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Forum for the Future of Aid

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

By Ajoy Datta and Simon Burall

The UN International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) in 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico aimed to agree how the financial resources required for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) could be raised. The ‘Monterrey Consensus’ was 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.

The important, but somewhat weakly mandated, follow-up process has two main recurring elements. These are an annual ECOSOC high-level meeting and the biennial General Assembly High-Level Dialogue (HLD). In addition there is a third element, a Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development will take place from 29 November to 2 December 2008 to review progress in implementing the Monterrey Consensus. These are all briefly described below.

Annual ECOSOC high-level meetings: These meetings take place immediately after the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and involve the Bretton Woods Institutions, the WTO and UNCTAD. These meetings aim to facilitate dialogue among ministers of finance returning from the Washington meetings (from both donor and partner countries), on the one hand, and ministers of aid and foreign affairs (from donor countries), on the other. Civil society and private sector representatives have also participated in these meetings. The last ECOSOC high-level meeting took place in April 2007.

Biennial General Assembly High-Level Dialogues: These dialogues are the second element of the FfD follow-up process. They serve as the intergovernmental focal point for the general follow-up to the Conference and related issues. The most recent High Level Dialogue (HLD) took place in October 2007. The HLD is a ministerial-level forum, with the participation of all relevant stakeholders in the Financing for Development process (including ministers of aid agencies from donor countries and ministers of finance and/or planning ministries from partner countries). It aims to assess the state of implementation of the Monterrey Consensus. The 2007 HLD addressed six main areas, which emerged at the first International Conference on Financing for Development in 2002 (see above). The summary report of the ECOSOC high-level meeting is a key input to the HLD. Both follow up meetings have often led to the adoption of resolutions and decisions (or legislative mandates) during UN substantive sessions.

Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development: Although issues such as commitments to increase aid from donor countries, debt cancellation and the emergence of new donors such as China and India, are bound to dominate debates prior to the 2008 Doha conference and shape the agenda, at the time of writing the conference agenda had not been decided upon. In the UN resolution on the FfD follow up conference, governments avoided commitments and 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.” (UN GA, 2007)

Some of the key questions to be raised in the run up to the FfD follow-up Conference in Doha include 1) which Monterrey achievements most need international political protection against roll back and further support for implementation? 2) which Monterrey-based initiatives are most realisable but need a political push? and 3) which new issues of concern are coming up and most deserve active lobby work toward specific solutions? In addition, the NGO committee has produced a list of potential topics for international discussion in Financing for Development.

Stakeholder involvement: According to the UN Draft resolution, the follow up conference ‘will be held at the highest possible political level, including the participation of heads of state or government, ministers and special representatives’. The conference will include plenary meetings and six interactive multi-stakeholder round tables on the themes based on the six major thematic areas of the Monterrey Consensus. Registration to the conference is open to all NGOs that are accredited with ECOSOC; to the Conference or its follow-up process (UN, 2007).

Although governments have requested that the UN consult with member states and all stakeholders in an open, inclusive and transparent manner, a reliable official plan for the preparatory process was, at the time of writing, still lacking. Nevertheless the UN resolution (2007) called on UN regional commissions to hold regional consultations during the first half of 2008 to provide inputs to the preparation of the Review Conference. Further, the resolution called for informal review sessions on the six thematic areas of the Monterrey Consensus lasting 11 days and one day for informal hearings with civil society and the business sectors between January and June 2008.

The International Facilitating Group on Financing for Development (IFG) represents the largest NGO community monitoring the Financing for Development agenda and has organised NGO inputs to the ECOSOC high-level meetings and General Assembly HLDs.

Another key facilitator is the NGO committee on FfD, which aims to strengthen NGO relationships with the FfD office of the UN Secretariat and aims to integrate FfD issues into the work of ECOSOC and UN commissions. Unofficially, international CSOs have hosted international seminars for civil society on development financing before HLDs with the intention of feeding key outputs into the HLD.

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