EU development ministers adopted conclusions on “A New Global Partnership for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development after 2015” yesterday in Brussels.

For Seamus Jeffreson, Director of CONCORD, the European confederation of Relief and Development NGOs:

“If the EU wants to contribute to the major global challenges we’re facing today, it really must come up with more concrete commitments about what it will do. So far all we’ve seen are reiterations of general intent. The transformation sought will only happen if EU does not try to pass on responsibility to others but assume it fully, both domestically and internationally.”

What the Council conclusions mean for the ‘Global Partnership’

In its Council Conclusions ‘A New Global Partnership for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development after 2015’, the EU thoroughly failed to say what a Global Partnership would look like. If the EU is going to rely on the so called Global Partnership for the implementation of such a complex and comprehensive framework as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), at some point it must stop dancing round this issue of the functions of the Global Partnership. How will it operate? Who will be part of it? Who will determine whether what is proposed is sufficient to reach all the goals and targets? What we see in these Council Conclusions is just a partial list of means of implementation. That’s not the same as a Global Partnership. Ultimately what we are concerned about is that the Global Partnership could be used to result in an abdication of responsibility by States who must remain responsible for realizing people’s rights.

Given that the new agenda is universally applicable we would expect the EU to go beyond general statements and make concrete commitments, for example to put in place a process to have an overarching strategy for sustainable development at EU level which incorporates all SDGs.

The EU’s priority focus on countries raising their own resources to finance their sustainable development plans is welcome. The EU is the home of many tax havens that cause capital flight and illicit financial flows. The first priority of the EU should be to end tax havens and ensure that national and regional policy does not contribute to such flows. Global partnership is also important. Therefore we call on the EU to support an intergovernmental tax body in the UN.

Official Development Assistance and 0.7%

The EU and its Member States have rightly highlighted the critical role that ODA will have to play post 2015 particularly for many LDCs and the recommitment to the historic 0.7% ODA/GNI target is to be welcomed. However, having largely failed to meet their own collective 2015 deadline for achieving the target, the current recommitment is disappointingly vague and non-binding. It lacks concrete and verifiable national level timetables, the deadline within the post 2015 timeframe up to 2030 is too long to have a meaningful impact on implementation of the SDGs (2020 would be a more appropriate timeframe) and already suggests too many potential excuses to justify not reaching the targets. This undercuts the EU’s credibility as a global actor in development as well as putting successful negotiations in Addis Ababa at greater risk.

The EU’s commitment to improving development and aid effectiveness must equally be backed up by concrete timetables to fully implement Paris, Accra and Busan commitments including fully untying aid, aligning international public finance with country budget systems and enhancing inclusive, broad-based models of local and national ownership.

The effort to reach out to consult people across the globe by a variety of different means and channels has been a critical building block of the post-2015 process to date. Millions of people have contributed their opinion on what sustainable development means to them and the changes they would like to see going forward. While we welcome the EU call for a strong Monitoring Accountability and Review framework, the Council Conclusions should explain more concretely how the EU will guarantee the effective and inclusive participation of all people in the identification of appropriate national targets, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the SDGs through ensuring transparent processes and decision-making, respecting civil and political rights (including access to information and freedom of speech and assembly), creating spaces for people to engage in the implementation and follow-up of the SDGs, recognizing the specific value of volunteerism herein and pledging to provide adequate responsiveness to the outcomes of participative processes – in particular at EU level.

The most concerning part of the EU’s Council Conclusions is what does not appear at all in it. How we deal with countries suffering from unbearable debt burdens or the unfinished business to prevent a repeat of the 2008 global finance crisis need to be resolved. Yet the EU Council Conclusions today are deafeningly silent on these issues.

Background info

1. The full CONCORD-Beyond 2015 ETF position on Means of Implementation can accessed here. CONCORD’s position ‘Destination Addis Ababa: The European Union’s Responsibilities at the Third Financing for Development Conference’ can be accessed here. CONCORD’s position ‘What’s in the commitment? Unlocking 0.7’ can be accessed here.
2. The EU recognises that there are vast illicit financial flows (IFFs), but fails to consider that EU-based tax havens contribute to the identified problem and there are no commitments to conduct spill-over analysis of domestic tax policies on the capacity of developing countries in collecting more tax revenue, or gradually reducing harmful tax practices though international dialogue and co-operation. While we welcome capacity building in this area, this would only tackle the source of IFFs while leaving the intermediaries, facilitators and ultimately destinations of IFFs in developed countries outside the equation. The EU fails to commit to improving international tax governance towards greater representation by committing to establishing an intergovernmental UN tax body at the Addis Ababa Outcome document to enable developing countries to have an equal stake in establishing the rules and norms that govern international taxation rules such as taxing multinational enterprises, establishing double taxation treaties and considering the split of revenue between source and residence countries.