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UNGA Revitalization and selecting the next Secretary-General

6. Mai 2021 - 22:38

Download UN Monitor #23 (pdf version).

By Elena Marmo

In 2007, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) established an Ad Hoc Working Group on the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly (AHWG) which in recent years has addressed the selection process of the UN Secretary-General (S-G). The current S-G Antonio Guterres’ five-year term is set to expire on 31 December 2021 and Member States have begun activities for the 2021 selection and appointment for the UN S-G position, including a thematic debate on the selection process on 23 April.

In 2015, A/RES/69/321 established reforms to the S-G selection process and affirmed that it must be guided by transparency and inclusivity. These changes brought wider participation in a spirited and well-attended appointment process in 2016. The UNGA held several rounds of interactive and informal dialogues and town hall meetings, some with Member States in addition to a dedicated public town hall with civil society participation. This public town hall was also televized globally by the Al Jazeera Media Network.

This year’s selection process has not been as public facing nor has there been the same participation from other stakeholders, as there is only one official candidate, the incumbent. On 7 May the UNGA will hold an interactive dialogue with current S-G Guterres where he will present his Vision Statement and answer questions from Member States and potentially civil society.

Member State comments – 23 April

On 23 April, Member States convened a thematic debate on the 2021 S-G selection process, at which many expressed some concerns regarding the 2021 process as well as potential reforms to reinvigorate the process in 2026. These include: greater public and/or civil society participation and consultation in the selection process, a call to require more than one candidate presented per selection year, greater geographic and gender balance among both S-G appointees and UN leadership more broadly, and possible term-length changes.

Miguel Mourato Gordo, UN Director of Human Resources, presented data on gender and geographic balance achieved since 2016. The UN has not achieved parity overall, with 59 percent men, 41 percent women across the UN secretariat staff overall and among field location staff 69 percent are men and 31 percent are women. He added, however, that “gender parity has been reached at the USG level, among Resident Coordinators and overall in the majority of the entities”. Further, he stated that women currently hold 69 percent of all senior appointments, meaning 31 out of 45 total.

This report kick-started conversations amongst Member States. While the S-G was congratulated on progress with regard to gender parity achievements, many reiterated calls for additional candidates and terms for enhancing the selection process going forward.

A prominent voice in the discussion has been the Accountability Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Group, a cross-regional group of small and midsized countries promoting accountability. Members include: Austria, Chile, Costa Rica, Estonia, Finland, Gabon, Ghana, Hungary, Ireland, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Maldives, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Portugal, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay and Denmark.

Among their requests was for greater civil society participation in the selection process:

“ACT encourages all candidates to interact with civil society organizations throughout the process, and we call on the President of the General Assembly to facilitate that interaction and ensure the active and significant participation of civil society throughout the process, both in general and especially in this session’s process.”

This request was bolstered by other Member States and groupings including: Mexico, Korea, United Kingdom, Peru, Chile, Liechtenstein and the European Union.

Chile, an ACT Group member, also recalled progress in transparency and participation made in the 2016 selection process, noting that “A/RES/69/321 included groundbreaking changes to an appointment process that was somehow blurry and opaque. This led to unprecedented public dialogues with the candidates, that tested a broad set of skills, providing the UN membership as well as a global audience with an insight into the thinking of candidates. While we welcome all the progress made, there is still a need to add additional layers of quality control and procedural certainty in the selection process.”

A primary concern remains that there is only one official Member-State nominated candidate for the position. In their statement, South Africa highlighted several recommendations including: “that the Security Council in the future be encouraged to submit more than one name for the General Assembly’s consideration; and that the General Assembly in future seriously reflect on and consider appointing future Secretaries-General for a longer, but single, non-renewable term”. This concern was also voiced by the ACT Group, Afghanistan and Japan.

Costa Rica was among Member States that called for a woman to be appointed, stating: “the time has come to select a female S-G. As we all know, for 75 years the organization has been led by men. We believe that should qualifications among candidates be equal, we should choose a woman by doing this, we would uphold the principle of equality and empower the women of today and tomorrow.”

Japan cited concerns related to the absence of detailed rules: “We have encountered some stumbling blocks due to the fact that detailed rules applying to aspects of the appointment process are arguably not in place.” They noted that while the timeline may not allow for reform or additional rules for the current S-G selection process, that Members States should consider bringing these broader concerns related to term length, rules of engagement, and applicants who lack an official Member State endorsement to a process and “aim at arriving at an agreement within a year or two on a new set of additional rules that are that will apply to the process of appointing the S-G”.

Calls for democratizing the selection process

These Member State discussions have been accompanied by various campaigns and networks that have been weighing in on the selection process. A campaign called Forward held global “primaries” for the S-G amongst civil society between 1-3 May, motivated by concerns regarding the transparency of the selection process. They stated

“The next United Nations S-G is about to be chosen. They will not be elected but selected…The people will have no say. There will be no free and fair, popular, democratic exercise but rather backroom deals involving – in particular – the Permanent five nations of the Security Council.”

On 4 May, the Forward group announced two recommended candidates who garnered the most support: Rosalía Arteaga Serrano, former President of Ecuador and Paula María Bertol, former Ambassador of Argentina to the Organization of American States.

Forward cannot officially nominate these candidates themselves, as candidates must be nominated by their respective governments in the General Assembly. This problem was noted by another civil society campaign, 1 for 7 billion which released a discussion paper on the “unsettled elements” of the 2021 selection process. Their primary focus is on vague wording in recent resolutions that would suggest a Member State nomination is not explicitly the exclusive route for official nomination.

To date these discussions have not been taken up amongst Member States and efforts have not been undertaken to broaden language to include self-appointed candidates or civil society appointed candidates as “official submissions”.

Time for a woman S-G?

This debate regarding 2021 as the “time” to appoint the first ever woman S-G has also reverberated across news outlets and civil society networks. The two requirements for Forward candidates were: they must not be a man; and that they embody a progressive vision for the world.

Pass Blue made this argument as well, running an article in February 2021 titled, “The UN Must Select a Woman S-G Now, Not Later”. This reported that in the 2016 selection process, 13 candidates were nominated by countries overall, 7 women and 6 men. Human Rights Watch has echoed this call for more women candidates in the advancement of SDG 5, “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.

Pass Blue identified six potential women candidates for the role from Latin America and the Carribean, traditionally next in the rotation. Among them are Michelle Bachelet, current High Commissioner for Human Rights, Alicia Bárcena, current Executive Secretary for ECLAC, María Fernanda Espinosa, former President of the General Assembly, Christiana Figueres, Costa Rican diplomat and 2016 S-G candidate, María Emma Mejía, former Secretary-General of the Union of South American Nations and Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Silvia Rucks former Chilean Resident Coordinator and recently appointed Brazilian Resident Coordinator. These six women hold diverse positions, have demonstrated successes and have advocated for progressive policies underpinned by voices of the people and respect for Human Rights.

With only one candidate officially in the 2021 race, next steps in reforming the process move ahead to the 2026 appointment process.

S-G Appointment process: How it works

Beginning in January 2021, the Presidents of the General Assembly and Security Council began the S-G appointment process, which will follow these steps:

  1. Member States submit candidates (nationals of their countries) for the S-G Position which are distributed to all Member States in the UNSC and UNGA.
  2. Candidates for the position present a vision statement and participate in an informal dialogue with Member States.
  3. In May or June, the UNSC will recommend one candidate to the General Assembly for consideration. Since 1996, UNSC members have voted unanimously, although Permanent 5 members do hold the power to veto any candidate.

Through a resolution (typically adopted by consensus), the General Assembly appoints the S-G at least three months before term start date (1 January 2022).



The post UNGA Revitalization and selecting the next Secretary-General appeared first on Global Policy Watch.

