As ONE members around the world well know, we’ve been building up to this week for a very long time. It might not have pricked the consciousness of the wider public, but for activists fighting to end extreme poverty, the Third Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa is a very big deal.
The new Global Goals are set to be agreed in September. That will be the showstopper moment when we know for sure whether world leaders are on board with a plan to help the poorest people and the poorest countries lift themselves out of poverty.
But no matter how good the Goals are, if there isn’t a clear plan to fund essentials like school places for girls, treatment that can stop a mother from passing AIDS on to her baby, infrastructure or data that means citizens can track resources to results, they won’t succeed.
That’s where Financing for Development comes in. The conference wrapped up after four days of meetings, discussions, side events and endless negotiations to get to an outcome that 100 plus countries could agree on. Talks went right to the wire, with the very real possibility that eight months of negotiations would collapse at the 11th hour. But a deal was done, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda was agreed.
So, what’s the verdict?
In our view, it’s not a deal that on its own will end poverty, but it could start to reshape how developing countries are supported towards growth and prosperity. The level of ambition doesn’t match that of the emerging Global Goals, and some key areas were watered down through the negotiation process. But overall, it provides a decent foundation for action and a few very positive elements.
At ONE, we’ve been arguing that we need to put the poorest people first, particularly girls and women, and we are pleased to see that focus shared in Addis. On every measure, girls and women in the poorest countries are prevented from reaching their full potential. The Addis Agenda commits us to smart policies and targeted investments which could empower girls and women to lift themselves, their families and their communities out of poverty.
There is also a welcome recognition for those donors who target at least half of their aid where it’s needed most, in the least developed countries. At the same time, developing countries have acknowledged that they need to boost domestic revenues and reduce illicit financial flows. Together, these could provide essential funding for the important new commitment to make basic services including health and education available to everyone.
One real piece of good news: At Addis, the data revolution moved from talk to action, and we are proud to have worked with partners from the public and private sectors to kick start the mapping of extreme poverty and resources needed to end it.
On the down side, not enough was done on crucial issues like domestic resource mobilisation, infrastructure financing and transparent country by country reporting of business activity and beneficial ownership of companies. The whole Action Agenda will need rigorous follow-up – the text is not sufficiently strong on the need for accountability.
But we’ve got the building blocks. Now the crucial business of implementation must begin, and we and many others will be watching to see how governments go about it.