New and innovative sources of financing are needed to supplement decreasing Official Development Assistance, but these should be additional to traditional assistance and not a substitute for it: this is one of the conclusions of the 6th High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development. In this video interview, Shari Spiegel, from UN DESA’s Financing for Development Office, explains why development assistance should remain a priority, regardless of the financial crisis.
The biennial High-level Dialogue, which took place this year on 7-8 October in New York, is the major intergovernmental focal point for the follow-up to the 2002 Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development and the 2008 Doha Review Conference. The Monterrey Conference brought together all major stakeholders for the first time to discuss issues relevant to financing for development, given the pressing need to raise additional resources. In this spirit, the recent High-level Dialogue brought together Member States and representatives from major stakeholders, including the IMF, World Bank, UNCTAD, UNDP, the Financial Stability Board, and representatives from the private sector, academics and civil society from around the world. They discussed how to incentivize the global financial system to work for the benefits of equitable sustainable development for all. During this meeting, Member States and UN officials called for maintaining international commitments, as well as for increasing domestic resource mobilization, engaging the private sector, and fostering international trade to sustain economic growth and fuel sustainable development.
Improve access to credit
“We have to create an inclusive financing system that would work for everybody around the globe.”
A range of issues were discussed from the role of private sector financing to Official Development Assistance (ODA), and the impact of the 2007-2008 financial crisis on financing for development. The participants explored the possible responses to this crisis and solutions to increase the stability of the financial system while ensuring that the financial system fulfils its role of intermediating credit. “At the UN we emphasize that ensuring the stability of the financial system is incredibly important, but it has to go hand in hand with access to credit. We need to focus on financing for small and medium-size enterprises, for small entities, and to create an inclusive financing system that would work for everybody around the globe”, explains Shari Spiegel, Chief, Policy Analysis & Development Branch, at UN DESA’s Financing for Development Office.
Building on the Monterrey Consensus
The overall theme of this, the sixth high-level dialogue on the issue, was “The Monterrey Consensus, Doha Declaration on Financing for Development and related outcomes of major UN conferences and summits: status of implementation and tasks ahead.”
The Monterrey Consensus, adopted at the International Conference on Financing for Development in 2002, is a landmark partnership agreement for global development. It covered a number of topics, including domestic resource mobilization, foreign direct investment (FDI) and other foreign flows, trade, official development assistance (ODA), debt relief and systemic issues.
It was followed in 2008 by the Doha Declaration, adopted at the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development, which emphasized, among other things, the need to urgently meet the agreed ODA target of 0.7 per cent of donor countries’ gross national income (GNI), and underscored the importance of strengthening the World Trade Organization (WTO) with special and differential treatment for developing countries. Today, however, ODA is around 0.31 per cent of national income of developed countries, having fallen 6 per cent in real terms over the past two years.
Need of a follow-up to Monterrey
“Among the outcomes of this discussion, we could see the beginning of an agreement on the need to have a follow-up conference to Monterrey. It would look into how the Monterrey Consensus can be used today to address new global challenges, and how we should build on this consensus to address global challenges”, mentioned Shari Spiegel. “The second thing that came out of the meeting was that there was a real excitement amongst civil society and other participants about the new opportunity the post-2015 development agenda gives us to rethink how we can work together to make the financial system work in the interest of all human beings and help create a better globe for all of us.”
Difficulties to fulfil pledges
“A strong financial commitment to human solidarity today will improve prosperity and security tomorrow.”
Addressing participants, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged all countries to fulfil their pledges and meet their development assistance targets. “For many developing countries, and in particular the most vulnerable, predictable levels of ODA remain critical,” Mr. Ban said, adding that he was “deeply concerned” about the recent decline in ODA.
Mr. Ban also emphasized the private sector’s vital role in financing and investing for a more sustainable and prosperous world. “A strong financial commitment to human solidarity today will improve prosperity and security tomorrow,” he noted.
Financing sustainable development and post-2015 agenda
Participants were also part of roundtables and an informal interactive dialogue on the impact of the crisis on the reform of monetary and financial systems and implications for development; mobilization of public and private financing; and the role of financial and technical development cooperation, including new and innovative mechanisms, in leveraging resources for sustainable development.
In a report produced by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and released in July 2012, the UN proposed a series of financial mechanisms to raise $400 billion annually for development needs, which would be additional to traditional ODA.
The informal dialogue was focusing on the link between financing for development and achieving the eight MDGs and advancing the post-2015 agenda.
The sustainable development goals (SDGs) being devised by the General Assembly’s Open Working Group could mark an evolution in United Nations development thinking. The Group will come together for its fifth session from 25-27 November in New York, to discuss sustained and inclusive economic growth, macroeconomic policy questions, infrastructure development and industrialization, and energy.
“Properly conceived, the sustainable development goals offer a transformative moment,” said Nikhil Seth, Director of UN DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development. Past development efforts had often kept to thematic silos. “Discussions on the post-Rio+20 and post-2015 agendas made evident that a truly integrative vision is needed,” he explained. There are essentially two sets of challenges: achieving universal human development and ensuring humanity does not exceed critical ecological thresholds. “The sustainable development goals have the potential of weaving one strong, resilient thread out of these two very closely associated – but until now separate – strands,” said Mr Seth.
There are essentially two sets of challenges: achieving universal human development and ensuring humanity does not exceed critical ecological thresholds.
A proposal for SDGs
At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012, United Nations Member States had agreed that a set of SDGs should be developed by an Open Working Group. The Group had its first meeting in March 2013. From this first meeting through to February 2014, it will discuss key themes related to sustainable development and how these might be reflected in the SDGs. In its second phase of work, from February to September 2014, the Group will prepare a proposal for SDGs and present it to the General Assembly.