Kategorien: english, Ticker

Broad consensus, paltry results. The UN Forum on Financing for Development 2021

5. Mai 2021 - 16:15

By Bodo Ellmers

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The UN Forum on Financing for Development (FfD) 2021 was the first FfD forum held as planned since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis. Accordingly, the expectations were high. Development finance is currently facing a triple challenge: to mitigate the humanitarian crisis, funds for an acute crisis response are needed – for example, to finance universal access to vaccines through the COVAX-facility, or for social protection measures. To mitigate the further divergence between countries, resources must be made available for economic stimulus programmes in the Global South that match those of the Global North. To prevent the failure of the Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) financing gap that already existed before the COVID-19 crisis and has widened as a result of the crisis must be filled. The UN FfD Forum 2021 was a pivotal moment on the international policy calendar to take the necessary steps.

The agenda included the full range of issues that are the subject of the UN’s FfD process: from taxes to debt, and from private investment and official development assistance (ODA) to the systemic issues of the international financial and trade architecture. The Financing Sustainable Development Report, published in advance, had provided negotiating parties with a wealth of policy recommendations. These built in part on the Menu of Options developed by the UN’s special initiative “Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond”, which has been running in parallel for nearly a year. The informal Friends of Monterrey retreat in the immediate run-up to the Forum served to prepare consensus-building, outside of the rigid UN protocol. No FfD Forum in a long time has been so well prepared.

The zero draft of the final document contained some significant decisions, even if critical observers did not consider them enough to match current needs in times of severe crisis. While the negotiations were ongoing, decisions were taken on aspects such as the extension of the current G20 debt moratorium and the allocation of Special Drawing Rights by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but at the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings.

Numerous other proposals to strengthen the UN system – especially in the areas of debt and taxation, which were priorities for the Global South – were negotiated fiercely, but got massively diluted and weakened during the negotiations. The EU’s priorities, which were predominantly at the interface of finance with climate and the environment, fared similarly. The fact that all decisions in the FfD process must be adopted by unanimous consensus proved to be problematic. Behind the scenes of the non-transparent virtual negotiations, at least one diplomat always blocked more concrete progress.

As a result, the Forum agreed on a comprehensive final document that initiates many significant innovations but makes few tangible decisions on them. This places a heavy burden on the follow-up process. An increasing number of actors are now calling for the convening of a new UN World Summit on Financing for Development as a decision-making moment in the spotlight, and of even greater political weight.

Introduction

The expectations for the 2021 UN Forum on Financing for Development (FfD) were high. It was the first regular FfD Forum of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since the outbreak of the global COVID-19 crisis. The last FfD Forum in April 2020 had to be cut down to a two-hour virtual session due to travel and meeting restrictions.

Therefore, high demands were placed on the forum, especially to:

  • Find ways for countries in the Global South to respond to the crisis with similar financial packages as their peers in the North, and initiate the SDG-compatible reconstruction of their economies in the spirit of “building forward better”.
  • Review the lessons learnt during the crisis and translate them into appropriate reforms, as the crisis has ruthlessly exposed the lack of resilience, especially among countries in the Global South, to economic shocks.
  • Serve as a moment of decision-making to advance the implementation of at least some of the 200 policy options developed in 2020 by the UN’s special initiative “Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond”.

Economically strong countries were able to mitigate the economic and social consequences of the crisis with state-funded rescue and stimulus packages of an unprecedented size. The volume of fiscal packages in rich countries amounted to US$18 trillion, many times more than what was deployed in the global financial crisis a decade earlier. Countries in the Global South either did not have this leeway at all or, where they did make use of deficit spending, government and external debt levels surged from already critical levels. A study by UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) experts also found that neither the Global North nor the Global South had sufficiently aligned their stimulus packages with sustainable development.

The issue of resilience was given special consideration this year. On the advice of UN Member States, the 2021 Financing Sustainable Development Report of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Financing for Development included a focus chapter on the topic. The IATF report is prepared by the UN together with the IMF and the World Bank, and provides technical input for the political negotiations. Resilience was chosen because the COVID-19 shock in spring 2020 caused all pillars of development financing to collapse simultaneously and triggered a massive capital flight from the Global South to supposedly safer havens for footloose capital. It also became clear that health and social security systems could not provide adequate protection for the population, particularly in the Global South.

In terms of policy work, no previous FfD forum has been as well prepared as this one. FfD experts have criticised the UN for not doing enough continuous FfD work between forums. This year was different. Starting in May 2020, the special process “Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond” took place at the UN. In September 2020, their six thematic working groups had presented a “Menu of Options” with about 200 FfD policy options, which were politically debated at four high-level events in the meantime. However, this initiative had no mandate to pass resolutions. Therefore, in the implementation strategy, the formally mandated ECOSOC FfD Forum was considered the moment when decisions could be made and reforms could be put into practice.

Preparation for the Forum

The Financing for Sustainable Development Report

The Financing for Sustainable Development Report 2021 was published by the IATF on 25 March 2021. An advanced unedited version was already available from 3 March. On the one hand, this was to inform the negotiation process for the final document of the FfD Forum and, on the other hand, to be consulted with stakeholders, as in particular the policy recommendations of the IATFreport have great political relevance.

The analysis section of the 200-page report is generally regarded as the most comprehensive collection of facts and figures on development finance. It is oriented around the various thematic blocks or action areas of the FfD agenda (see Box 1).

Box 1: Action Areas of the FfD Agenda

A. Domestic public funding
B. Domestic and international private sector and finance
C.  International development cooperation
D. International trade as an engine of development
E.  Debt and debt sustainability
F.  Addressing systemic issues
G. Science, technology, innovation and capacity building

Source: Addis Ababa Action Agenda

This year, the IATF’s policy recommendations were grouped into three blocks. The first, “Immediate Action”, focuses on measures that create new liquidity in the short term, such as an extension of the G20’s debt moratorium for low-income countries, a new allocation of special drawing rights (SDRs) by the IMF, or an increase in ODA by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries towards the 0.7% target. The second part on “Recovering Better” calls for the mobilisation of additional public resources, including through more progressive tax systems, new credit facilities and debt swaps. Private investment should become better aligned to the 2030 Agenda by developing globally consistent standards for sustainable investment.

However, there have also been critical voices of the IATF report. For example, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the informal consultations objected to the focus on “Risks and Resilience”. In the midst of the crisis, they argued, it would have been better to focus on how FfD could provide concrete help to the billions of people affected, some of them in life-threatening situations, especially in the Global South. There was also criticism that the institutions in the IATF could not agree to explicitly support more fundamental reforms of the financial architecture currently under discussion, such as a sovereign debt workout mechanism or a UN Tax Convention.

The Friends of Monterrey retreat

The informal Friends of Monterrey group held its fifth retreat this year in preparation for the FfD Forum. Named after the Mexican city where the first Financing for Development conference was held in 2002, the group provides an informal forum in which new policy options on financing for development can be discussed beyond the rigid UN protocol and under Chatham House rules. It is co-coordinated by Germany, Mexico and Switzerland, and usually convenes a couple of weeks ahead of the FfD Forum in Mexico, but this year was held virtually.

The 17-18 March meeting attracted 130 invited participants. Among them was a broad mix of FfD stakeholders including representatives of UN Member State governments from North and South, UN agencies, private sector, NGOs, and think tanks (including the Global Policy Forum). In addition to the traditional Action Areas of the FfD process, this year’s agenda included a focus session on “Green & Sustainable Recovery”. In light of the ongoing economic and financial crisis, much space was also devoted to the topic of debt sustainability and debt crises, with a well-attended break-out group.

