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Civil society organizations (CSOs) have responded to the outcome of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3), the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA).

Many express disappointment, with groups highlighting areas in which the AAAA is a step backward from the outcomes of previous FfD Conferences (Doha and Monterrey).

CSOs criticize the AAAA for failure to form an intergovernmental body for international tax cooperation and highlight limitations related to human rights, especially for women.

ffd3_iisdrsAugust 2015: Civil society organizations (CSOs) have responded to the outcome of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3), which is titled the ‘Addis Ababa Action Agenda’ (AAAA). Many express disappointment, with groups highlighting areas in which the AAAA is a step backward from the outcomes of previous FfD Conferences (Doha and Monterrey). CSOs criticize the AAAA for failure to form an intergovernmental body for international tax cooperation and highlight limitations related to human rights, especially for women.

In a ‘Civil Society Response’ to the AAAA, CSOs that attended FfD3 express their “deepest concerns and reservations on the AAAA” based on the process itself as well as the deliberations of the CSO FfD Forum. Concerns relate to how the AAAA addresses, inter alia: political leadership to strengthen the UN’s role in leading reforms of global economic and financial systems; gender equality and women’s empowerment; donor responsibilities and commitments on South-South cooperation and DRM; international trade policy; UN normative developments on debt; and progress on technology, particularly related to gender, community innovation and indigenous and traditional knowledge. Their concerns also relate to failure to agree on or include: an intergovernmental tax body with universal membership; binding commitments to ensure business accountability based on internationally recognized environmental standards and human and labor rights; necessary additionally of climate and biodiversity finance; concrete commitments to implement integrated social protection systems, including floors; reform of the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) Regime; capital controls; and commitments on transparency and accountability.

The Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development stresses that the AAAA fails to address systemic issues, remove obstacles to development or create the conditions to respect, protect and fulfill human rights, especially for women. The Group describes how language in the AAAA has been weakened from previous FfD agreements and highlights shortcomings such as failure to acknowledge the macro-economic dimension of unpaid domestic and care work, and describing financing gender equality and women’s empowerment as a means for improving economic growth, performance and productivity. The Group concludes that the FfD3 agenda must be a robust mechanism that “maintains the integrity of FfD commitments” for implementing all internationally agreed development agendas.

Although FfD3’s outcome contains the most references to human rights, it may have done the least to uphold them and in some cases has weakened previous commitments, such as on universal access to services, writes Aldo Caliari on Righting Finance. Caliari explains that, although overarching paragraphs include commitments on respecting human rights, including the right to development, the AAAA lacks a consistent, explicit and integrated approach to human rights. Caliari also highlights ways in which actions called for in the AAAA, such as increasing the tax base, could be counterproductive for human rights without systemic reforms to ensure that the proportion of taxes paid by the poorest do not increase.

Center of Concern (CoC) identifies more than 20 areas in which the AAAA retrogresses from previous FfD Conferences, including on inequality and universal services. CoC finds that the AAAA does not provide the strong means of implementation (MOI) necessary for the vision of the post-2015 development agenda to become a reality, and criticizes the failure to agree on an intergovernmental body on tax cooperation standard-setting, strong institutional follow up and Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) in financing sustainable development. In another piece, CoC summarizes civil society concerns, including on the negotiations process leading up to the Conference in Addis Ababa.

The failure to establish an intergovernmental tax body within the UN to replace the current UN Committee of Experts is “a profoundly disappointing outcome,” writes José Antonio Ocampo, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and former Finance Minister of Colombia. Ocampo emphasizes that, while the Organisation for Economic Co-operation anod Development (OECD) has the capacity to set international taxation standards, it does not provide developing countries with any decision-making power and is not a representative intergovernmental forum. Ocampo calls for an international tax body that operates under the UN with the legitimacy to ensure fair taxation of corporate profits globally.

The AAAA fails to address several issues related to debt, writes Bhumika Muchhala of Third World Network. Muchhala highlights the outcome document’s failure to: establish an international statutory framework for debt restructuring in favor of reaffirming the dominance of creditor-led mechanisms; to call for SDR allocations; or to address the scale of debt problems faced by some countries. Muchhala underscores ways in which FfD3 language regresses from the 2002 Monterrey Consensus, but welcomes two “beacons of light”: the establishment of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) and an institutionalized FfD follow-up mechanism.

Oxfam International’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima reflects that the AAAA “has merely handed over development to the private sector without adequate safeguards,” and also laments the failure to establish an intergovernmental tax body that would give developing countries an equal say. She notes that the Conference highlighted the determination of developing countries to call for tax cooperation and global tax reform. [CSO Response] [WWG on FFD Position Paper] [Righting Finance Blog] [CoC 17 July 2015] [CoC Article 19 July 2015] [Ocampo Article] [Third World Network Article] [Oxfam Response] [Wicked Issues Blog]


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