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July 16, 2015

No clarity on how governments will finance poverty reduction goals

The Financing for Development Summit in Addis Ababa has ended disappointingly, with wealthy countries refusing to sign-up to the reforms and spending commitments necessary to tackle extreme poverty. 

This summit was a vital moment for the global community to come together and agree on how to finance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are due to come into effect in January. The SDGs are ambitious in their desire to end extreme poverty, yet the failure to agree on how to finance them does not bode well. 

Developed countries have failed to agree to essential global tax reforms or to commit additional public. Both of these are essential to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Without them, there is no clarity on how government’s plan to finance the ambitious SDG targets.

Lorna Gold, Trócaire’s Head of Policy, was in Addis.

“Unfortunately, it is largely a missed opportunity,” she said. “The outcome document - the Addis Action Agenda - is very short on concrete action points which governments will deliver on. 

“All the civil society groups present have expressed serious disappointment at the refusal of rich countries to grasp this historic moment to put in place a global tax body which will address serious issues around corporate tax avoidance and evasion. Without tackling tax issues, it is impossible to see how poorer countries can develop.”

One positive of the Addis talks has been the commitment of Ireland to reach the target of delivering 0.7% of Gross National Income on overseas development.  

“Against a backdrop of stagnating development aid and a worrying shift to debt-based financing, Ireland's continued high quality, grant-based aid programme now sets a gold standard,” said Lorna. “We strongly welcome Ireland’s renewed commitment to the aid programme, and recent signals that every effort will be made to get on track towards 0.7% in the next seven years."

You can read more reflections from Addis on Lorna Gold’s personal blog

July 14, 2015

Financing for Development: Outsourcing multilateralism?

by Dr. Lorna Gold, Head of Policy and Advocacy

At the start of my 2015 blog, I highlighted three major global events happening in 2015 which offer an exceptional opportunity to change course. The first of these, the Financing for Development Summit in Addis Ababa has finally arrived.

As I sit here in my comfortable hotel bedroom in Addis Ababa, listening to the police sirens outside as dignitaries from 193 countries arrive, I wonder about the week ahead – and what difference, if any, my being here makes. These big global summits are a circus. In fact, as I write, the negotiations may be over already. The EU unilaterally agreed to the final draft text overnight. They have given the other major block of countries, the G77, until 3pm today to accept this agreement. The G77 will have to decide whether this is a battle worth fighting.

The point is that delegates coming to Addis would prefer not to have to do any serious, messy negotiating – this would take away from the media razzmatazz of the non-negotiated announcements. The last thing they want is for the media to get distracted by any disagreements. Patch it up, cover up the cracks – agree something, anything. Let us all get on with the real business of interesting side events, state dinners, receptions, and the all-important branded global initiatives! Let the people back home know we are making a difference.

Financing for Development Summit, Addis Ababa

Caption: Ban Ki Moon at Financing for Development Summit, Addis Ababa

The fact is that the official outcome document is excruciatingly weak, despite Ban Ki Moon’s valiant attempt to talk it up to 1000 NGOs yesterday. The “Addis Action Agenda” is very short on concrete action, especially on the part of states. There is no new aid money, for example, on the table. The FfD summit is meant to come up with the additional finance – both the actual money and the structural changes required to generate future resources – to deliver on the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Finance for global goals can come from a range of sources but not all finance is equal. All of us know the difference between a grant and a high interest loan. To achieve the SDGs, especially for the poorest people on the planet, public finance is essential. Only public finance can provide the level of stability and the social contract needed to deliver essential services to the poorest. Without adequate public finance the whole enterprise of human development based on the idea of human rights – where duty bearers can be held to account – is put at serious risk.