To make the link to the UN’s FfD special initiative, the ambassadors of Jamaica and Canada were also invited, as these countries have been leading the initiative as co-chairs. Marcelo Ebrard, Foreign Minister of the virtual host country Mexico, opened the meeting. The discussions were held in a certain spirit of optimism, as the coronavirus crisis has given a huge boost to the political importance of development finance on the international agenda, and has awakened the FfD process from its slumber. The minutes of the meeting reflect the wealth of ideas presented at the retreat and should actually be published.

The political negotiations on the final document

This was especially the case because few of these ideas made it into the official outcome document of the FfD Forum. The negotiations this year were led by Fiji and the Netherlands as Co-Chairs, represented by their UN Ambassadors Satyendra Prasad and Yoka Brandt. Both countries had already played leading roles as working group co-chairs in last year’s FfD special initiative.

The zero draft of the final document was prepared based on inputs from UN Member States and was published on 19 March. Even the zero draft, however, contained little substance. While it addressed a broad range of issues, it included only the following in terms of concrete institutional innovations:

a) “We decide to establish an inclusive and legitimate global coordination mechanism at United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to address financial integrity at a systemic level.”

b) “We call on the international community to initiate dialogue with a view to establishing a global forum on sovereign debt as an inclusive platform.”

The first innovation, the coordination mechanism on financial integrity at ECOSOC, was taken from the FACTI report published in February. The report was drafted by the FACTI Panel, a UN expert group that met throughout 2020 and included a variety of senior politicians and renowned academics. It had been convened by the then President of ECOSOC and the President of the UN General Assembly to find solutions to the problem of illicit financial flows, through which several US$100 billion of development finance is lost annually.

The second innovation, the Sovereign Debt Forum, could serve on the one hand to develop better policies and institutions to prevent and resolve debt crises and, more specifically, to better coordinate the myriad of different creditors in debt restructurings. Engaging private creditors in particular has failed in the COVID-19 crisis. So far, only the bilateral creditors have agreed on a joint debt moratorium at the G20 and the Paris Club. Neither the G20 nor the Paris Club are inclusive in the UN’s sense, as they leave behind the vast majority of UN Member States. Hence the need to create an inclusive forum.

Furthermore, the zero draft contained a whole series of calls to Member States, notably:

  • To approve a new allocation of Special Drawing Rights worth US$500 billion and for richer countries to voluntarily redistribute their share.
  • To relax the eligibility criteria for the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) so that middle-income countries can also benefit and to extend it beyond 2021.
  • To donor countries to increase their ODA to 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) and to align it more closely with partner countries’ priorities.
  • To the UN to help developing countries build capacities to tax the digital economy.
  • Also to the UN, to support open source initiatives so that new technologies can spread faster.

In addition, the zero draft committed to the creation of a new Liquidity and Sustainability Facility (LSF), which aims to reduce borrowing costs for countries in the Global South, and to introduce carbon pricing. In the final paragraph, the zero draft included a commitment to hold a new World Conference on Financing for Development, which would have become the Monterrey+20 Conference. This was important because significant reforms would require greater political momentum than the FfD forums are capable of building. Moreover, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the agreement reached at the last FfD summit held in the Ethiopian capital in 2015, is partly outdated and no longer up to the FfD challenges in the times of COVID-19 and beyond. Among other stakeholders, CSOs specialising in FfD had called for the convening of the Monterrey+20 conference.

Already the zero draft did not meet the needs of the COVID-19 crisis. In the area of taxes, for example, only the carbon tax was explicitly addressed. But not other types of taxes that are currently being discussed to mobilise more resources in a progressive way, especially wealth taxes, digital taxes and the excessive profit tax, which could skim off the profits of those who have become even richer due to the crisis. In the area of tax governance, the call for a UN Tax Convention was not included. Apart from the ECOSOC mechanism, none of the 14 recommendations of the FACTI panel were adopted, meaning that the first chance for implementation was lost.

In the area of debt, more far-reaching proposals for a debt workout mechanism or a sovereign insolvency regime were left out Also missing was a clear commitment to cancel debts where necessary, and not to put their payment on the back burner by means of a moratorium. The list could be continued endlessly. Of the 200 policy options in last year’s UN special initiative, only a fraction found their way into the zero draft. Of these, only a fraction found their way into a formulation that suggests any binding commitment.

The course of the negotiations

Two items were partially ticked off in other forums while the UN was negotiating the outcome document: At the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings, held a week before the FfD forum, an allocation of SDRs worth US$650 billion was agreed, but no concrete steps were agreed on redistribution. An extension of the DSSI to the end of 2021 was also agreed, but no extension was given to middle-income countries or beyond 2021.

On 30 March, the first draft of the outcome document was published. The changes are based on comments from UN Member States and have not been made public. The informal negotiations themselves – this year virtual – were completely inaccessible for observers. Usually, the meeting rooms in New York, where the negotiations take place, are open to observers with ECOSOC accreditation, including to the experts of the Global Policy Forum. Due to this lack of transparency, there is less clarity this year about what positions individual parties have taken in the negotiation process.

As usual, the EU participated as a group and coordinated internally. The EU’s priorities in the negotiations were predominantly in the area of the environment: above all, to get relatively strong commitments on issues such as the development of global standards for sustainable investment, the introduction of carbon taxes and the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies. In addition, there was a call to recognise institutions developed by the EU, its Member States, or by organisations in which the EU plays a strong role. These were, for example:

  • The Addis Tax Initiative (ATI), whose new phase begins this year, and whose secretariat is based in Bonn.
  • Total Official Support for Sustainable Development (TOSSD), a new OECD accounting method to complement the one used to calculate ODA.
  • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), once founded by the G7 and currently chaired by Germany, whose role is to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
  • The Paris Club’s “ Common Framework for Debt Treatments”, which seeks to integrate China into the debt crisis management orchestrated by the French Finance Ministry.

At the same time, however, the EU opposed institutional upgrading of the UN in the economic and financial spheres, in this case specifically the ECOSOC mechanism on Financial Integrity, the Sovereign Debt Forum and anything in the debt field that might go beyond the Paris Club. Neither did the EU necessarily see the added value of a Monterrey+20 conference. On such positions, the EU received support from other countries of the Global North, which are well represented in more exclusive parallel forums of the international financial architecture such as the G20, the OECD or the Bretton Woods institutions – the IMF and World Bank.

Other states had different priorities: Small Island States, for example, advocated for “vulnerability” to be recognised as a criterion for concessional financing and debt relief, given their frequent exposure to shocks such as hurricanes and now the tourism crisis. Carbon taxes and removal of subsidies on fossil fuels met with less enthusiasm from them, as affordable air and sea transportation is critical to their survival.

Vaccines and their financing remain the elephant in the room in UN negotiations, including at this year’s FfD Forum. Developing countries united in the G77 and China, in particular, pushed for vaccines to be designated as “global public goods”. However, the question of whether patents should be repealed through a TRIPS waiver was not openly fought out at this forum. The debate centred around filling the funding gap of the COVAX vaccine facility. The G77 also championed the new innovations that have recently come out of the South, notably the Liquidity and Sustainability Facility, and the Fund to Alleviate COVID-Economics (FACE), an innovative large-volume concessional financing facility.

Because the FfD process at the UN is a consensus-based process, it only takes the objection of a single Member State to block an innovation. Member States’ objections therefore meant that the final document lost a great deal of its binding character on its way from zero draft to first draft, as some elements were completely deleted and others were rewritten into a non-binding narrative.

For example, the ECOSOC coordination mechanism no longer appears in the first draft. Instead of a commitment to a Sovereign Debt Forum, it reads “initiate dialogue towards an inclusive platform on sovereign debt”. A few items were added, including a non-binding call to donor countries to find ways to redistribute SDRs, as well as a reference to the FACE facility. ATI, FATF and TOSSD are also mentioned in the First Draft. In contrast, the call for the UN to promote the shift to open source technologies has also been deleted.

