John Christensen ■ Financing for Development talks snowed under in New York
29th January 2015 – UPDATE: Here is a copy of the civil society response to the Financing for Development ‘Elements’ paper that acts as the starting point for the first drafting session today in New York.
Guest blog from Christian Aid’s Dr Matti Kohonen in New York
Snow blizzard was gathering around the UN building just on the eve before the first Drafting Session for the Financing for Development (FFD) talks in New York January 27-29 and the UN exceptionally had to shut down for the first day as a “state of emergency” was called by the New York Mayor De Blasio over the storm.
However, snow wasn’t the only source of concern as the UN is also snowed under by the demands from developed countries who still think that financial issues are not in the domain of the UN.
Leaving the financial issues outside of UN institutions makes no sense as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be agreed in September 2015 will require an estimate €2.5 trillion in new financial resources per year in developing countries, while the unmet financing demands to adapt and mitigate climate action also rise to hundreds of billions of dollars.
How can the UN deliver on ambitious goals on inequality and climate change without institutions that ensure predictable financing?
If the period from the last FFD summit in Doha in 2008 has taught anything it is that ignoring systemic issues around tax dodging, secrecy jurisdictions or opaque private finance won’t help developing countries any more than developing countries. It is the lack of attention to these issues that led to the global financial crisis and its catastrophic aftermath in terms of the impact on many developing countries.
The discussions on the FFD started with the publishing of the Elements Paper on the 22 January, laying out the structure of discussions and key questions for member states. The worry of civil society is that it does depart from the Monterrey Consensus of 2002 and Doha outcomes of 2008 in important ways. Similar changes were already visible in the expert commission report on sustainable development financing and the UN secretary General’s report on post-2015 and financing for development, but now they are confirmed.
For instance, domestic private resources are to be discussed together with international private finance rather than domestic public finance. This could be interpreted as domestic private resources no longer being seen as part of the sovereign policy space of developing countries, but as an extension of global financial markets. On the positive side, a greater focus on illicit financial flows in the domestic resource mobilisation chapter shows the centrality of tax and financial secrecy issues on the FFD agenda.
A whole new chapter is given to the role of a ‘data revolution’, but most of the new data is to be from developing countries budgets and development outcomes, rather than secrecy jurisdictions or the accounts of multinational corporations. This raises concern over the integration of the financial transparency agenda in the FFD process – while illicit financial flows are mentioned as a resource for development the ‘data revolution’ seems to miss this area of data.
There is a general positive recognition that the FFD process is more integrated this time around to other processes – namely the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and sustainable development issues emerging from the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 and the subsequent Rio + 20 principles. But integration of new areas does not mean reinventing the wheel – rather continuity and relevance are key in keeping the wheel turning in tackling difficult issues around financial resources.
Just as Mayor Bill de Blasio asked New Yorkers to “prepare for something worse than we have ever seen before”, so should the co-chairs of FFD process Mr George Talbot of Guyana and Geir Pedersen of Norway as co-chairs prepare UN member states for worse storms and greater inequality that lies ahead unless all forms of financing for development are scaled up – and especially tax as the most certain of all resources.
Then the (snow)ball is with the member states, and as the snow ploughs work their way through and opening the avenues and streets for genuine dialogue over new initiatives such agreeing on an intergovernmental UN tax body at Addis Ababa.