Participation in the 30-member Open Working Group entails an innovative regional rotational procedure that allows for the actual participation of 70 countries. However, all 193 United Nations Member States, as well as representatives of civil society Major Groups, can attend meetings.
Report shows good progress
The good progress made during the Open Working Group’s first four sessions has been summarized in a Co-Chairs’ progress report. It emphasizes the wide support for a single post-2015 United Nations development framework containing a single set of goals – goals that are universally applicable to all countries but adaptable to different national realities and priorities. The advancement and completion of the Millennium Development Goals is seen as the starting point of the SDGs. However, the latter will need to be more comprehensive, balanced, ambitious and transformative, also addressing the challenges ahead.
Furthermore, the report maintains that poverty eradication remains the overall objective of the international community. It underlines that poverty eradication can only be made irreversible if sustainable development is considered in a holistic manner. This means incorporating its social, economic and environmental dimensions.
The Open Working Group covered a wide range of issues in its first meetings, including the following subject areas: (i) conceptualizing the sustainable development goals; (ii) poverty eradication; (iii) food security and nutrition, sustainable agriculture, desertification, land degradation and drought; (iv) water and sanitation; (v) employment and decent work for all, social protection, youth, education and culture; (vi) health and population dynamics.
Involvement of non-state actors is central
Involving non-state actors in the Open Working Group process has been central from the beginning, and there are a number of ways for them to engage. Like all sustainable development processes convened under the United Nations, the Open Working Group interacts with stakeholders through the Major Groups structure. Representatives from each of the nine Major Groups participate as official observers. Beginning with the third session, the Co-Chairs of the Open Working Group also held daily meetings with representatives of Major Groups and other stakeholders before the start of the official part of the meetings. Contributions to the sustainable development goals process can also be made online, through the Thematic Clusters on the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.
While reaffirming the need to strengthen the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which took place from 22-25 October in Bali, Indonesia, concluded with an acknowledgement that surveillance is the major emerging issue of the year. In the context of the recent revelations about government-led Internet surveillance activities, the Forum discussed the need to ensure better protection of all citizens in the online environment.
The theme of this 8th Forum was ‘‘Building Bridges – Enhancing Multistakeholder Cooperation for Growth and Sustainable Development’.The annual IGF has become the unique multi-stakeholder platform for discussions on all policy issues related to the Internet. Nearly 1,500 delegates from 111 different countries participated.
Any Internet surveillance practices motivated by security concerns should only happen within a truly democratic framework.
Surveillance practices and democratic framework
Discussions also explored how to reach a proper balance between actions driven by national security concerns and the respect for internationally recognized human rights, such as the right to privacy and freedom of expression. Several focus sessions and workshops touched upon these issues, thus generating a truly multistakeholder dialogue, focused on the need to rebuild the trust of Internet users, which has been seriously affected by these actions. It was underlined throughout the week that any Internet surveillance practices motivated by security concerns should only happen within a truly democratic framework, ensuring their adequacy, proportionality, due process and judicial oversight.
Mr. Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in UN DESA attended the opening ceremony of the Internet Governance Forum and addressed the audience, on behalf of Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, underlining the importance of the IGF as the “premier multistakeholder forum for policy dialogue related to Internet governance issues” and reaffirmed the support of the United Nations for the multistakeholder model for Internet governance that the IGF embodies.
Human rights on the Internet
While maintaining the traditional IGF thematic discussions, the 8th IGF introduced new formats and refocused some of the forum’s traditional issues, in an attempt to keep the Forum in line with the evolving landscape of Internet governance discussions. The meeting featured for the first time a focused plenary session dedicated to human rights on the Internet and also included cross-cutting discussions on principles of Internet governance and the multistakeholder governance model of the Internet, principles championed by the IGF inspired by the Tunis Agenda. The Bali meeting also strived to produce some more tangible outcomes or ‘take-aways’ for participants and those following remotely. Each of the plenary sessions addressed specific policy questions and aimed to analyze both convergent and divergent views on the various topics.
The various sub-themes for the Forum included: Access and Diversity – Internet as an Engine for Growth and Sustainable Development; Openness – Human rights, Freedom of Expression and Free Flow of Information on the Internet; Security – Legal and other Frameworks: Spam, Hacking and Cyber-crime; Enhanced Cooperation; Principles of Multistakeholder Cooperation and Internet Governance Principles. 135 focus sessions, workshops, open forums, flash sessions and other meetings took place over the event.
How to best utilize the Internet in development
Throughout the week delegates’ exchanged information and shared best practices with one another on a wide variety of Internet governance issues, as the forum aimed to facilitate a mutual understanding of how to best utilize the Internet in development efforts and also mitigate risks and challenges that might arise as a result of emerging technologies.
The Internet Governance Forum has met annually since the 2006 World Summit on the Information Society to foster a common understanding of how to maximize Internet opportunities and address emerging risks and challenge. The IGF (which is not a decision-making body) is also intended as a space for developing countries to be granted the same opportunity as wealthier nations to engage in the debate on Internet governance, as well as to facilitate their participation in existing institutions and arrangements.
The annual IGF has become the major multi-stakeholder platform for discussions on all policy issues related to the Internet. It is a neutral space that provides all stakeholders an equal footing. Each year it prepares the grounds for negotiations at the highest levels in other institutions.
For more information on the IGF and to access the archived transcripts and webcasts from the meeting, visit the IGF website: http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/