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Southern Voices for Change in the International Aid System Project

The Forum on the Future of Aid is an online community dedicated to research and opinions about how the international aid system currently works and where it should go next

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The Follow up Conference to Financing for Development, Doha 2008

Author: Ajoy Datta

The United Nations hosted the International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) in 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico. FfD’s main aim was to agree how the financial resources required for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) could be raised. The ‘Monterrey Consensus’ was implicitly supported by 50 heads of state and contained decisions on: mobilising domestic financial resources, mobilising international resources, international trade, international development cooperation, external debt and the coherence of the international monetary, financial and trading systems.

However, in Monterrey, rich countries refused to commit to enhancing their assistance to developing countries, through for instance, increased aid, debt cancellation, innovative financing mechanisms and combating tax evasion. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) thus criticised the resolutions as insufficient and declared that they were “not part of the Monterrey Consensus” and that the final document was the “Washington Consensus under a sombrero”. While the Conference represented an unprecedented effort to build a consensus among multiple stakeholders,the Monterrey Consensus was not a finished product but rather a point of departure. The credibility of the follow-up process would depend on its ability to overcome the rhetoric of the Consensus with specific proposals that would make available sufficient and effective resources for development in the South.

The follow up process
The regular mandated follow-up process, although important, has been a somewhat weak element of the conference outcome (due largely to the reluctance of some large developed countries to give a high profile to finance work at the UN). The follow up process has two elements. The first is the annual special high-level meeting of the Economic and Social Council with the Bretton Woods Institutions, the WTO and UNCTAD which takes place immediately after the Spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The meetings are meant to facilitate a free-flowing dialogue among ministers of finance returning from the Washington meetings, on the one hand, and ministers of development cooperation as well as ministers and high-level officials of foreign affairs, on the other. Civil society and private sector representatives have also participated in these meetings(Click here for more information on civil society involvement in these events). The last high level meeting took place on April 16th 2007. Its theme was “Coherence, coordination and cooperation as a follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development – on the road to the review conference at Doha in 2008”. The special foci of the event were good governance; developing countries' participation in international economic decision-making; effective use of trade and investment policies; and aid effectiveness and innovative means of financing for development.

The second element of the follow up process is the biennial General Assembly High Level Dialogue which altered its focus from strengthening international cooperation for development through partnership to the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development. This serves as the intergovernmental focal point for the general follow-up to the Conference and related issues. The first and second High-level Dialogues were held in New York on 29-30 October 2003 and on 27-28 June 2005 respectively. The third took place recently on 23-25 October 2007.

The High-level Dialogue provides a ministerial-level forum, with the participation of all relevant stakeholders in the Financing for Development process, to assess the state of implementation of the Monterrey Consensus, including the theme of coherence and consistency of the international monetary, financial and trading systems in support of development. The 2007 Dialogue had special significance, as it made a major contribution to the preparation of the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to review the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus, to be held in Doha, Qatar in September 2008. (click here to view the Draft Resolution and here to visit the UN website for the FfD Follow-up Process).

Civil society processes
The International Facilitating Group on Financing for Development (IFG) is a group of international organizations and networks representing the larger NGO community monitoring the Financing for Development agenda. Formed in 2002 to address the need for follow up to the Monterrey Conference, their aim is to act as a facilitating group to provide cohesive follow-up to Monterrey at the UN and other related fora. They have organised NGO inputs to the ECOSOC dialogues with the BWIs and WTO (in 2002, 2003, and 2004) and the General Assembly biennial High-level Dialogue on the implementation of the Monterrey Conference. They have also provided substantive input into the informal hearings with Civil Society (see below). The IFG represents national and international NGOs with diverse representation in areas of expertise, sectoral and geographic representation, and organizational affiliation.

Informal hearings from Civil Society are held in preparation for the High Level Dialogue at the UN headquarters. The 2007 hearings took place on the morning of the dialogue itself. Panellists included Rosano Romero, Celine Tan, Vitalice Meja, Rodney Schmidt and Hellen Wangusa.

Another key facilitator for the FfD process is the NGO committee on FfD, which aims to engage with key issues as advocates for the Monterrey Consensus and reviews the work of ECOSOC and UN commissions with the aim of supporting the integration of FfD issues into the work of these bodies.

Civil Society on an unofficial basis, sponsor events in the run up to high level dialogues. For example ,Global Policy Forum Europe, Terre Des Hommes and Social Watch hosted an international seminar for civil society on development financing days before the High Level Dialogue in October 2007. Its intention was to feed into the High Level Dialogue and the preparatory process for the Doha Conference – inviting participants to share experiences and expectations and contribute to the formulation of civil society benchmarks for the Financing for Development Conference.

The agenda
Since the ‘Monterrey Consensus’ and the criticism it received from civil society, there have been a number of new dynamics, including commitments to increase aid from rich countries, some debt cancellation, the emergence of new donors such as China, India and Venuezuela, as well as large trusts and foundations; the introduction of new financial instruments such as the “Leading Group on Solidarity Levies to Fund Development”; the emergence of tax evasion and public finance in the development policy mix; and IMF reform to strengthen the voice of developing countries. These issues are bound to dominate debates prior to the Doha Conference and shape its agenda. However, at the time of writing, the conference agenda had not been firmly decided upon. The governments avoided any commitments in the UN resolution on the FfD follow up conference. They only defined the purpose of the conference in general terms:

“(…) the review conference should assess progress made, reaffirm goals and commitments, share best practices and lessons learned, and identify obstacles and constraints encountered, actions and initiatives to overcome them, and important measures for further implementation, as well as new challenges and emerging issues.”

In the past, the preparations of UN conferences have mainly taken place in informal consultations behind closed doors. This trend seems to have continued in the run up to the Monterrey follow up conference. In their FfD resolution, the governments requested the President of the General Assembly to start consultations with the member states and all stakeholders (civil society, business, IMF and World Bank) in the course of 2007. These are supposed to be conducted in an “open inclusive and transparent” way. Nevertheless, a reliable official plan for the preparatory process to the Doha conference is still lacking. This not only hampers the systematic participation of NGOs but also the participation by governments from the South whose representation in New York is often only meager. However, in his concluding remarks at the 2007 High Level Dialogue on Financing for Development in New York, the President of the General Assembly informed participants that the General Assembly would shortly begin consultations on a procedural resolution to set out the modalities for the Doha Conference. He also announced that the process would be taken forward by the facilitators - Ambassador Abdelaziz of Egypt and Ambassador Løvald of Norway.

The question for 2008 is what should the conference aim to achieve, what are the most important issues now and in the future to focus political energy? This question can be broken down into three related questions:
Which Monterrey achievements most need international political protection against roll back and support further implementation
Which Monterrey-based initiatives are most realizable but need political push
Which new issues of concern are coming up and most deserve active lobby work toward specific solutions?

A number of diverse international meetings and fora will be held in the run up to the Doha conference in 2008 (including the Accra HLF and the ECOSOC Biennial Development Corporation Forum), in which civil society and governments will continue to debate the answers to these questions as well as broader issues regarding financing for development. In fact the NGO committee on Financing for Development has produced a list of issues as a starting points. The political challenge for governments is to link these discussions with the Doha conference and agree on new initiatives beyond the minimal consensus of Monterrey.


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