Contrary to what was intended, the negotiations on the outcome document could not be concluded before the start of the actual forum. Although a final draft was circulated shortly before the Forum, the silence procedure was broken by several UN Member States, which exercised their right to object. The negotiations dragged on literally until the last minute. Only shortly before the final session on the final day of the Forum, at which the document must be formally adopted, could an agreed text be circulated. And even then, at the final session, there were numerous interventions by UN Member States seeking clarifications or even distancing themselves from individual points.

On the way from the first to the final draft, there were still some substantial changes, too. For example, private financiers also got invited to contribute to the financing of the COVAX facility. A positive reference to Integrated National Financing Frameworks (INFFs) was added, a new planning tool to facilitate SDG financing. The passage on FATF was strengthened even further. In exchange, the last tangible institutional innovation was deleted: the call for UNODC and the World Bank to present a proposal for a “multilateral mediation mechanism for asset recovery and return” before the next FfD Forum. The section on the Sovereign Debt Forum was rewritten so that it does not require action, or could even simply mean an upgrade of the Paris Club. The language on environmental issues was weakened throughout. Perhaps the most significant change from a procedural perspective: the stipulation that the next World Conference on Financing for Development will take place in 2022 was also taken out.

The result is a final outcome document that addresses numerous important aspects but does not contain a single tangible decision. It says a lot that ECOSOC Chairman Munir Akram had to announce at the closing session that the outcome of the 2021 Financing for Development Forum “has no budget implications” for the UN, which in practice means that no new institutions were created and no funds were moved. The negotiating parties lacked the necessary spirit to comprise and agree on an outcome adequate for the needs of financing development in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Unfortunately, an indication that the crisis of multilateralism was not due solely to Donald Trump being in the White House but continues.

In the first round of negotiations, the EU and other actors from the Global North prevented the institutional innovations in finance and economics that were important to the countries of the Global South. These retaliated by blocking the environmental issues that were a priority for the EU. This also revealed the underlying conflict as to what role the UN should play: For the EU, the UN is obviously first and foremost a body for discussing international environmental policy; for the Global South, it is also and especially an institution for decision-making in matters of international economic and financial affairs.

The debates at the Forum on Financing for Development

The current FfD Forum was of course still affected by the travel and meeting restrictions during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. At least it could again take place over a four-day period. The sessions were held in a hybrid format, with diplomats from New York physically present and delegations from capitals videoed in. The individual sessions were also broadcast via UN Web TV, and can still be viewed in the archive. The programme started with a one-day High-Level Segment. This was designed to highlight the special relevance of this year’s forum due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Pakistan’s President Imran Khan – Pakistan holds the chairmanship of ECOSOC – focused on the vaccine issue in his opening statement: “The vaccine must be available to everyone, everywhere”. He called for the lifting of patents and for countries not to exploit vaccines for foreign policy purposes. He stressed that this forum must help to ensure that developing countries also have sufficient resources to counter the crises. Among other things, he stressed the need for debt relief, including from private creditors, and global minimum taxes for corporate profits. As Pakistan has recently been subject to numerous lawsuits by foreign corporations and investors, he also stressed the need to reform unfair investment agreements.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for more solidarity: “The crisis is putting multilateralism to a test, and so far we have failed.” While some countries are fighting the crisis at home with billion-dollar fiscal packages, there is a lack of support for developing countries. The financing gap of the COVAX facility urgently needs to be closed, he said. Donor countries would need to provide more concessional funds, and debt relief initiatives would need to be expanded. He added that the international debt architecture needs to be reformed, in an inclusive process. He also noted that the world’s billionaires have become even richer as a result of the crisis, and he called for a solidarity wealth tax. This was a demand that was picked up by media articles across the globe.

Harsh criticism of the obstructionist approach to institution building on the part of actors from the Global North came up at the Forum from this year’s co-chair of the process, Fiji’s UN Ambassador Satyendra Prasad: He spoke on behalf of the Small Island Development States (SIDS). In the context of rich countries’ lack of solidarity and vaccine nationalism, he noted, “We are at the backend of global recovery.” In light of the dominance of exclusive forums like G20 and others, he emphasised: “We want to shape the recovery, rather than having recovery frameworks designed for us.”

Vaccines and debt relief were recurring themes in the numerous statements at the high-level event. On the latter, there were frequent calls from middle-income countries, including SIDS ,that eligibility for debt relief needs to be extended beyond low-income countries. Jamaica vehemently called for more far-reaching steps, a Sovereign Debt Workout Mechanism. Malawi, as spokesperson for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), called for full debt cancellation for LDCs.

EU Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen argued that more private as well as public, and more foreign as well as domestic, resources were needed. She stressed that achieving the 2030 Agenda was “almost out of reach” but presented limited concrete suggestions on how that could be changed, other than a reference to the “global recovery plan” already hinted at by the President of the European Commission von der Leyen in May 2020. Apparently, no broad consensus could be found even within the EU subgroup.

During the following three days, thematic panels were held on some of the most important current issues in development finance, such as:

  • Accelerating infrastructure investments for a sustainable and resilient recovery
  • Developing solutions to debt crises
  • Involving of private creditors and rating agencies in crisis response
  • Mobilising liquidity for developing countries
  • Implementing concrete actions on illicit financial flows
  • Transforming the economy in line with the 2030 Agenda and climate agreements.

Each of the panels included representatives from governments and international institutions, as well as some academics. CSOs appointed a first respondent to each panel, and other CSO representatives could participate with interventions in the subsequent debates. CSOs made intensive use of these opportunities. Their statements are available online on the website of the Civil Society Financing for Development Group.

In addition to the plenary sessions, several dozen side-events were held on a wide range of topics, including debt-for-climate swaps, the role of the private sector in post-crisis reconstruction, the Addis Tax Initiative, the future of the FfD process at the United Nations, and many more.

At the final session on 15 April, some Member States intervened to reiterate what aspects they would have strengthened in the final document, or what they distanced themselves from. Amina Mohammed, the UN Assistant Secretary-General, stressed that current support is not sufficient to prevent a new lost decade of development in the Global South: “The diverging world is a catastrophe for all of us.” She stressed the most urgent steps to first secure vaccine supplies and provide sufficient liquidity for all countries.

The Forum ended with the UN Member States adopting the final document by consensus. While it represents a comprehensive policy statement that addresses many significant aspects of financing for development, it lacks sharpness and commitment throughout. Given the crisis and the backlog in implementing Agenda 2030, this is a very unfortunate outcome.

Even after the 2021 Financing for Development Forum, the warning by the UN Secretary-General in the run-up to it still holds true: “Financing for sustainable development is at a crossroads. Either we close the yawning gap between political ambition and development financing, or we will fail to deliver the SDGs by the deadline of 2030.” The convening of a Monterrey+20 World Summit on Financing for Development has thus become ever more important and urgent.

This briefing paper is part of the project “Sustainable Financing for Development in the (Post-)Covid Era” of Global Policy Forum Europe e.V., funded by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Global Policy Forum Europe e.V. is solely responsible for the content of this publication. The positions taken do not necessarily reflect the position of GIZ and BMZ.

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Financing for Sustainable Development Report 2021: The yawning gap between development finance needs and political ambition

6. April 2021 - 18:10

By Bodo Ellmers

In the lead-up to the UN’s Financing for Development Forum that takes place virtually from April 12-15, the 2021 edition of the Financing for Sustainable Development Report has been released. The report is published by the so-called Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), which comprises numerous UN entities, but also the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. It is widely considered the most comprehensive source of data and analysis on development finance topics.

