After Addis, the road to New York lies ahead – The post-2015 development agenda and the EU’s role in shaping it

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      An edited, modified and shortened version of this article was originally published in Europe Magazine by the European Union Delegation to Japan

      The Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FFD3) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia came to an end on July 16th 2015, resulting in the formal adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA). There had been high expectations for the FFD3 to achieve agreement on an ambitious outcome document.

      See ECDPM’s Dossier on ‘Financing for Development’

      Being the first of three major summits in 2015 on the future course of the post-2015 development agenda, it sets the stage for the UN General Assembly to adopt the post-2015 goals and the Climate Change Conference (COP 21) taking place in September and December respectively. Setting the stage for financing sustainable development until 2030? At the same time, FFD3 was a test for global leaders – or those representing them - to show their commitment in putting resources and reforms behind the emerging global sustainable development goals in the post-2015 context. The EU has played an active role both in the preparations to the FFD3 as well as in the overall post-2015 negotiations – co-chaired by David Donoghue from Ireland – taking place in parallel. From the perspective of the EU, the FFD3 summit was a success, as pointed out by the EU Commissioner for International Development and Cooperation, Neven Mimica, in his closing statement: “We can all say that the Addis Conference has been a resounding success. […] The landmark Addis Ababa Action Agenda provides us with the means to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. Together we have agreed to an ambitious vision, which addresses the full spectrum of the means of implementation. […] It also constitutes the first and critical step towards the adoption of the post-2015 agenda in September and the Paris Conference of Parties in December.”

      What was achieved at FFD3, and what was the EU’s position?

      The EU favoured a comprehensive agenda that should not only focus on aid but include private investment, domestic resources, and supportive policies thereby promoting a new framing of the discussions about sustainable development finance in the post-2015 context.

      While most parties involved by and large saw this change as positive, some civil society actors voiced reservations concerning the push for an increased role of the private sector, which in their view needs to be more strongly regulated and held more accountable. Others view it as an attempt to shift the responsibilities of states onto private actors.

      With the AAAA, important progress has been achieved in a number of areas, such as the agreement on a global social compact, the agreement on better data and – to a certain extent – the Addis Tax Initiative to build capacity in the field of domestic revenue. The AAAA calls on all actors to play their part. Moreover, it is a comprehensive agenda including environmental aspects, which were absent from the 2002 Monterrey consensus.

      The EU was the only party to the negotiations that committed to an increase in aid volumes to reach the 0.7% target of ODA. This is an important signal and a display of continuing solidarity with developing countries in times of austerity within Europe. However, the shift of the deadline to 2030 - originally to be achieved by 2015 – raises questions of whether the commitment will really change the ODA spending trajectories of individual European countries anytime soon. This is especially true in the absence of concrete and time-bound plans and the current reductions in aid budgets in a number of EU member states. Another commitment of the EU, together with the US Power Africa Initiative, has been the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to reduce energy poverty and increase access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Beyond this, one of the main goals of the EU was to integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental – in a balanced manner, not only in the post-2015 goals but also in the FFD3 outcome. The EU has welcomed the language on peace and security, human rights, governance and gender equality which are all integrated in the AAAA. Yet, questions arise whether the current language on these aspects is enough to accept them as a central part of the development agenda. Human rights groups questioned the extent to which these issues have been fully and consistently integrated throughout the entire action agenda. At the same time, one could argue that these areas are more appropriately described and worked out in the agreed framework on post-2015 goals and targets rather than in its financing agenda. Is the EU’s positive assessment of the AAAA shared by all? Despite acknowledgement of some positive aspects, many negotiators and stakeholders were considerably less positive about the outcomes of the AAAA and did not share the EU’s optimism, especially with a view to the post-2015 agenda ahead. Civil society groups viewed the document void of any concrete actions or new commitments, as a weak compromise and as a disappointment and expressed their deepest concerns and reservations about the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. They view the agreed agenda as inadequate to live up to the task of supporting the means of implementation for the post-2015 development agenda. The group of G77, representing diverse developing countries, reportedly found its proposals comparatively less reflected in the final outcome and expressed some reservations in their closing statement. The group did not want to play the role of the difficult party and accepted less then they had initially wished for. Some unresolved issues from the negotiations in Addis, especially on the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) and the relationship between the AAAA and the post-2015 goals, will reappear during the final post-2015 Summit and this may have implications for implementing the agenda. Another controversial point is the Tax Initiative, as particularly developed countries – including the EU – were not willing to establish an intergovernmental tax committee at the UN that goes beyond what currently exists.

      Developing countries argue for having an equal say on global taxation and that the OECD – comprised of only 34 countries – should not be the sole body deciding on these issues. The Tax Initiative, though is a good first step, does not really provide guidance on who will lead on taxation - the UN or the OECD? It does however upgrade the existing United Nations Expert Committee on Tax in terms of a more equitable representation on the committee.

      While this is a first step to increase the role of developing countries, the main argument from developed countries (including the EU) was to not replicate what has already been established at the OECD level and in particular to avoid inefficient double processes. What are the implications for the post-2015 negotiations going forward? The negotiations and discussions on the post-2015 goals are coming to an end. The last negotiation session took place in the second half of July and on August 2nd country delegations in New York adopted the text of the post-2015 development agenda titled “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The formal adoption by heads of states will follow, as with the AAAA, at the UNGA in September. Here, part of the difficult discussions focused on the exact relationship between the AAAA and the post-2015 goals and whether to include the whole document as an Annex to the post-2015 agenda. Two sides are again divided. On the one hand the G77 and China view the AAAA as complementary but distinctive and going beyond financing the SDGs. The EU on the other hand favours its inclusion as an annex. Whether the AAAA is annexed to the post-2015 goals or not (the latter would be a a success for the G77), for the EU the Addis outcome still forms an integral part of the post-2015 agenda. The most difficult challenge will be for parties to find an agreement on the issue of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) and its interpretation and implementation in practice. There was no agreement or movement on the parties’ positions on CBDR during the negotiations in Addis. For the EU and other OECD countries, the principle is problematic and confined only to the environmental sphere as defined by the Rio+20 declaration. The EU views the notion of ‘shared responsibilities’ as more appropriate for the preamble, instead of CBDR, to emphasise the increasing responsibility of emerging economies. Countering this, the G77 and China argue that CBDR is the overarching principle to the entire post-2015 agenda and is ‘non-negotiable’. The disappointment that the principle was not acknowledged in the Addis outcome has been felt during the discussions in New York. The final post-2015 text frames CBDR as covering only environmental issues (as set out in the Rio Declaration) and although CBDR is explicitly mentioned, developed countries had their way in confining CBDR more narrowly than G77 countries had argued for. A glass half full or half empty? The success of the post-2015 agenda will depend on how much energy goes into implementation and concrete follow up. As some argue, concrete actions have not been initiated by the AAAA despite some already existing commitments and minor initiatives, meaning it will likely fall short of being the ‘game changer’ people had hoped for. That in turn means that there is increased pressure for the agreements in New York and Paris to deliver and solve the remaining controversial issues. To do this will require translating the Addis outcome as well as the post-2015 development agenda into concrete plans and policies that can and will be implemented by all parties involved. This needs to start sooner rather than later, and will need to involve all line ministries relevant for implementation, beyond those involved in the negotiations. The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of ECDPM An edited, modified and shortened version of this article was originally published in Europe Magazine by the European Union Delegation to Japan  
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