Sustainable Development Finance
Possible advocacy topics for the Third Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa (13-16 July 2015)
1. Use of Official Development Aid (ODA). The official definition of ODA points out that it has to serve "development". But it is not clear what the term development includes. Most NGOs have the view that it means anti-poverty spending. Some of it is also used for "global public goods" (climate change mitigation, health), which benefits the world as a whole as well as developing countries. OECD is in a process of a re-definition of ODA, which will still mean the sum of government grants and concessional loans for development or poverty eradication. But it is also considering a broader concept of international cooperation to be called “total official support for development”, which would include outlays on new sectors like peacekeeping and expenditures that are less concessional than ODA. What effect will this re-definition have on the 0.7% ODA commitment? What priority areas would be supported by the 0.7% ODA? Should ODA be "leveraged" by co-financing with private investment or should only non-concessional public lending, like World Bank loans, be "blended" with private funds, as in infrastructure investment.
See paper by Barry Herman on ODA here >>>
See presentation by Mareen Buschmann on ODA quantity here >>>
2. Standards and accountability for corporate and financial sector behavior. There are several codes of conduct for corporations, both as regards domestic and foreign direct investment (Global Compact, Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, etc). While a first best solution to establishing and enforcing corporate behavior codes would be to enact them in laws and enforce them, this is not realistic in some countries, and not only developing countries (e.g., bribing host governments was legal in Europe until recently; it was outlawed in the US in 1977). One such voluntary code with potential legal weight is the UN "Ruggie Principles" for human rights responsibilities of business. Is this a promising mechanism to further develop and advocate? Would parts of it be an appropriate start to develop basic principles for the financial sector, banks and shadow banking?
3. Protecting the public interest in blended finance. There is lots of interest in the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing as well as in the World Bank and a G20 Subgroup on long-term investment in combining public with private funding, especially for large-scale infrastructure projects. There is a long and mixed history on various types of "blending" (co-financing, PPPs, etc), so it is important that the public interest in the host country be protected, both in terms of services delivered and cost to residents, both for use of the service (tolls) and tax burden. The question is how to ensure a high level of social and environmental safeguards are in place and that they are respected? How can citizen oversight take place, projects be monitored and socially harmful projects stopped or changed? (Ombudsman, CAO for IFC, Inspection Panel for World Bank as models?). While there is lots of history regarding the World Bank, what should be the standard for the new BRICS Bank and other public or investor initiatives?
4. Sovereign debt workouts. Despite numerous difficult debt problems, like in Europe, many small island developing countries and recently in Argentina (vulture funds problem), there is still no one coherent mechanism for speedy, adequate, effective and fair workouts from debt crises. The International Monetary Fund has been addressing the issue for the past two years and while not making a lot of progress, has also not dropped the issue. Various ad hoc initiatives propose designs of sovereign debt workouts. Is it time to bring the major stakeholders together for an effort to devise a more effective system? It would require some few governments from North and South to express interest to pilot an alternative process to the present unregulated piecemeal approach. Could the FfD Conference establish a multiparty working group under UN auspices to design the rules of such a fair and comprehensive debt workout mechanism?
5. Fight tax abuse. Current tax regimes in many countries of the North and South tolerate tax evasion (breaking the law) and tax avoidance (legal but harmful to society and economy). In part, this is a function of how the domestic tax laws are written (or who writes them); in part it is a function of easy access to secrecy regimes (e.g., Switzerland) where bankers will hide the funds of rich people; and in part it is about abuses by firms where tax laws are ambiguous (e.g., in transfer pricing). The G20 have prodded the OECD to strengthen cooperation among its tax authorities, but the interest in ending taxpayer abuse should be global. How can the discussion and policy reforms be brought into a universal forum like the UN and offer universal opportunities for cooperation and on what should the cooperation consist?
6. Return of illicitly removed funds. The ‘UN Convention Against Corruption’ has provisions for the return of funds illicitly removed from a country by corrupt officials and there is a joint UN (Vienna) and World Bank program to try to facilitate the return of such funds (Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, StARs). And yet the amount of returned resources is very disappointing. The G20 is taking this up as each member country has prepared a paper on its national requirements to recover stolen assets . How can greater success in the recovery of these funds be achieved? What impediments are there and how can they be removed? Is there some action that can be endorsed at the FfD conference?
7. Financial regulation that serves the people. Even the Financial Stability Board staff expresses concern that some of the regulatory reforms that were deemed essential in the depths of the crisis have been watered down and postponed at the request of the financial institutions. However, even if adopted, the full extent of the reform mandate is too narrowly focused on prudential regulation (concern about systemic instability), when there are also important matters of growing short-term financial speculation flows and growth of financial institutions that are even bigger than they were pre-crisis and for which "too big to fail" seems applicable. There are relevant questions of financial sector interest versus protection of the people. More generally, how can growth of dangerous financial products and speculative flows be reduced (control and specific regulation, financial transaction tax, etc.)? How can the public interest be better inserted into the process of designing and then enforcing financial regulations? What are the best designs for regulation in developing country systems? Is it enough that this issue is discussed in the G20 and IMF or should it be also discussed at the level of the UN?
8. UN as global coherence discussion forum. Currently, the global coherence forum on economic and finance issues is the self-selected ad hoc Group of 20. However, despite some success limiting the spread of the financial crisis of 2009, it does not seem that the G20 will be able to solve the big global economic and financial challenges of today. In addition the G20 decisions are in fact bypassing the only legitimate universal forum, the UN. It is clear that the UN also needs deeper reform to become a functional global forum. However, the UN (especially through the Financing for Development process) provides already a place for informal discussions among different groups of countries (regional groups, G77+China, EU, Caricom etc), different ministries and international institutions, as well as civil society and the private sector. How can the FfD follow up process be strengthened so that it can become an appropriate global coherence discussion forum?
See presentation by Marina Ponti on Long term positioning of the United Nations >>>
9. Global negotiations on trade in goods and services. The World Trade Organization negotiators seemed to breathe new life into WTO negotiations when they tentatively adopted a new package of agreements, including on trade facilitation, which has an interesting feature in that developing country obligations are contingent on getting technical assistance in adopting them. However, that agreement fell apart at the end of July due to differences in another part of the agreement relating to how purchases of food for security stockpiles would be handled. Meanwhile, work on the major trade policy problems, such as agricultural subsidies, is still incomplete. With the impasse in global negotiations, there have been important attempts to agree in smaller gatherings but no result as yet (TPP, TTIP, and TISA). The Director General has promised to deliver a proposal by December for completing the Doha Development Agenda and then it will be a matter of whether governments will adopt his proposal of work. If yes, then the FfD conference will surely be called upon to support it. Should civil society support the WTO plan, however disappointing it might be, because the alternative negotiations on the table are all worse?
10. A global climate deal requires money. This is not an FfD issue per se, but it is a problem area on which the future of the planet as we know it depends. If any agreement can be reached by 2015, there will be a need for large-scale financing of carbon emission mitigation as well as adaptation. The public/private infrastructure financing initiatives noted above could be a big channel for the international investment required, as well as the Green Climate Fund for more concessional flows. Of course, obvious important other sources of funds would be a carbon tax or a more effective cap and trade system. These could be adopted country by country (or regionally as in the EU). Best would be a global agreement on such a tax, but like the FTT, it is unlikely to happen. What should be the focus of the FfD negotiations on the road to Addis?