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High-level representatives of governments, international financial institutions, the business sector and civil society highlighted populism and xenophobia as major challenges to global solidarity at a moment when states should be working together to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), during the second annual Forum on Financing for Development follow-up (FfD Forum).

They stressed that the world must move beyond a “globalization of exclusion”, which left behind the poorest, including those in the developed world who embraced nativism and populism and, during the two-day discussions, identified ways of doing that.

25 May 2017: High-level participants in the second annual UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Forum on Financing for Development follow-up (FfD Forum) said populism and xenophobia are major challenges to global solidarity, at a moment when States should be working together to meet the SDGs. Representatives of governments, international financial institutions, the business sector and civil society called for moving beyond the “globalization of exclusion,” which leaves behind the poorest, and identified ways to do so. The FfD Forum took place from 22-25 May 2017, in New York, US. The Forum was established by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) to support the follow-up and review of FfD outcomes (Monterrey Consensus, Doha Declaration and AAAA) and the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Forum’s conclusions and recommendations will feed into the 2017 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

The 2017 Forum included ministerial and expert segments. The ministerial segment took place from 22-23 May, and began with a special high-level meeting with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The expert segment took place from 24-25 May, and featured a dedicated panel discussion on the report of the Inter-agency Task Force on FFD (IATF), a dialogue with stakeholders, and a briefing on progress on initiatives mandated by the AAAA. This year’s Forum also featured, for the first time, ministerial roundtables on the mandates contained in the AAAA follow-up process, to exchange lessons learned at the national and regional levels.

Christopher Onyanga Aparr, UNCTAD, said the future of globalization is in question because of populism and xenophobia, which makes reviving the global partnership for development “more urgent today than when the AAAA was agreed.” Shamshad Akhtar, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), speaking for the five UN regional commissions, said a distrust of globalization had led to a tightening of policies that compounded uncertainty, despite signs of global economic recovery. She stressed that the fiscal requirements of meeting the SDGs can only be achieved by building more efficient and effective tax systems, through multilateral approaches.

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), through video message, outlined IMF support for SDG implementation, including through: strengthening the global financial architecture; assisting countries in seeking outside financing and boosting domestic revenue mobilization; promoting debt sustainability; and developing innovative instruments to manage public debt. Mahmoud Mohieldin, World Bank, on behalf of World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, announced that the Bank’s fund for the poorest nations, the International Development Association (IDA), had a record replenishment of US$75 billion, to be committed over the next three years to the neediest countries. He added that, in support of the SDGs, the World Bank is investing in knowledge and programmes to build durable global public goods on issues such as climate action, crisis response and infrastructure, while “pulling in” the private sector whenever possible, combined with the Bank’s technical and local knowledge to make that capital work for those who need it most.

Yonov Federick Agah, WTO, said the priority needs are to strengthen the multilateral trading system and resist the imposition of new trade barriers. Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, explained that the EU places particular emphasis on increasing domestic revenues by fighting tax evasion and tax avoidance and reducing illicit financial flows, while also improving the efficiency and effectiveness of development cooperation. He said the EU aims to be not only the largest official development assistance (ODA) donor, but also the best.

Tegegnework Gettu, Acting Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), said that, in the first year of the 2030 Agenda, countries appeared to be thinking more systematically about how to mobilize domestic and international resources to meet the SDGs, and that efforts are under way to align financial flows and policies with those objectives. He further stressed that, while it is important to meet international commitments to refugees, resources spent in donor countries hosting refugees should not reduce funding for meeting the SDGs in developing countries. Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya, speaking on behalf of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, noted the synergies between the 2030 Agenda and the peacebuilding architecture. He underlined that AAAA recognizes the existence of a “peacebuilding financing gap,” which should be narrowed by strengthening partnerships with financial stakeholders, including the multilateral financial institutions.

Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado, Vice-President and Minister of Foreign Relations, Panama, said her country has the second-highest level of growth in the region and robust investment schemes, many of which are geared towards sustainable development projects such as clean drinking water and construction plans for new homes. Karen Singson, Philippines’ Department of Finance, said the government is working to address the country’s large debt overhang, excessive bureaucratic procedures and widespread corruption, while creating simpler, fairer and more efficient tax procedures to lessen the overall tax burden placed on the poor and middle class.

Admasu Nebebe, State Minister, Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation, Ethiopia, said his goverment has dedicated 70% of its budget towards sectors closely linked with poverty (such as agriculture, health care, education, water and sanitation, and rural energy). He said a newly created draft development road map include an action plan to be implemented within five years. Elfrieda Steward Tamba, Commissioner General, Liberia Revenue Authority, cited effective tools for public financing at the local level, such as budget appropriations through the Country Development Fund and social contracts with endowed countries through the Social Development Fund. She noted that the impact of ODA could be maximized by building a social contract for eliminating leaks in revenue flows caused by transfer pricing, money-laundering, poor legislation and illicit flows.

Darrell Bradley, Mayor of Belize City, noted that cash transfers from Belize’s central government represent only 6% of the annual budget for the Belize City council, and the actual sum transferred has remained constant for the past 15 years despite an increasing population. Local governments are filling the finance gap, he explained, through creative strategies that require strong local leadership with a commitment to transparency and meaningful citizen engagement. Nidia Reyes, Banca de las Oportunidades, Colombia, presented Colombia’s financial inclusion policy, which is based on an 11-year commitment to provide resources and transfer both capital and innovation to the private sector to help meet the needs of low-income people. She explained that simplified mechanisms were created, establishing limits to the amounts that could be held in products that could reach low-income people, such as inclusive insurance.

Carlota Cenalmore, European Investment Bank, reported on the outcome of the second Global Infrastructure Forum (GIF), which took place in Washington, DC, US, on 22 April 2017. She said the number of joint initiatives has substantially increased, and that the Forum recognized the key role of the private sector. She announced that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will host the 2018 GIF, in Bali, Indonesia, on the margins of the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank in October.

On the 2017 IATF report, titled ‘Financing for Development: Progress and Prospects,’ Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the report represents the first comprehensive and substantive assessment of progress. He highlighted the report’s finding that national efforts are affected by economic factors such as low commodity prices and trade growth and volatile capital flows, alongside political and environmental factors. He also noted the options offered in the report to address financing challenges for social protection floors. He underlined that policies and actions on investment and vulnerabilities must be gender-sensitive.

The report was launched on 22 May. It states that a continuation of the international financial status quo would severely hamper efforts to achieve the SDGs by 2030, with the least developed countries (LDCs) likely to fall short by large margins. The report, led by DESA, tracks progress on the AAAA, and draws on the expertise, analysis and data from over 50 international institutions that make up the IATF, including the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO, UNCTAD and UNDP. The publication underscores the need for an urgent increase in long-term investments in sustainable development and for addressing economic vulnerability.

The ECOSOC President presented the work of the 2016 Development Cooperation Forum (DCF), noting its key message on enacting a focus on results. Some of the Forum’s recommendations include, he said: closely monitoring ODA against its effectiveness in eradicating poverty, not simply increasing the volume of finance; tapping South–South cooperation to reduce asymmetries in order to access sustainable development opportunities and directly respond to local demands; and improving multi-layered monitoring and review of development cooperation.

Shantanu Mukherjee, DESA, reported on the second annual Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI Forum), held from 15-16 May. He said participants had underlined the necessity of multi-stakeholder approaches in order to use STI for the SDGs, especially through matchmaking opportunities. He added that, while not explicitly mentioned in the 2030 Agenda, biotechnology, automation, artificial intelligence, or rapid data proliferation and use could determine, individually or collectively, how well the Agenda is realized. [DESA News] [UN Press Release] [Meeting Summary 22 May] [Meeting Summary 23 May] [Meeting Summary 24 May] [Meeting Summary 25 May] [IISD Sources] [Financing for Development: Progress and Prospects]

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