This year’s edition was heavily influenced by the COVID-19 crisis. It analyses the impact of the crisis on different sources of finance, as well as the response of different development finance providers on it. The thematic chapter deals with “risk-informed sustainable finance and development”. Exploring risk and resilience in relation to development finance has been considered relevant by some UN Member States, as the COVID-19 crisis has exposed various vulnerabilities to shocks. Civil society stakeholders however argued during the consultative process leading to the report that this was the wrong focal issue at the wrong time, and the IATF should have rather devoted their energy to explore crisis mitigation and recovery strategies, as the COVID-19 crisis is still ongoing.

Findings from the special initiative “Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond” are included in various chapters of the report. The initiative which was co-convened by the UN Secretary-General and the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica resulted in a 130-page strong menu of development finance options released in autumn 2020.

The report suggests a number of policy options for the second year of the COVID-crisis, mainly informing the upcoming ECOSOC Financing for Development Forum, but also other fora such as the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings, the G20 process, and governments’ policy-making on national level. This year’s recommendations are grouped in three categories:

Immediate action to avoid a lost decade

The objective for this set is to address the pandemic and its socio-economic fallout, primarily in economically weaker countries, in order to avoid a lost decade of development and a more unequal world. The options are primarily related to liquidity support: An issuance of Special Drawing Rights by the IMF, alongside their voluntary redistribution from richer countries that do not need them to poorer countries who do, an extension of the G20’s and Paris Club’s Debt Service Suspension Service (DSSI), and last but not least a call for richer countries to scale up official development assistance (ODA) as committed.

Additional ODA should be used among others to fully finance the COVAX-facility and thus enable universal and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines. Added last minute to the final version of the report – the unedited advanced draft is usually made available online for stakeholder consultation – was an early replenishment of IDA 20, the World Bank concessional lending facility for Low Income Countries.

The IATF’s analysis in the chapter on “International Public Finance” finds that ODA accounted for only US$ 155 billion or 0.3% of donor countries’ GNI in 2019, less than half of the committed 0.7%. The funding gap of the ACT-Accelerator, to which COVAX belongs, in February 2021 was still US$ 22.9 billion of 33.2 billion, or more than two thirds. The World Bank had accelerated IDA disbursement in 2020, following its commitment to provide positive net flows to developing countries. Contrary to the IMF and bilateral creditors, the World Bank has so far refused to provide any liquidity support in form of debt relief or debt suspension to borrower countries. The option to allocate Special Drawing Rights has also received wide support from CSOs, as evident by an open letter signed by more than 240 CSOs, and seems to be a done deal now as also the new government of the USA has expressed their support.

Rebuilding better: investing in a sustainable recovery and fixing the system

The second set of recommendations build on the assumption that societies and economies were on an unsustainable development path even before this crisis hit. Recovery strategies must therefore change the trajectory, the direction and purpose of investments, and the overarching financial architecture. To do so, the IATF suggests aligning recovery packages with the SDGs and the UN´s climate targets, refraining from a premature phasing out of fiscal support measures, and implementing progressive tax policies.

Drawing on the expertise of the many specialized UN agencies in the IATF, the report’s thematic chapter on “domestic public resources” analyzes in detail how different the size of fiscal support packages were, as well as the coverage of social protection measures. This is a consequence of the different levels of fiscal space in developed countries on one end, and of the Least Developed Countries on the other.

When it comes to tax systems, the analytical part of the report finds that tax progressivity has declined since the 1980s and cites data on how personal income tax rates for the rich top-earners have been falling over the years. However, in what follows, the IATF report focuses on excise taxes and environmental taxes, which impact taxpayers like consumption taxes and thus tend to be regressive. Devoting sufficient space to discussing how to create truly progressive tax system had been a more logical continuation.

The IATF recognizes the need to massively scale up investments in sustainable infrastructure if the SDGs are to be met. Public finance should be scaled-up by additional grants or concessional loans with ultra-long (50 years) maturities. Debt swaps can reduce debt burdens while at the same time securing funding for the Agenda 2030 and climate action. In order to reduce borrower risks related to development finance, the IATF recommends to make public debt state-contingent, meaning to include clauses in loan contracts which would automatize debt relief when a shock such as a natural disaster or a pandemic hits.

In addition, the report suggests using blended financing instruments which use public resources to subsidize private investments or provide guarantees for them. For aligning private finance to the SDGs, the report lists a range of regulatory and voluntary measures. For example, better and more coherent global standards for the disclosure of sustainability-related information by private firms and investment banks, or the reorientation of capital markets and the redesign of private firms’ incentive structures and corporate governance models towards sustainability. CSOs following financing for development discussions have repeatedly expressed concerns that voluntary standards and incentives are insufficient to make private businesses and investments SDG-compatible.

Future-proofing the system 

The third cluster of policy recommendations are related to future-proofing global economic governance and the international financial architecture. The report remains rather vague here, probably because the negotiation processes are ongoing, and perhaps because the agencies involved in drafting it have not found a clear consensus on all conflicting issues either.

However, areas addressed include tax systems, especially building a system for digital taxation that takes the needs of developing countries into account, and reducing harmful tax competition overall. A shortcoming is however that the report does not fully reflect the 14 elaborated reform proposal of the UN’s FACTI panel, whose final report was released in February 2021 and suggest, among others, initiating a process for a UN Tax Convention.

Moreover, the IATF stresses that the debt architecture needs a reform that goes beyond the DSSI. Debt relief and effective institutions have been hot topics since the COVID-19 crisis started to impact on debt sustainability and threatened to push many heavily indebted developing countries over the brink. The UN Secretary-General convened an extraordinary high-level event to discuss the matter on 29 March 2021. According to the analytical chapter of the report, debt service costs in developing countries have risen steadily over the past decade. They now absorb 25% of tax revenue in developing countries overall, and even close to 30% in Small Island Developing States.

The question of which countries should receive debt relief, and for what reason, remains one of most contested questions in international policy-making today, which led to some last-minute changes to country-eligibility related language in the final version of the IATF report. The report suggests a move towards greater debt transparency and better standards for responsible lending and borrowing, but remains disappointingly weak when it comes to creating effective institutions for debt crisis resolution. The call for a sovereign debt workout mechanism, for example, is not reflected in the 2021 IATF report, despite the dark clouds on the debt horizon and the obvious short-comings of the existing regime.

The report’s policy recommendations are to some extent a negotiated outcome of the agencies involved in the IATF. Especially on topics like debt crisis solutions there tend to be different views between, for example, the Bretton Woods Institutions on the one side, and certain UN agencies such as UNCTAD on the other.

It remains to be hoped that political constraints both within the IATF and within the membership of the United Nations can be overcome before it is too late for the Agenda 2030 and the billions of people affected by the COVID-19 crisis. UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned in his foreword to the report: “Financing for sustainable development is at a crossroads. Either we close the yawning gap between political ambition and development financing, or we will fail to deliver the SDGs by the deadline of 2030.”

The 2021 UN Financing for Development Forum is one of the spaces where the recommendations that the IATF made, as well as the ones that it did not include in its 2021 report, can be put into practice. Unfortunately, the zero draft of the Forum’s outcome document indicates that some UN Member States’ political ambition still has upward potential.

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Video of the virtual workshop “Making the 2030 Agenda accountable: What is the role for civil society?”

29. März 2021 - 21:52

The video of the virtual Campaign Activation Workshop “Making the 2030 Agenda accountable: What is the role for civil society?” is now online. The virtual workshop was co-organized by Global Policy Forum, Global Policy Watch and Social Watch as part of the 2021 SDG Global Festival of Action and it was held on March 25, 2021.

Further information here.

