ADDIS: UN chief hails key role of civil society in financing future development agenda

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the Global Civil Society Forum held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the eve of the opening of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

12 July 2015 – As Member States press on with efforts to reach agreement on a plan to secure the necessary financing for sustainable development, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today told civil society organizations gathered in Addis Ababa that their role is vital in keeping governments accountable and ensuring that the voices of billions around the world are heard.

“Now, more than ever, the world needs your advocacy, expertise, and ingenuity,” Mr. Ban told the Global Civil Society Forum, held in the Ethiopian capital from 11 to 12 July. “You are the voice of the people. You can count on the UN to make it heard, loud and clear.”

The Forum took place on the eve of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, which is expected to launch a renewed and strengthened global partnership for financing people-centred development.

The Conference, commonly referred to as FFD3, will bring together high-level political representatives, including heads of State and government as well as ministers of finance, foreign affairs and development cooperation, along with international financial institutions, non-governmental organizations and the business sector for to secure resources for the well-being of the world's people and the planet.

“I am inspired by your passion, commitment and energy,” the Secretary-General told the representatives of civil society, adding that their engagement marks the culmination of “untiring efforts” to ensure a successful and meaningful outcome at the Conference.

“Over the last year, you have called on Member States to be ambitious to secure the resources we need for the well-being of all people and the health of our planet,” he said. “You have reminded them that a successful outcome in Addis will be necessary to securing an ambitious post-2015 development agenda and a comprehensive agreement on climate change.”

Mr. Ban said the Addis Ababa Action Agenda – as the final outcome will be known - provides a comprehensive financing framework for sustainable development, while acknowledging that there are differing views on the level of ambition it contains.

“Stakes and expectations are very high. The negotiations were difficult,” he noted. “Yet, the agreement contains several concrete commitments and deliverables that would not have been there without your robust engagement and advocacy.

“The real test, of course, will lie in its implementation,” he went on, pointing to four key areas where civil society has a role.

The first is the critical issue of domestic resource mobilization. “In too many countries taxation is hampered by illicit financial flows,” said Mr. Ban. “The Action Agenda takes a small but important step in improving international cooperation on tax matters. We need your continued support to increase the voice and participation of developing countries on these matters.”

Second, donor countries need to fulfill their commitments on official development assistance (ODA) as well as climate finance, he noted. “I encourage you to continue to hold governments accountable to help the poorest countries and those with special needs.”

Third, he said that while the quantity of private investment is crucial, so too is the quality, adding that governments and businesses must address private sector incentive structures and business regulations that encourage short-term or unsustainable investments.

“We need your continued pressure to ensure that they better align these structures and regulations with the shift towards sustainable development.”

Fourth, he said he is counting on civil society to remind the international community to go beyond the different flows of finance and include trade, debt, systemic issues and domestic and international enabling environments.

“Let us seize this opportunity to usher in a new era of international cooperation on financing for sustainable development,” Mr. Ban stated.

Stefano Prato, Managing Director of the Society for International Development and a member of the Addis Ababa CSO Coordination Group, told the UN News Centre that the draft outcome document does not contain the level of ambition necessary to meet the new development agenda or the aspirations to transform the economic, financial and monetary systems to be responsive to the needs of people and the planet.

Stefano Prato explains what civil society hopes to see at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FFD3). Credit: UN News Centre

The document, in his view, presented a regression with what was agreed at the two previous financing for development conferences, in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002 and in Doha, Qatar, in 2008. “Rather than moving forward, we're actually moving backwards,” he stated.

Nevertheless, he stressed that civil society organizations are engaged on many different levels and have a fundamental watchdog responsibility.

“Independently of what policy commitments are being taken, it's fundamental to track what is happening and be able to review and follow up into a process that is not exclusively based on numbers and data – despite their importance – but in the direct participation of those most affected by development challenges,” said Mr. Prato.

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