The Economic Commission for Africa is celebrating a deal struck on funding the poverty battle in the developing world at the end of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Thursday.
Executive Secretary Carlos Lopes hailed the agreement as historic, adding it will go a long way towards helping eliminate hunger, poverty and disease on the African continent by putting Africa on the path to sustainable development.
“I think we really have something historic; first because we are proud of this event taking place in Africa and being hosted impeccably by Ethiopia,” said Lopes, “But more importantly on the substance because the change in the debate and conversation is quite fundamental.”
At least 193 United Nations member states agreed at the end of the conference on a series of bold measures to overhaul global finance practices and generate investments for tackling a range of economic, social and environmental challenges facing the world.
The groundbreaking agreement, dubbed the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, provides a foundation for implementing the global Sustainable Development Agenda that world leaders are expected to adopt in New York in September.
The action agenda lays out the different ways nations aim to pay for an ambitious plan to end poverty and ensure equality in the world through sustainable development.
Unlike previous agreements that centred on development aid, the Addis conference was more about a wider agenda that included global tax standards, illicit financial flows and remittances, among other issues as leaders sought ways to transform the way the world perceives sustainable development financing.
Lopes says the ECA, representing its 54 member African States and also playing a dual role as a regional arm of the UN and as a key component of the African institutional landscape, although concerned about some areas in the agreement that are ‘a bit vague in terms of deadlines and dates’, is happy about commitments in the deal that by 2030 at least, dramatic changes on illicit financial flows, among other gains, would have occurred.
“So we really have a lot of reasons to be very happy although there’s some disappointment in some issues we could have gone further and with more ambition,” he said.
The agreement, adopted after months of negotiations between countries, marks what the UN says is a milestone in forging an enhanced global partnership that aims to foster universal, inclusive economic prosperity and improve people’s well-being while protecting the environment.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the agreement is a critical step forward in building a sustainable future for all.
“It provides a global framework for financing sustainable development,” the UN Chief said. “The results here in Addis Ababa give us the foundation of a revitalized global partnership for sustainable development that will leave no one behind.”
Financing is considered the linchpin for the success of the new sustainable development agenda, which will be driven by the implementation of 17 sustainable development goals.
The goals, that seek to replace the Millennium Development Goals, address global priorities including ending poverty and hunger, reducing social inequality, tackling climate change, and preserving the planet’s natural resources.
In support of implementation of the sustainable development goals, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda contains more than 100 measures addressing all sources of finance, and covering cooperation on a range of issues including technology, science, innovation, trade and capacity building.
Among the main points are:
. A social compact: Countries committed to set up social protection systems, with national spending targets for essential services like health and education.
. Recommitments to the target of spending 0.7% of gross national income on aid.
. Commitments to collect more taxes, fight tax evasion and deal with illicit financial flows.
The agreement also underscores the importance of aligning private investment with sustainable development, along with public policies and regulatory frameworks to set the right incentives.
A new mechanism that will facilitate financing for new technologies for developing countries was also agreed upon.
The Addis Ababa Action Agenda includes important policy commitments and key deliverables in critical areas for sustainable development, including infrastructure, social protection and technology.
Countries also stressed the importance of nationally-owned sustainable development strategies, supported by integrated national financing frameworks.
“We reiterate that each country has primary responsibility for its own economic and social development and that the role of national policies and development strategies cannot be overemphasized,” the agreement states.
Some critics say the agreement does not have enough safeguards to protect the developing world, especially as it appears multinational companies will continue to dodge taxes in the absence of an agreed set of global tax standards.