The Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the 3rd International Conference on Financing and Development claims to lay down the ground for a sound global financing framework for post 2015 which is fair, just and equitable and takes care of the most vulnerable and the most marginalized.
At a time when the environment is at its most vulnerable and financial crises are escalating, the Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW) calls for a development agenda that is substantive, binding, and based on principles of human rights. The Addis Action Agenda must recognise people as equal beings irrespective of the regions, race, class, and other categories they represent, but must roll out measures that are equitable thus recognising their differential needs, concerns, marginalisations and vulnerabilities.
This agreement discusses the historical context in which this is placed, highlighting the 2002 Monterrey Consensus and the 2008 Doha Declaration. While these declarations are vital and outline the principles that guide our work on financing, agreements must also take into consideration the 2005 Paris Declaration,and the 2001 Busan Partnership Agreement of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4) (also see).
While the action agenda makes a number of relevant and sound points regarding financing for sustainable development, the political will of states would be insignificant if the language does not ensure actual commitments from governments to their constituencies. In order that Sustainable Development Goals moves from being on the wish list to becoming a reality, the Addis Action Agenda has to be framed in a language that upholds the rights of people especially the poor and the marginalized.. Governments must therefore commit to upholding principles of human rights and work in solidarity with each other to remove barriers of inequalities between and within countries. Language without actual commitments and concrete timelines for achievements are insufficient.
Discussions on financing must take into consideration that the world has been and still is in a state of financial crises. We need to distinguish between ‘financing’ and ‘financing for sustainable development’, which should include policies and programmes that are socially and environmentally sustainable. While the action agenda talks about tackling poverty, it is of utmost importance that it also highlights tackling inequalities – based on economic resources, geographical location, race, gender, war and conflict, disasters and natural calamities, migrant status, undocumented people, (dis)ability, sexual minorities amongst others. All of these people count. While it is commendable that the action agenda mentions LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS must receive particular attention within the development framework, it is also important to pay attention to the needs and concerns of Middle Income Countries (MICs) who may suffer from premature withdrawal of aid. Although MICs show certain economic indicators of progress and development, it is important to measure and compare their social indicators to truly assess whether the fruits of development are being equally shared by all especially the most marginalized.
A large part of the financial crises have and continue to occur because of the thoughtless spending of governments,, reckless use of non-renewable resources, and a disregard for environmental and climate sustainability. Additionally, state investment in commercial ventures, corporate subsidies and incentives have been made at the cost of people’s welfare.
Many governments have not been able to provide universal access to quality education, life-long employment, food and nutritional security, universal access to health including for sexual and reproductive health, sustainable, well-connected transport for their citizens.
Health is a critical component in addressing inequalities, and should be key in the Addis action agenda. In the global south, a substantial part of health expenses are out of pocket, and this jeopardises the lives and the health of people, especially the poor and the lower-income groups. Above all, it is important that any discussions on health are comprehensive and do not have a silo-ed approach. This should then reflect on comprehensive and not vertical funding. Most importantly, the public health agenda should not become the domain of businesses, which will compromise the goal of universal access to health. Additionally, the 2001 Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health adopted by the WTO Ministerial Conference of 2001 in Doha is of significance here as it reaffirmed the flexibility of TRIPS member states in circumventing patent rights for better access to essential medicines. In health, incentive schemes formalised by governments, are not nuanced in their approach and are not effective. For example, although there has been an increase in institutional deliveries in India since the implementation of its national incentive programme, Janani Suraksha Yojana, with no attention to increase the capacity of the institutions in terms of human resource and infrastructure, the quality and care given to women who seek delivery services was heavily compromised. The incentive programme has therefore failed in reaching the most disadvantaged women who are most vulnerable to maternal deaths.
Incentives for the corporate sector is therefore not a viable option for sustainable development. If we truly aim for sustainable development that cares for and prioritises people and their needs and concerns, project based investments and corporate investments need to be carefully assessed against corruption, misuse and their impact on environment. For example, the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) program initiated by Asian Development Bank (ADB) for closer economic integration amongst countries of lower Mekong Basin together with Yunnan and Guangxi Province in China has increasingly become a threat to the ecological integrity of the Mekong river system, undermining the well-being of the millions that depend upon the river and its natural wealth.
Similarly, the role of the Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs) being part of the FfD process and their subsequent role needs to be interrogated. A difficult question we must ask is why the world is still reeling under a global financial crises despite the role of such powerful financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank? If the BWIs are to play a significant role in the follow-up of the Addis action agenda, these institutions must be reformed: there needs be transparency and accountability, open space for consensus-building within these institutions. The policies rolled out by the BWIs is often unquestioned and also partly adopted by other development banks at regional and national levels. Will financing for sustainable development be geared to short term, profit-driven goals or the long-term Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? We need to ensure that development is a people-owned process and not a bank-driven process. We need to ensure that plans and programmes rolled out in the name of development by these international financial institutions and development banks have social and financial protection of the poor and marginalised at the centre.
