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The Outcome of the FfD Conference in Doha, Qatar

Voices and views on the new Doha Consensus

After four days of intense inter-governmental negotiations, how do relevant stakeholders and participants evaluate the outcome of the UN Review Conference on Financing for Development which took place from 29 November to 2 December in Doha? WDEV documents statements and reports of the Doha NGO Group, the UN General Assembly President and the speaker of the European Union Presidency.

 

The Civil Society

The following statement was delivered at a press conference in Doha on the last day of the conference on behalf of the Doha NGO Group (DNG) by Gemma Adaba, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Sylvia Borren, Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), Ziad Abdel Samad, Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and John W. Foster, North-South Institute and Social Watch.

1. The world urgently needs effective decisions and follow-up which are inclusive and decisive. Civil society asked for a new UN Summit on Economic and Financial matters. The Conference has agreed that “the UN will hold a conference at the highest level on the world financial and economic crisis and its impact on development. The conference will be organized by the President of the General Assembly and the modalities will be defined by March 2009 at latest.”

Civil society desires to be a full partner in achieving a successful result.
We remind delegates and officials that those most seriously affected in every country are expecting material action which reverses the slide into poverty; increases resources for development and mobilization against climate change; stimulates employment; and supports life and access to health for those marginalized and threatened by disease and disaster.

To lead in developing inclusive governance and effective responses to current and long-term crises, the United Nations requires an effective and well-resourced follow-up facility.

As Civil Society, we complement the UN on practices developed in Financing for Development which ensured regular consultation with civil society networks and formal participation in key events. While experiences in some aspects of the Review Conference which marginalized civil society voices have led to frustration and protest, we are committed to enhancing avenues of participation and impact.

2. The Review Conference re-affirmed Monterrey goals, took hesitant note of the current crises and their impacts, failed to move adequately forward in a number of urgent subjects, but moved beyond Monterrey in several important areas. In many respects this Conference was a missed opportunity.

The Heads of State and Government and High Representatives “once again commit ourselves to eradicate poverty, achieve sustained economic growth and promote sustainable development as we advance to a fully inclusive and equitable global economic system”. There was no slipping backwards from the Monterrey commitments on paper: the millennium goals, right to development and overall commitment to just and democratic societies, quantity and quality of aid and debt are all there.

With regard to Gender equality the outcome document in Doha goes far beyond the 2002 Monterrey Consensus. It is especially laudable that it commits to the promotion of gender equality and women’s economic empowerment as essential to achieving equitable and effective development. However, the commitments to gender equality in the document will only be truly meaningful if the systemic issues that underpin poverty are decisively addressed. So cuts in public service provision, including education and health, increase the burden of unpaid and invisible work done mainly by women.

With regard to Decent Work we welcome the clear recognition of its centrality to development strategies and eradicating poverty. But now we need the decent jobs for women and men more urgently than ever.

Civil society asked for the upgrading of the UN Committee on Tax to an inter-governmental body. This was not agreed. But consideration continues and civil society organizations are prepared to contribute to strengthened action on tax through the United Nations.

A number of innovative financing mechanisms can be advanced, as long as they are on top of the regular (0.7) development commitments.

3. Civil society has contributed in several ways to the result of the Conference.

In an open letter to the President of the General Assembly and in our address to the Plenary, we conveyed the comprehensive messages of our Civil Society Forum, and we see evidence, although not as much as we would hope, that some of that advice has been taken on board. We faced obstacles to effective participation in most Roundtables and had less than optimum access to delegations on the floor. In future we need more serious and interactive dialogue, and we would appreciate steps to be taken to enhance not only our own but a wider and more divers participation from civil society.

In conclusion: A missed opportunity
Although the final declaration mentions the need to convene next march in a “UN conference at the highest level”, we as Civil Society are most concerned about the lack of urgency and of any further commitment concerning the implementation of a great number of recommendations - including core issues challenging financing for development such as trade, Foreign Direct Investment, mobilizing local resources, innovative funding - all these were inadequately dealt with or postponed to forthcoming meetings, at a time that people around the world are suffering directly from the persisting and combined crises.


The UNGA President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann

(UN summary) Stressing that the world was insisting on democratization of the United Nations and international decision-making processes, General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann said at the concluding press briefing that the successful conclusion of a development financing summit in Doha would pave the way for “people-centred development to replace profit-centred development”. As he summed up the conference d’Escoto said that the Doha Outcome Document stressed the need to maintain aid commitments despite global economic uncertainty, and called for the convening, “at the highest level”, of a summit under United Nations auspices to examine the impact of the crisis on development and review the international financial and monetary architecture.

He said he planned to make preparations for that summit a priority and to define its organizational structure by no later than March 2009. Further, he had convened a Commission of Experts on Reform of the Monetary and Financial System, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in response to the current crises that were affecting all countries, large and small, rich and poor.

