17 July 2015

Reflections on the UN Financing for Development Conference in Addis

http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/ffd3/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/04/FfD_Logo-140.pngThis week over 7000 participants from all over the world gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the Third International Conference on Finance for Development (FFD). Someone called it the biggest conference having been held in Africa ever. Certainly, Addis was in 'FFD-fever', hotel prices skyrocketed and conference rooms were overfilled.

On 13 July 2015 the UN Secretary-General Ban opened the gathering with the challenge: 'World leaders must put aside "narrow self-interest" to break a deadlock over how to finance the United Nation's bold new global development agenda'.

While the official, governmental discussions continued in the main conference rooms, over 200 side events were held. International organizations, governments, private sector, civil society and academia shared their perspectives.

After days of negotiations delegates agreed on an outcome document. A UN statement praised it as historic agreement to generate financing for the new sustainable development agenda. Ban summarized: "The Addis Ababa Action Agenda is a major step forward in building a world of prosperity and dignity for all.”

There are already several good summaries done on the outcome, such as from the UN, UNDP, ODI, the Guardian and Devex. Therefore I don't want to add another substance analysis but did a small innovation. How to get the essence of the outcome document with over 130 articles? Out of curiosity, I did a word count of key works and a 'wordle':

302x development
251x countries,
214x finance/financial/financing,
155x sustainable,
77x investment,
63x debt,
59x cooperation,
53x trade,
52x technology,
35x tax
34x infrastructure,
28x partnership.
"The UN was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell."— Dag Hammarskj√∂ld, fromer UN Secretary-General
Personally to me, FFD3 was a demonstration that the UN and it's processes remain relevant and critically important. Who else could bring together officials from 193 countries with all types of stakeholders from society and business? Who else can facilitate global dialogue on most complex issues?

Is this sufficient to solve the world problems? Of course not. It will take even greater ambition, leadership and self responsibility by everyone to translate aspirations into reality. The new sustainable development goals (SDGs), to be signed off in September at a special UN summit, will be a new shared ambition of global leaders to make sustainable development a reality.