We therefore recommend:
• Promoting Foreign Direct Investment must also not be done at the cost of people. Systems must be in place to ensure fair wages, fair taxation, and decent work conditions according to international standards such as the ILO. Tax breaks for the private sector must be removed as health cannot be compromised for profits. Laws including labour laws and anti-pollutant laws must also be effectively practised to ensure labour protection and prevent environmental damage. Commitments must be made to adhere to international conventions on climate change issues. Workers’ rights in formal, non-formal, paid and unpaid care work must also be recognised and upheld.
• Capital is socially produced but individually owned. In order to prevent this, mechanisms of taxation must be based on just and fair principles to ensure that the larger burden of taxation is not on the poor and the marginalised. Governments must ensure progressive taxation, broadening the tax base to include the rich, less indirect taxes, efficient tax collection systems. Subsidies and incentives for the corporates must be reduced so as to ensure fair taxation for all and commit to lessen the inequalities between the rich and the poor. Further, we must look into issues of double taxation of migrant labour who are required to pay at their source country as well as the country of destination.
• Above all, we need good accountability and monitoring and regulatory mechanisms for all sectors but particularly for the corporate and private sector that is focused on profits at the cost of people’s welfare. Risk mitigation schemes and mechanisms must be upscaled to bring under its net private and corporate enterprises, transnational corporations, banks, and the government sector. To truly be able to contribute to sustainable development, governments need to be able to increase their stake and be mindful of interests involved. While they may rely on private actors and philanthropic donors (as the action agenda points out), governments need to take central responsibility in raising and spending money towards people’s wellbeing. Governments must therefore be held accountable for responsible spending.
• While the action agenda discusses the need for clear commitments to Official Development Assistance (ODA), there must be concrete timelines mentioned to meet these commitments.
• We also call for an increase in the share of aid dedicated towards gender equality, adolescents, young people and women’s health and education. Additionally, aid commitments must be made to support the essential work done by women’s organizations to improve the status of women and young people.
• Participatory budgeting and gender responsive budgeting mechanisms need to be incorporated at all levels of public budgets. Care must be taken so that women’s role and participation in the economy does not take an instrumental role with them being viewed as contributors to the economy but not as beneficiaries and as equal and active participants in the process.
• Governments must prioritise its people above economic progress and wealth. In this context, it is important to reiterate the need for a Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) approach that on the one hand universalises the development agenda but calls for a sharing of responsibilities that are commensurate with the country’s status as a developed and a resource-rich one, owning up to past responsibilities of colonisation and are therefore supportive of countries that are vulnerable due to a variety of factors.
• Financing must also not be limited to Goal 17 on Means of Implementation but must be included in all the targets mentioned in the SDGs.
• We recommend financial literacy for all people especially for CSOs, NGOs, activists and advocates to demand for transparent and accountable budgets, transparent and accountable auditing mechanisms, national allocations for development and assessments on expenditures made. In order to have strengthened accountability in place there is a need for active participation of civil society in all these processes related to financing. Further, having effective whistle blower mechanisms, active social media campaigns with adequate protection for the activists and advocates can ensure better accountability.
1. Ageing Nepal
2. Alay Sa Bayan NS Foundation, USA and Philippines
3. Ambika Varma, India
5. Ashish Shrivastava, India
7. Beyond Beijing Committee, Nepal
8. CCIHP, Vietnam
9. Centre for Human Rights and Development, Mongolia
11. EMPOWER INDIA, India
12. Family Planning Association of India (FPA India)
13. Geetha Lakmini, National Fisheries Solidarity Movement, Negombo
14. Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC)
15. Oceania, Pacific
16. Huvadhoo Aid from Maldives
17. MAP Foundation, Thailand
18. MONFEMNET National Network, Mongolia
19. Naripokkho, Bangladesh
20. Piyasree Mukherjee, India
21. Radanar Ayar Rural Development Association (Myanmar)
22. RHAC, Cambodia
23. RUWSEC, India
24. SAHAYOG, India
25. Shirkat Gah, Pakistan
26. Sindh Community Foundation
27. Sisters in Islam, Malaysia
28. TARSHI, India
29. The Faculty of Postgraduate Studies, the University of Health Sciences
30. UBINIG/ Narigrantha Prabartana, Bangladesh
31. VAAGDHARA, India
32. Vanaja Ramprasad
33. Women and Media Collective, Sri Lanka
34. WOREC, Nepal
35. Yayasan Jurnal Perempuan, Indonesia
36. Yunnan Health and Development Research Association, China