The Addis Ababa Action Agenda: Fit for purpose?

13 July 2015 

By Sabine Terlecki, CONCORD Head of Policy and Advocacy

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Over the last three days global civil society have been meeting ahead of the third Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa- discussing the latest draft outcome of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, or short “Addis Accord”.

Today, Monday 13 July, this crucial international conference has been kicked off by UN secretary general, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon. However, this day is not only full of ceremonial discussions; Today, the EU will announce its 10 Point Action Plan on Ffd while the EC is leading on the EU negotiations, and it will most probably also be decided if a closing of the negotiations on the current draft can be expected at this conference – or not. The golden key to close these negotiations is now in the hands of the G77, while the Ethiopian government is expected to play a crucial role as broker.

It is important that this Addis Accord is a real commitment, setting the tone for an ambitious and transformative agenda that will tackle the structural injustices in the current global economic system, as well as ensuring that all development finance is people-centred and protects the environment. But is the latest draft of this Addis Accord fit for this purpose or rather the bird in the hand worth two in the bush?

Global civil society believes that the draft outcome document does not yet rise to the challenges that the world currently faces, nor does it contain the leadership, ambition and practical actions that are necessary. It also questions if it could build the solid ground needed as the operational Means of Implementation (MoI) for the post-2015 development agenda, which is one of the main goals, though not the only one, of this conference.

Over these last days global CSO representatives also recalled that States through participatory processes have to include all right-holders. The principles of democratic ownership and leadership have been affirmed in many global forums since Monterrey. And it is to be welcomed that the draft Addis Accord recalls the need to place it at the heart of the whole financing framework as a fundamental qualification of countries’ policy space.

However, the current draft outcome document rather neglects normative and systemic reforms that would enable developing countries to mobilize their own available resources. In particular a global tax body under the auspices of the UN would create significant sustainable financing for development through, for example, combating corporate tax dodging in developing countries.

Furthermore, the latest draft Addis Accord shows the commitment to Gender equality and “reiterates the need for gender mainstreaming”. And “Gender Equality as Smart Economics” finds a prominent place. But moreover, it is important that the Addis Accord will pay particular attention to the structural barriers for women ́s and girls’ economic rights and full and equal access to and control over economic resources. This conference is a historic opportunity for governments to agree on a gender-responsive outcome document which is fit to deliver on both, long-established and newly won commitments on women’s and girls’ rights.

It is good to see that the draft Addis Accord outlines the commitment to progressive tax systems, while reminding that the stronger Doha FFD Review commitment to make tax systems “pro-poor” remains valid. Nevertheless, in order to tackle the global tax haven economy, a significant increase in transparency is needed. Unfortunately, the proposal to introduce public country by country reporting for multinational enterprises and public beneficial ownership registries were rejected. Therefore, citizens will remain unable to know how much multinational corporations pay in taxes or where they make their profits. The global civil society declaration reiterates the need and strongly recommends the establishment of an intergovernmental, transparent, accountable, adequately resourced tax body with universal membership, that leads global deliberations on international tax cooperation

In this global CSO declaration, CSOs strongly recall that International Development Cooperation and Official Development Assistance (ODA) in particular, remain critical for development financing and fulfilling the commitments made more than four decades ago to reach the 0.7% ODA/Gross National Income (GNI) target. They urge all development partners to commit to the timeline of 2020 to provide timetables and accountability frameworks, including enacting legislation at national level.

And what about the next steps? How should the Ffd follow-up mechanism look like? Yet, references to the importance of transparency and accountability in the follow-up of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda seem not being matched by strong commitments from governments to publish timely, comprehensive, accessible and forward-looking information about all development activities and resource flows, public and private, domestic and international, including about revenues, allocations, spending, contracting and results.

It is critical to guarantee that time-bound and actionable commitments made in the FFD agreements so far have continuity in a dedicated Commission for follow-up and review. The Addis Agenda’s establishment of an intergovernmental and universal Forum on Financing for Development with agreed outcomes is indeed a step in the right direction. However, because the same space is tasked to follow-up on the Means of Implementation of the post-2015 development agenda, there is a risk it will lead to fragmented consideration of development financing in terms of each specific goal and target of SDGs, and to a loss of focus on systemic issues.