UN-sponsored Addis Agenda’s optimism towards private finance to deliver sustainable development is misplaced

financeCivil society organizations (CSOs) and networks from around the world were engaged at Addis Ababa on July 11-12 to come up with their response to the inter-governmental draft (click HERE) prepared for the United Nations’ third International Conference on Financing for Development, taking place at Addis Ababa from July 13 to 16. Excerpts from its reflections and recommendations highlighting CSOs’ overarching concerns about the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (Addis Agenda):

The Addis Agenda as it stands undermines agreements in the Monterrey Consensus of 2002 and the Doha Declaration of 2008. It is also hardly suited to function as the operational Means of Implementation (MoI) for the post-2015 development agenda, which is one of the goals, though not the only one, of this conference.

The Third Financing for Development (FFD) conference must unequivocally assert that development processes should be led by countries under the ultimate responsibility of the States through participatory processes to include all right-holders. The principles of democratic ownership and leadership have been affirmed in many global forums since Monterrey and it is now time to place it at the heart of the whole financing framework as a fundamental qualification of countries’ policy space, which the draft Addis Agenda itself recalls. An enabling environment for civil society agency is essential.

Likewise, if the Third FFD conference is to contribute to the means of implementation for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Rio principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) should be taken into account. This principle is, above all other Rio Principles, indispensable for the political legitimacy and real world impact of the FFD agenda. If appropriately applied, CBDR can also serve to reinforce all countries’ abilities to fulfill commitments in areas of human rights, labor and environment.

We regret that the negotiations, rather than gearing towards a meaningful outcome, have been bogged down by political disputes which have diminished the FFD mandate to progressively address international systemic issues in macroeconomic, financial, trade, tax, and monetary policies. We strongly believe that the FFD process, underpinned by the normative function and ethos of the United Nations, enjoys the participation of its universal membership and, therefore, a legitimacy to address those issues that no other forum can boast.

It is hard to look upon the next decade and a half with great optimism based upon the Addis Agenda. Rather we fear adverse consequences across the sustainable development agenda. The FFD text has incrementally shed any ambition over the course of negotiations and international solidarity seems to have become a distant concept. Those countries that historically, and with good reason, have taken on a large part of the responsibility to lead in delivering MoI, have gone to great lengths to shed this responsibility. At the same time, the text neglects normative and systemic reforms that would enable developing countries to mobilize their own available resources. This combination makes it impossible for countries to generate the requisite resources to deliver a sustainable agenda.

We express disappointment that the Addis Agenda is almost entirely devoid of actionable deliverables. While not a pledging conference it is deplorable that a conference on financing has so far failed to scale up existing sources and commit new financial resources. This calls into question governments’ commitment to realize a development agenda as expansive and multi-dimensional as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We note in particular the opposition seen so far to a global tax body under the auspices of the UN, which would create significant sustainable financing for development through, for example, combating corporate tax dodging in developing countries.

We note with deep preoccupation the lack of ambition in undertaking responsibilities and firm commitments to foster sustainable industrialization paths based on decent work and employment opportunities. We strongly regret that the role of social dialogue is neglected when it is actually a key element to address inequalities and to contribute to overall developmental processes. Special measures are needed to address caste and analogous systems of inherited status that perpetuate exclusion and inequalities in the access to economic resources and the benefits of growth.

Concrete commitments to integrated social protection systems, including floors, which would establish universal access to public services, granting redistribution, are completely missing when addressing domestic resource mobilization. We strongly reaffirm the need for the implementation of national social protection schemes and decent work, as enshrined in the provisions of the ILO Convention 102 and Recommendation 202.

The additional steps we see in terms of addressing gender equality and women’s empowerment seem to speak more to “Gender Equality as Smart Economics” than to women and girls’ entitlement to social and economic rights. The Addis Agenda “reiterates the need for gender mainstreaming, including targeted actions and investments in the formulation and implementation of all financial, economic, environmental and social policies.” Yet, the document shows a strong tendency towards the instrumentalization of women when it states that women’s empowerment, and women and girls’ full and equal participation and leadership in the economy are vital to significantly enhance economic growth and productivity.

Controversial initiatives in micro-fields such as financial inclusion or women’s entrepreneurship should not displace attention from structural barriers for women´s economic rights and full and equal access to and control over economic resources that are not present in the Addis Agenda: i.e. the unequal distribution of unpaid care work, the lack of access to care services, the persistent gender discrimination in the labor market (through vertical and horizontal segregation, over-representation of women in precarious and low-paid jobs, and inadequate and insufficient social protection).

We caution that the optimism towards private finance to deliver a broad sustainable development agenda, which is about the social and environmental dimensions as much as it is about the economic, is misplaced. Civil society along with a number of Member States have consistently raised serious concern on the unconditional support for Public Private Partnerships and blended financing instruments. Without a parallel recognition of the developmental role of the state and commitments which safeguard the ability of the state to regulate in the public interest, there is a great risk that the private sector undermines rather than supports sustainable development. The very same risk persists, without the recognition of social partners (workers and employers organizations) as players on an equal stand. The right of social partners to freely negotiate and conclude collective agreements is essential to strengthen democracy, as well as, to enhance transparency and realize sustainable development. States have an obligation to enforce universal standards in the areas of human rights, gender equality, labor and environment, and yet the Addis Agenda fails to demand compliance by the private sector with these standards. Financial, social and environmental accountability of the private sector is non-negotiable.

Inclusive development necessitates equal opportunity for persons with disabilities, including through conscious measures with regard to education, health and microfinance. Investments should have safeguards to prevent the creation or perpetuation of legal, institutional, attitudinal, physical and ICT barriers to the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups.

Click HERE to download full civil society draft 

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