Speakers

Barbara Adams. Global Policy Watch
Barbara Adams was trained as an economist in the UK and served as Executive Director of the Manitoba Council for International Affairs from 1977–1979 in Canada. She served as Associate Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in New York (1981–1988), where she worked with delegates, UN staff and NGOs on issues of economic and social justice, women, peace and human rights. Barbara served as Deputy Coordinator of the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS) through the period of the UN global conferences and until 2003. From 2003–2008 she worked as Chief of Strategic Partnerships and Communications for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). She is currently editor of Global Policy Watch and chair of the board of Global Policy Forum. Chee Yoke Ling. Third World Network
Chee Yoke Ling is the Executive Director of Third World Network, an international non-profit policy research and advocacy organization with its secretariat in Malaysia. She was formerly a law lecturer at the University of Malaya and the executive secretary of Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth, Malaysia). She works on sustainable development issues, with a focus on social justice and equity issues and the effects of globalization on developing countries. Among her current research and advocacy work are issues related to trade and investment, public health especially access to affordable treatment, ecological agriculture and farmers’ rights. She is on the Board of ETC Group and International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia-Pacific (IWRAW-Asia Pacific). Emilia Reyes. Equidad de Género, Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia
Emilia Reyes is the Co-Convenor of Women Working Group on Financing for Development and Program Director of Policies and Budgets for Equality and Sustainable Development at Equidad de Género: Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia. Ranja Sengupta. Third World Network
Ranja Sengupta works as Senior Researcher and Coordinator of the Trade Programme of Third World Network (TWN). She has an M. Phil Degree in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. Her work spans agricultural institutions, international trade and investment policymaking, globalisation, poverty and inequality. She currently works on global trade and investment policies including those framed by the WTO and the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and their impact on development priorities in the South; including on, agriculture and the right to food, human development, employment and livelihoods, and access to critical services. She has worked also on specific impacts on women and MSMEs. She has been tracking the Financing for Development and the 2030 Agenda/ SDGs negotiations since their beginning, looking especially at means of implementation issues with a specific focus on international trade policy and development goals. Roberto Bissio, Social Watch
Roberto Bissio, from Uruguay, coordinates the secretariat of Social Watch, a network of citizen organizations that monitor how their governments implement their international commitments. He is co-editor of Global Policy Watch and a member of the Civil society Reflection Group on Sustainable Development. He was a member of the civil society advisory group to the UNDP administrator and regularly writes on development issues as a columnist. Wardarina. Asia Pacific Women on Law and Development
Wardarina works at Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and is co-chair of Asia Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism (AP-RCEM), which is a platform for civil society organisations (CSOs) in Asia Pacific region to engage with different processes at the United Nations (UN).

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Campaign Activation Workshop: Making the 2030 Agenda accountable: What is the role for civil society?

18. März 2021 - 15:35

The promise of the SDGs makes governments accountable but who is to be made responsible for global issues like the climate, the pandemic or finances? Join us to discuss this issue in a workshop hosted by Global Policy Forum, Global Policy Watch and Social Watch as part of the 2021 SDG Global Festival of Action. The workshop will be hold on March 25, 2021 from 04:30 to 05:30 PM (CET).

Register here. Further information here.

The Campaign
How can the SDGs be used to hold governments and the private sector accountable for global issues like climate, the pandemic or finances? The High Level Political Forum (HLPF) is tasked with overseeing implementation of the 2030 Agenda, but it has proven itself to be insufficient. Civil society around the world organize campaigns on finances, trade, health, gender and the environment, utilizing spaces beyond the HLPF to advance accountability to the SDGs. As the SDGs are intrinsically interrelated, how can the campaigns be mutually supportive and identify reference points beyond the HLPF? What reforms are required in the HLPF to enable genuine global accountability?

The Opportunity
The SDGs were widely acknowledged to be ‘off track’ pre-COVID-19 and they suffered a major setback in 2020, with increased inequalities, growing poverty, overburdening of women with extra care work and more domestic violence and major educational challenges on top of the catastrophic health problems and continuing environmental destruction. The need for major changes and not just a ‘return to normal’ should lead to reinvigorating the 2030 Agenda and strengthening of its accountability mechanisms. Systemic changes require a global systemic approach articulating ongoing civil society campaigns.

The Participants
Participants interested in strengthening accountability to the 2030 Agenda as well as those planning to attend the 2021 HLPF. This includes Civil Society, UN secretariat, and government delegates.

The Contribution
Workshop attendees can explain how their ongoing campaigns and initiatives envisage to hold governments and the private sector accountable and be ready to explore the accountability for externalities and global impacts outside borders.

The Take Aways
This session will encourage participants to think beyond traditional accountability mechanisms (the HLPF & Voluntary National Reviews) and gain tools and information to reimagine and reinvent accountability in their own streams of work. More and better mechanisms are required for global challenges beyond national control, from the pandemic to climate change to finances. The HLPF needs to be reformed to enable approaching these issues and civil society campaigns within and beyond the HLPF can play a key role.

Speakers

Barbara Adams. Global Policy Watch
Barbara Adams was trained as an economist in the UK and served as Executive Director of the Manitoba Council for International Affairs from 1977–1979 in Canada. She served as Associate Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in New York (1981–1988), where she worked with delegates, UN staff and NGOs on issues of economic and social justice, women, peace and human rights. Barbara served as Deputy Coordinator of the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS) through the period of the UN global conferences and until 2003. From 2003–2008 she worked as Chief of Strategic Partnerships and Communications for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). She is currently editor of Global Policy Watch and chair of the board of Global Policy Forum. Chee Yoke Ling. Third World Network
Chee Yoke Ling is the Executive Director of Third World Network, an international non-profit policy research and advocacy organization with its secretariat in Malaysia. She was formerly a law lecturer at the University of Malaya and the executive secretary of Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth, Malaysia). She works on sustainable development issues, with a focus on social justice and equity issues and the effects of globalization on developing countries. Among her current research and advocacy work are issues related to trade and investment, public health especially access to affordable treatment, ecological agriculture and farmers’ rights. She is on the Board of ETC Group and International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia-Pacific (IWRAW-Asia Pacific). Emilia Reyes. Equidad de Género, Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia
Emilia Reyes is the Co-Convenor of Women Working Group on Financing for Development and Program Director of Policies and Budgets for Equality and Sustainable Development at Equidad de Género: Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia. Ranja Sengupta. Third World Network
Ranja Sengupta works as Senior Researcher and Coordinator of the Trade Programme of Third World Network (TWN). She has an M. Phil Degree in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. Her work spans agricultural institutions, international trade and investment policymaking, globalisation, poverty and inequality. She currently works on global trade and investment policies including those framed by the WTO and the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and their impact on development priorities in the South; including on, agriculture and the right to food, human development, employment and livelihoods, and access to critical services. She has worked also on specific impacts on women and MSMEs. She has been tracking the Financing for Development and the 2030 Agenda/ SDGs negotiations since their beginning, looking especially at means of implementation issues with a specific focus on international trade policy and development goals. Roberto Bissio, Social Watch
Roberto Bissio, from Uruguay, coordinates the secretariat of Social Watch, a network of citizen organizations that monitor how their governments implement their international commitments. He is co-editor of Global Policy Watch and a member of the Civil society Reflection Group on Sustainable Development. He was a member of the civil society advisory group to the UNDP administrator and regularly writes on development issues as a columnist. Wardarina. Asia Pacific Women on Law and Development
Wardarina works at Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and is co-chair of Asia Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism (AP-RCEM), which is a platform for civil society organisations (CSOs) in Asia Pacific region to engage with different processes at the United Nations (UN).

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ALERT! Coming On the UN Agenda…

19. Februar 2021 - 14:57

Download pdf version.

The demands and urgency of addressing COVID-19 related issues have been added to the already crowded United Nations agenda, with consideration and intensity shifting up and down on the scale of priorities.