He said delegations recognized the need for the General Assembly to continue its efforts to bolster the role of the Economic and Social Council in monitoring multilateral financial institutions, their governance, decisions and the consequences of such decisions in order to assess their broader social and economic impacts on growth, employment and, in particular, poverty reduction. Those expanded responsibilities would require reforms in the relationship between the Assembly and the Bretton Woods institutions.

Responding to questions, the Assembly President said that, well ahead of the proposed summit, he planned to present political leaders with a proposal for a new financial architecture, adding that he expected participation at the highest political level, from all regions of the world, for a meeting that would be tantamount to the launching of a new Bretton Woods system.

He said the Doha Conference had not set out to establish alternatives to the Bretton Woods institutions. Stakeholders had come to review the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus and the state of the international development financing agenda. The Declaration recognized that the international context had changed profoundly over the past six years, and discussions during the Conference had evinced a “universal rejection” of the prevailing model that a few countries could make decisions for the entire world.

Saying that the world had repudiated the notion of a Group of Seven (G7), a Group of Eight (G8) or even a G-20, he declared: “We believe the only relevant forum is the G-192 – that is the entire membership of the United Nations General Assembly.” The conference marked the only time since Monterrey that systemic issues and reform of the global financial system had been discussed in a United Nations forum. Since Monterrey, the great powers had been trying hard to move such issues outside the United Nations system, so the Conference had been a great advance.

There was also commitment to reactivate the Doha Round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations. “We did not come to ask the rich to give charity but to stand by past commitments and the moral obligation to help countries that had consistently suffered because of marginalization and exclusion,” he declared, adding that it was time to move from the logic of “I and me” to the logic of “we and ours”, which was the way to ensure brotherhood, peace and justice.

Many people thought the Conference would not be a success, he noted. Sadly, right until the last minute, some had even been trying to sabotage negotiations, but the “spoilers” had, in the end, come round and decided not to be isolated. The international community had delivered its mandate in the Doha Declaration that the world was moving away from the dominant culture of greed towards democracy, cooperation and peace.

Asked if the Declaration was “mere pious rhetoric” and a restatement of the commitments made at Monterrey that had languished ever since, he said that after Doha, and the strongly stated position of the European Union, there would be greater pressure on those who had sat outside the development financing process. Indeed, French President Nicolas Sarkozy had presented the European Union’s firm decision to ensure that the bloc’s Member States would reach the 0.7% gross domestic product target for official development assistance (ODA) in 2015, he recalled. “Some had not wanted us even to mention the official development target here, but we will keep talking about it because it is a debt and a moral obligation,” he said, adding that if some countries could find trillions of dollars to prop up their flagging, outmoded institutions, they must stand by their long-promised obligations.

Responding to another question, he said developing and middle-income countries should expand South-South cooperation, even as those countries pressed the richest nations to comply with their commitments. He highlighted the development efforts of Saudi Arabia and Cuba, as well as those of Qatar, but stressed that poverty and hunger were “ticking time bombs” that required the cooperation and political will of all nations. Such democracy was also required of the Bretton Woods institutions, which, since their creation, had slowly been twisted into possessions of the rich; hijacked by the so-called “Washington Consensus”.

Expressing optimism that the United Nations was moving in the right direction, he said the world body had been “dragging its feet” in many areas of its mandate, but he had been heartened by the support he had received as he had presented his proposals on democratizing the organization.


On behalf of the EU: French Development Minister

(UN summary) The Doha Follow-up Conference on Development Financing had gone beyond mere follow-up to the Monterrey Consensus of 2002, to marking a historic new beginning, Alain Joyandet, Minister for Development of France and chief negotiator for the European Union said at a concluding press conference in Qatar. Welcoming the general consensus reached in the Outcome Document of the meeting Joyandet said it was a consensus of responsibility that showed good will on the part of the international community.

He said the European Union had arrived in Doha with a spirit of consensus and a will to renew its commitments. It had accepted the document submitted by the co-facilitators without reserve. Some modifications were inevitable and some countries disagreed on various points, but in the end those obstacles had been overcome. In the process, a new and more solid world partnership had been created.

To a question about the response to the financial crisis, he replied that it was important that it take into account the decisions of the G20, but also create a better balance between the countries of the industrialized North and developing South. Asked whether he would now request his own Government to meet its aid commitments, the Minister said there would be “no problem” with that because that aid was budgeted to increase through 2011, as would the contributions of the French development agency.

Asked whether a completely new world financial structure was needed rather than reform, he said the reforms needed were so extensive that it might as well be called reconstruction.


(Posted: 4 December 2008)

Recommended citation: WDEV documentation (2008) 'The Outcome of the FfD Conference in Doha, Qatar', World Economy & Development In Brief, Luxembourg, 4. December 2008 (www.wdev.eu)

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