Sunday, July 19, 2015

Global Hopscotch, or the Road to Consensus?

While I was off the grid for a week one of the three Big International Meetings of 2015, the Financing for Development conference, took place in Addis Ababa. Missed it? It wasn't exactly page 1 stuff, but here's a couple of things to consider: 1) these international gatherings (193 nations represented) seem to generate an atmospherics all their own, so that the road from Addis Ababa, passing through New York in September en route to Paris, might indeed be thought of as one continuous journey toward global health and sanity. And 2) the specific topic, development support for the G77 and other poor nations will be a make-or-break issue for achieving consensus in Paris.

So how did the Financing for Development conference do? Here are a few scorecard items:

  • Global tax fairness: the touchiest agenda item was a proposal to address corporate tax evasion, tax havens, the widespread avoidance by multi-nationals of taxes in countries where they extract products and profits. Proponents wanted to set up a UN-based agency with powers to compel corporations to pony up. What they got was a promise to look into it at the UN or OECD level--not much to write home about.
  • Funding for development: after much discussion, delegates had to settle for acknowledging existing sources of development funds, with some attention to technology transfers and other technical improvements, but NO NEW FUNDING--strike two.
  • Finally, the conference reaffirmed the Copenhagen goal of establishing a Green Climate Fund, at a level of $100 billion/year, starting in 2020, but again found NO NEW FUNDING sources for the fund, which so far has pledges worth about $10 billion. While the conference went further in identifying resilience along with abatement as a purpose of the fund, the failure of richer nations to get behind it--the US, for example, is already making plans to divert existing funds, given the difficulties of getting any new money out of this (or any other?) Congress--poses a major threat to any global agreement on climate. Without visible funding to support the climate initiatives of countries--African ones in particular--with great ideas but little capital to implement them, the Paris conference risks splitting, as Copenhagen and all the other COP conferences have done, on this question of accountability: the developed countries, who largely cause the climate problem, aren't willing to pay for solutions outside their own borders.
So the rather general and process-ridden document produced in Addis Ababa will move on to the UN conference on Sustainable Development Goals in New York this September, where the general assembly will have another chance to develop some real support. International bureaucrats have a way of ending these events with cheerful glances toward the next venue, though not all were able to summon that cheer. Indeed, as Jean-Paul Adam, delegate from the beleaguered island nation of Seychelles, remarked, "It's not a question of financing for development, but financing for existence."

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