Addis Abbaba is the place birthplace for one of the most important international frameworks for the next decade and beyond, writes Sabine Terlecki.
Sabine Terlecki is head of policy and advocacy of CONCORD, the European confederation of Relief and Development NGOs.
It has been days of intense negotiations, or probably one should rather say ‘behind the scenes deliberations’, and there was a high risk of leaving Addis without an agreement. So the good news is we have it! The Addis Agenda was approved on 15 July around 20.30, by 193 nations.
Addis Ababa: A missed historic opportunity?
The Addis Ababa meeting was aimed at becoming the sources of a comprehensive financing framework, an historic opportunity to show leadership, ambition and concrete actions, and to promote the vision of an economy which is at the heart of the people and planet. Though just after its, approval the country’s permanent representatives to the United Nations (UN) started praising the outcome over Twitter, global CSOs feel that an historic opportunity has been missed and express their disappointment.
The ‘Addis compromise Agenda’: Missing the teeth for concrete solutions
Ambitious aspirations turned into a compromise agenda missing solutions for concrete problems. Key compromise issues were the final negotiations focused on the intergovernmental Global Tax Body (para 29). Furthermore, G77 dropped their ask on the Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) as well as their demand on having fewer links between FfD3 and Post2015. Furthermore, the EU didn’t push on fossil fuels.
On the shiny side of the FfD3 coin, it has to be taken note that there is in fact some good language on, for example, the role of children for equitable and sustainable development, on women’s and girls’ empowerment and on the enhancement of policy coherence across all the three dimensions of sustainable development.
However, this rhetoric does not hide the relative ‘toothlessness’ of the agenda and they are mostly not followed by concrete implementation plans and commitments. The ‘Addis Agenda’ doesn’t go far enough in many key areas and has clear gaps, especially in terms of transparency and accountability. The framework does also not recognize enough the need for systemic change and neglects normative and systemic reforms that would enable developing countries to mobilize their own available resources.
The Addis Agenda is also not fit to strengthen the role of the United Nations to lead the necessary human rights-based, pro-development reforms of global economic and financial systems and institutionalize greater coherence. Moreover, the ambitions of this financing framework does not correspond to the ambitions set for the Post-2015 Development Agenda and are therefore insufficient in supporting the operational Means of Implementation (MoI) for the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
Private sector: Why did no one shout for public transparency and full accountability to government and citizens?
Support for the private sector in development should contribute to fighting poverty in all its dimensions, injustice and inequalities, promoting human rights, sustainable development and dignity for all. Governments need to ensure that private companies operating on the ground do no harm, behave in a sustainable way and pay their fair share of taxes. Unfortunately, the Addis Agenda doesn’t endorse binding commitments to ensure business accountability based on internationally recognized human and labor rights as well as environmental standards. In a previous draft of the Addis Agenda the demand for private sector to be publicly transparent and fully accountable to government and citizens was still stated, unfortunately this disappeared in the final outcome document. Without a parallel recognition of the developmental role of the state and clear safeguards to its ability to regulate in the public interest, there is a great risk that the private sector undermines, rather than supports, sustainable development.
Investing in women is smart economics, investing in girls even smarter
While it is good to see in the Addis Agenda the support for the Women’s Empowerment Principles established by UN-Women and the Global Compact, it is indeed surprising that the key focus is on ‘gender equality as smart economics’. Women’s and girls’ role and participation in the economy cannot be described only as contributors to the economy. They are also beneficiaries and equal participants in the process. Even more important is investing in women’s and girls’ empowerment, as well as nine years of quality education. So not gender equality as smart economics, but investing in women is smart economics. Investing in girls is even smarter.
Tax power remains under control of traditional donors
The final negotiations in Addis were mainly on paragraph 29 regarding the intergovernmental UN tax body. CSOs pushed until the very end for an intergovernmental, transparent, accountable, adequately resourced tax body under the auspices of the UN with universal membership that could lead global deliberations on international tax cooperation. However, the final paragraph, 29, now describes a committee elected by governments based on geographic distribution by UNSG in consultation with member states, so a kind of voluntary trust fund to provide resources but with rather limited political power.
Key concerns of global civil society
Below is a summary of the key concerns of global civil society:
• Gender equality as smart economics
• Misplaced optimism towards private finance
• International tax policy remains the domain of the powerful
• No concrete commitments to ensure tax justice and equity
• Tendency by traditional donors to elude responsibilities and effectiveness
• No critical assessment of trade regimes, including investment treaties
• Recent UN normative developments on debt ignored
• Limited progress on technology
• Weakening of UN mandate to address systemic issues
• No strong commitment in terms of transparency and accountability
At the concluding panel of the global CSO meeting on 12 July, ahead of the Addis conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that “strengthening the voice and representation of developing countries is very much important”. Unfortunately, also in that respect, the ‘Addis Agenda’ could not succeed. A club of traditional powerholders is still in the driving seat, and some barriers of inequality and solidarity between and within countries couldn’t be eliminated.