Some that have come to the fore in the first few weeks of 2021 are:

Least Developed Countries

The Africa Regional Review in preparation for the 5th United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) will be held 22-26 February 2021. The meeting will take place in a virtual format, co-organized by the host country, Malawi and the UN Economic Commission for Africa. Registration is now open to participate in this virtual meeting. The Asia-Pacific Review is tentatively schedule for 18 to 22 April 2021, co-organized by host country Bangladesh and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

These reviews will feed into the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) whose mandate is to agree on elements of the new PoA. These PrepCom meetings will be held 24-28 May 2021 and 26-30 July 2021.

For more details on the critical role of LDC5 and the various preparatory meetings, view GPW UN Monitor #22 “COVID-19 & LDCs: Upcoming opportunities to address structural impediments”.

Committee for Development Policy

From 22-26 February, the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) will hold its Annual Plenary Session. Among the agenda items include the Voluntary National Reviews, Country monitoring, the upcoming ECOSOC theme, and the Triennial review of the LDC category.

The Triennial review will determine if countries qualify to graduate from the LDC category. At present, Bangladesh, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Nepal and Timor-Leste are all eligible for graduation from the LDC category. These meetings will be webcast on UNWebTV. For more details on this, view GPW UN Monitor #22 “COVID-19 & LDCs: Upcoming opportunities to address structural impediments”.

Revitalization of the GA & selection process of S-G

Each year, the General Assembly (GA) carries out an agenda item titled, “Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly”. The 75th Session of the GA Revitalization will consider the selection process for the Secretary-General, in addition to the role and authority of the GA, the President of the GA’s office, and working methods. These meetings will be webcast on UNWebTV. Among the upcoming meetings include:

Thursday, 25 February 2021 at 10 a.m. virtually (thematic debate on GA role and authority, including on public diplomacy and global communications)

Thursday, 11 March 2021 at 10 a.m. virtually (thematic debate on the Office of the PGA)

Thursday, 25 March 2021 at 3 p.m. in-person meeting in the GA Hall (informal dialogue between Permanent Missions and the UN Secretariat and briefing on the Secretary-General’s analysis on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including on operational support, management strategy, policy & compliance, safety & security, use of UN premises, among others)

Wednesday, 14 April 2021 at 10 a.m. virtually (thematic debate on working methods, including on coherence and coordination among the six main committees and the role of the General Committee)

Friday, 23 April 2021 at 10 a.m. virtually (thematic debate on Secretary-General selection process)

Stay tuned for a forthcoming UN Monitor with more details on the issues being addressed in the Revitalization process.

High-level Political Forum (HLPF) Review

Member States are also currently negotiating the ECOSOC/HLPF Review. This process outlines the working methods and follow-up and review mechanisms for the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. It will also identify the themes for the 2022 and 2023 HLPFs under ECOSOC. A Zero Draft of the resolution has been released as Member States negotiate over the next few weeks, with an expected outcome sometime in March 2021. Stay tuned for a forthcoming UN Monitor which will outline the HLPF/ECOSOC Review process in more detail.

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COVID-19 & LDCs: Upcoming opportunities to address structural impediments

19. Februar 2021 - 1:54

Download UN Monitor #22 (pdf version).

By Elena Marmo and Barbara Adams

The United Nations and Member States begin the 2021 calendar confronted with the need to address the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and growing global inequalities. Despite the WHO’s efforts to make the COVID-19 vaccine “affordable and accessible for all” through the ACT Accelerator and calls by CSOs and UN leadership and world leaders for a People’s Vaccine (a global public good free from Intellectual Property Rights), the global vaccine distribution/rollout has been dominated by wealthy, developed countries, with little if any vaccines available for small and medium developing countries.

LDCs have been hit particularly hard as a result of COVID-19. The 2020 UNCTAD Report stated: “The GDP per capita of least developed countries (LDCs) is projected to contract by 2.6% in 2020 from already low levels, as these countries are forecast to experience their worst economic performance in 30 years. At least 43 out of the 47 LDCs will likely experience a fall in their average income.”

How will Member States and the UN Committee for Development Policy (CDP) factor this into their deliberations on the status of LDCs. The 22-26 February meeting of the CDP includes a Triennial Review regarding LDC graduation. The 5th United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5), taking place in January 2022, is preceded in 2021 by a full calendar of preparatory and regional review meetings.

Committee for Development Policy

In its annual meeting from 22-26 February, CDP will hold its Triennial Review of the LDC category. Bangladesh, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Nepal and Timor-Leste are all eligible for graduation from the LDC category. In May 2020 the CDP issued a statement on COVID-19’s effects on the prospects of graduation, emphasizing:

“Covid-19 threatens to have devastating effects on the least developed countries (LDC). Their public health systems are often underdeveloped and unable to cope with widespread pandemic. Lockdowns and social distancing measures to stop the spread are more difficult to implement and can have particularly debilitating impacts on livelihoods. Moreover, LDC economies have little resilience to shocks such as the collapse of global demand, exacerbating the socio-economic consequences of the crisis.”

Graduation is recommended on the basis of LDC criteria (gross national income per capita, an index of education and health, and an economic and environmental vulnerability index) including data through the year 2019.  As this method will not account for the impact of COVID-19 on the various countries eligible for graduation, the CDP has noted it will consider “additional information in the form of supplementary graduation indicators and country-specific analysis” which “will include information on Covid-19 and its impacts”. The CDP has begun tracking and compiling this information with the latest figures detailing total COVID-19 testing and cases in all LDCs.

Figure 1.1 – 10 February CDP Report on LDC COVID testing & cases

LDC5 Conference Preparations

LDC5 will take place in Doha, Qatar, 23 – 27 January 2022, at the level of Heads of State and Government. According to A/RES/74/232B1, the main objective of this conference is to adopt a new 10–year Programme of Action (PoA). The preparatory process will be based on country-level, regional and global substantive reviews of the existing PoA priorities. These reviews will contribute to the May and July 2021 meetings of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee (PrepCom), whose mandate is to agree on elements of the new PoA. Additionally the General Assembly and ECOSOC will hold a joint thematic event in June on the theme: “Accelerated implementation of the 2030 Agenda in LDCs to leave no one behind in the context of COVID-19”.

Meeting

Dates

Organizational session

8 February 2021

Africa Regional Review

22-26 February 2021

Asia-Pacific Regional Review

(Dates TBC – tentative 18-22 April 2021)

PrepCom 1st session

24-28 May 2021

PrepCom 2nd session

26-30 July 2021

Joint thematic event (GA & ECOSOC)

18 June 2021

LDC5

23-27 January 2022

The President of the UN General Assembly (PGA) has announced that Bangladesh and Canada will co-chair the PrepCom, with a bureau made up of Qatar (LDC5 host), Malawi (African Regional Review host) and regionally representative co-chairs: Ethiopia and Uganda from the African States; Nepal from the Asia-Pacific States; Czech Republic from the Eastern European States; Haiti and Paraguay from the Latin American and Caribbean States; and Turkey from the Western European and other States.

PGA President Volkan Bozkir cited a range of structural impediments to economic development, notably foreign debt: “The latest available data suggests that 14 LDCs are at high risk of external debt distress. While the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative for the International Development Association countries and LDCs, and the IMF’s debt service relief for 28 LDCs for at least 12 months, are welcome initiatives, more needs to be done. This includes dedicated debt relief measures – if LDCs are to rebound from the COVID-19 shock without compromising their development spending and progress.”

The President of the Economic and Social Council reinforced these concerns: “Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, LDCs were mostly off track in achieving the SDGs. The World Economic Situation and Prospects 2021 report estimates that LDCs saw their GDP shrink by 1.3 percent in 2020, which gets them even further away from the target of at least 7 percent growth, needed for sustainable development. This was mainly due to the disruption of international trade, a drop in oil prices, FDI, remittances and the collapse in tourism.”

