGs and working to overcome structural barriers to justice. This side event was the most interactive and dynamic one I attended, with engaged participation from attendees throughout.
High-level statements continued in plenary in the morning and afternoon of the final day of FfD3. A roundtable on “Ensuring policy coherence and an enabling environment at all levels for sustainable development” also took place in the morning. In the evening, the closing plenary adopted the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA).
The AAAA includes three main sections on: a global framework for financing development post-2015; action areas; and data, monitoring and follow-up. The second section, on action areas, includes seven sub-sections: domestic public resources; domestic and international private business and finance; international development cooperation; international trade as an engine for development; debt and debt sustainability; addressing systemic issues; and science, technology, innovation and capacity building.
On the final day of the conference, with an agreement reached, civil society reflected together about the outcome document, our impact on FfD3, and the next steps moving forward.
The Civil Society Response expressed concerns with the outcome document, beginning with the way the AAAA addressed gender equality and women’s empowerment as “smart economics” and instrumentalized women to enhance economic growth and productivity rather than speaking about women and girls’ entitlement to human rights. The response also cautioned against misplaced optimism towards private finance, targeting public-private partnerships, lack of accountability mechanisms and regulatory safeguards. The AAAA also failed to commit to policies that would ensure tax justice and equity, and to establish an intergovernmental, transparent, accountable, adequately resourced tax body with universal membership to deliberate on international tax cooperation, stop illicit financial flows and tackle corporate tax dodging. Critical assessment of international trade policy, policies to improve sovereign debt restructuring and guidelines for responsible borrowing and lending were also missing. More generally, the AAAA failed to demonstrate the leadership and ambition to address needed systemic reforms of global economic and financial systems in order to strengthen human rights and protect the planet, and failed to match concrete commitments to rhetorical references to transparency and accountability. There was some progress on technology and follow-up, with the establishment of a Technology Facilitation Mechanism under the UN and the establishment of an intergovernmental Forum on FfD, but there is still much work to be done. For more details, read the entire Civil Society Response and the Women’s Working Group on FfD Response.
Reflecting on the role of civil society at the FfD3 conference, while most people were quite disappointed with the outcome of the conference, they were proud of the impact civil society had on the negotiations. The issues we emphasized in our advocacy, particularly the global tax body and issues on gender equality became the red-line issues. By raising concerns, we created strong tension which will carry over to the Summit in September, the COP in December and the newly established annual FfD Forum. At FfD3 civil society was focused and organized, and representatives looked forward maintaining the pressure and focus during the coming months.
Many thanks to the Loretto Community, Rosa Lizarde, CoL, and the Feminist Task Force (which is continuing to celebrate its 10th anniversary!) for their support and guidance during this trip!