LDC5 Regional Reviews

Two regional review meetings will be held prior to the PrepComs. The Africa Regional Review will take place in a virtual format 22 – 26 February 2021 organized by the host country, Malawi and the UN Economic Commission for Africa. The Asia-Pacific Review is tentatively schedule for 18 – 22 April 2021, organized by host country Bangladesh and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Registration for the Africa Regional Review is now open for all stakeholders, including Civil Society at this link.

It is crucial for these regional reviews to fully address pre-existing inequality-related conditions as well as the impact of COVID-19 on resulting and emerging inequalities—issues of debt, trade and the digital divide to name a few. The Africa Regional Review materials cite that for LDCs: “their structural constraints are compounded by new and emerging challenges, including those posed by ongoing conflict, the climate crisis, COVID-19 and their devastating impacts”. These inequalities will deepen without acknowledgement of the structural barriers to LDC development, and a plan to counteract them boldly in the upcoming Programme of Action and other intergovernmental fora.

These review processes will benefit from contributions, analyses and recommendations from a range of actors knowledgeable about and committed to LDC well-being and development. These include Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) from LDCs and many active in the development and rights arenas of health, trade, finance, ecological and gender justice and many others.

Extension on LDC Transition for Trade

On 1 October 2020, the LDC Group submitted a request to the WTO TRIPS Council (IP/C/W/668) seeking an extension of the LDC transition period, for as long as a country remains an LDC and an additional period of 12 years as a country graduates from its LDC status to ensure smooth transition.

CSOs have also issued a letter to the WTO calling on WTO Members to grant the LDC Group the requested transition period, based on the many challenges LDCs face. The letter notes: “Extremely limited testing, health services and sanitation, makes curbing COVID-19 in LDCs a massive challenge. Moreover, because of the impact of COVID-19 on commodity markets and LDC economies, resources for development are even more constrained than before.”

The letter also cites the General Assembly precedent for this extension as resolutions 59/209 of 20 December 2004 and 67/221 of 21 December 2012 have called on WTO Members to consider extending to graduated LDC Members the existing special and differential treatment measures and exemptions available to LDCs.

UNCTAD Reporting on LDCs

UNCTAD’s The Least Developed Countries Report 2020: Productive Capacities for the New Decade Report shares perspectives on counter-cyclical and preemptive policy measures for LDCs. It acknowledges the role of digitalization as a tool for development if carefully considered: “Advanced technologies offer ample scope for spillovers and productivity gains, but also risks deepening entrenched inequalities and technological divides”.

The report calls for “adequate financial resources, suitable policy space and more effective international support measures, notably in the area of technology transfer”. Among the policies promoted are investment for infrastructure and employment, science, technology and innovation policy framework; and brave industrial and sectoral policies to promote domestic value added and productive linkages.

In response to the report, Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, President of the Republic of Malawi and host for the upcoming Africa Regional Review commented:

“It emphasizes the importance of comprehensive support for meso-level policies for productive capacity development in the context of addressing structural constraints and building the resilience of these countries. The international community should rally to the report’s call for greater solidarity and stronger international support to avert this crisis and build long-term resilience through fostering productive capacities. In this context, I also call on developed countries to understand that much like addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the acute development challenges LDCs face is a multilateral issue par excellence, and as such, should be a top priority for the international community.”

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Women’s Major Group Position Paper on the HLPF Review

12. Februar 2021 - 17:01

By Elena Marmo

As the global community coalesced to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations in September 2020 under the shadow of COVID-19, Member States in their Declaration A/RES/75/1, made commitments to strengthen the multilateral system and set forth plans to “build back better”. Among the tools to do so, as recognized by UN leadership and Member States, are the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Their importance is highlighted by marking 2020 as the start of the Decade of Action, the final 10 years to achieve the SDGs, as well as the widespread recognition that COVID-19 is threatening to reverse development gains over the past decade. Also, in September during the GA, Member States reacknowledged their pledge to achieve gender equality by recommitting to the Beijing Platform for Action.

However, even before the COVID-19 crisis, after five years of SDGs implementation, the world is not on track to achieve the goals nor has any country fully achieved gender equality. The Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 (GSDR 2019) emphasized that much more is needed – and quickly – to bring about the transformative changes that are required. 

It is now within this context that Member States will conduct the HLPF Review Process, negotiating an outcome to inform the next cycle of the HLPF. Along with a diverse group of CSOs through the Women’s Major Group, Global Policy Forum presents a concrete proposal for reimaging the HLPF and broader sustainable development architecture.

The HLPF is not only mandated to provide political leadership and guidance, but also to enhance integration of economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. It has the responsibility to address new and emerging sustainable development challenges—and in doing so, to investigate and remove structural barriers in achieving the SDGs. The WMG assessment on HLPF uncovers major gaps in addressing these structural impediments and offers meaningful processes throughout the follow up and review cycle. 

Within the WMG HLPF Review Position Paper, you can find WMG’s concrete proposals to review and change the monitoring and review of the 2030 Agenda for holistic, interlinked and strong implementation of the SDGs and to transform the systemic issues that are hindering a just and equitable sustainable development.

You can read the position paper here.

The post Women’s Major Group Position Paper on the HLPF Review appeared first on Global Policy Watch.

Kategorien: english, Ticker

Where the rubber meets the road

1. Februar 2021 - 17:39

How inclusive is UNDS reform?
Views from CSOs
By Barbara Adams and Roberto Bissio
On 31 May 2018 the UN Member States adopted a resolution (A/RES/72/279) to reposition the UN development system (UNDS) and the UN Secretary-General spelled out its significance:
The resolution you adopt today ushers in the most ambitious and comprehensive transformation of the UN development system in decades. It sets the foundations to reposition sustainable development at the heart of the United Nations. And it gives practical meaning to our collective promise to advance the Sustainable Development Goals for everyone, everywhere — with poverty eradication as its first goal, leaving – as we always say – no one behind…In the end, reform is about putting in place the mechanisms to make a real difference in the lives of people.

This consensus decision was the result of five years of expert group meetings, many reports, and multiple informal and formal sessions. It also came two- and one-half years after the adoption at the highest political level of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Unlike previous reform efforts that were limited to administrative and “internal” UNDS functioning, the Member State directive was unequivocal in calling for the repositioning of the UNDS in the direction of sustainable development objectives and it put in place major UNDS restructuring for system-wide, value-added UN operations, especially at the country level.
While civil society organizations (CSOs) are repeatedly recognized as key players in advocating for and achieving UN goals, they are rarely consulted and engaged in UN reform efforts.
Global Policy Watch has conducted an independent survey of CSOs with commitment and experience of working primarily in programme countries on their knowledge and understanding of the reform results.
The results presented in this report* evidence a very high level of commitment to UN values and principles, much dissatisfaction with the actual operations at country level and articulation of areas for improvement.
For a number of CSO respondents, the UN system is appreciated for its inspiration, legitimization and promotion of the values they stand for but is also viewed as a competitor for funds and influence, often displacing the social sector instead of building it. And frequently it is seen as both at the same time.
Despite substantial emphasis on partnerships including with civil society, the survey results illustrate limited and uneven engagement between CSOs and UNCTs. Results indicate that CSOs in programme countries are largely unaware of the existence of the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework and only a minority are regularly engaged with their country’s UN Resident Coordinator.
The organizations consulted believe the UN is relevant and they find the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development even more relevant. Their work is focused on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a variety of ways, including establishing new partnerships and participating in the political process of assessment. Yet, those partnerships rarely include the UN. Or, inversely, the UN country teams do not include independent CSOs in the partnerships they form. Similarly, when the official processes to monitor progress on the SDGs do not accommodate them, which seems to be in a majority of the cases, they find or create initiatives to voice their own conclusions and participate in the national, regional and global debates.

Barbara Adams and Roberto Bissio, New York and Montevideo
January 2021

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* An advanced unedited version of the survey report is available here

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