What the run up to the negotiations in Addis confirms, yet again, is that a profound shift in global politics taking place right under the noses of our elected governments. This shift is really about a transferal of accountability in global politics away from democratic governance into the hands of powerful financiers and corporations. The only game in town this week is the unrelenting rise of private capital in the provision of the new development agenda, as I recently wrote about in the Village magazine. Public Private Partnerships and blended finance are the only show in town. Such PPPs come at a cost – a cost of democratic accountability, through transferring the responsibility for public services provision away from the state into large, international, unelected profit making entities. The risk burden, moreover, is transferred to the public purse creating the potential for new unsustainable debt crises. The decision on when the cost of an investment in essential, life saving services becomes too high essentially becomes a matter for the board room in New York rather than the cabinet table in Addis Ababa. Who, then, is accountable for ensuring the human rights of those at the receiving end of such essential services? 

Whilst the negotiations on agreeing the new goals (the what) have been relatively straight forward so far, the negotiations on the means to get there (the how) have been dogged with bad feeling from the start. It feels like the world was happy to come up with an ambitious wish list, but is hoping Santa Claus will come to deliver it. The atmosphere here could not be more different to the optimistic spirit experienced in the Vatican last week. That spirit, grounded in a realisation of the existential crisis facing humanity, unfortunately does not seem to have made it to Addis yet. The words of the Encyclical are still ringing in my ears “everything is connected”. The fight against climate change, in fact, is profoundly linked to the capacity for state action, which in turn relies on an ability to generate resources through taxation and limit illicit flows – which in turn, requires democratic governance and upholding of basic human rights of communities over corporations. In other words, people and planet before profits.  

At present, it would appear that the dominance of the private corporate sphere, with its unrelenting logic of profit seeking has the upper hand. That logic has come to set the rules of the game, even within the UN. The UN, as I wrote here, is not coca cola! Santa Claus, in his red Coca cola truck will not deliver the SDGs. Multilateralism itself it seems is now beholden to the markets. Such a form of multilateralism knows no forgiveness, as the unfolding Greek tragedy demonstrates.

The question is how can such influence be curtailed? How can we reclaim the democratic space, especially in a world where 90 states have introduced draconian measures to limit democratic freedoms? In many countries, including the one I am sitting in right now, public protest will now land you in prison or worse. Everything is connected.

As I said following the Vatican conference, and after the Trócaire conference, we need a new global movement – which is able to see the profound interconnections between the different struggles we are facing. At the heart of this, there is a profound need to reclaim the Greek philosophical basis of a good society – and adapt it to the world we live in today, constrained by climate change and other massive challenges. It seems to me that four burgeoning global movements need get out of their silos and come together: the movement for climate justice, the movement for tax justice, the global treaty alliance on business and human rights and the movement for transparency. Together, these peoples’ movements, grounded in a global “culture of care” based on the Encyclical, could make the difference. Without this kind of united struggle, the spectre of global plutocracy looms large.

 

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July 13, 2015

Irish Government must show leadership in Addis

Irish Government must recommit to 0.7% GNI in overseas aid at the UN Financing for Development conference, says Trócaire

The Irish Government must show leadership at this week’s UN Financing for Development conference and recommit to its long-standing promise to give 7c out of every €100 of gross national income (GNI) to the world’s poorest people, Trócaire has said.
The conference, which takes place in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, between 13th - 16th July, will decide how the new, universal, anti-poverty Sustainable Development Goals, (SDGs), due for agreement in September, will be financed. The goals come into effect in January and will set targets for UN member states around issues such as ending poverty, promoting peace and taking action to combat climate change.

Trócaire’s Executive Director, Eamonn Meehan, said that the conference “is a critical time for building solid foundations for the Sustainable Development Goals,” and that “Ireland, as a matter of urgency, must play its part in ensuring that the goals are adequately financed.”
 
He added: “In just two months time in New York, world leaders will meet at the UN to agree the post-2015 development agenda and a new set of universal goals to address some of the most pressing global issues of our time. Yet, despite the need for substantive additional funding to meet the SDGs, few have met their existing aid commitments to give 7c in every €100 of GNI in aid. Indeed many rich countries, including Ireland, are going backwards.
 
“Funding is essential to make the new SDGs happen. If there is no money, there will be no progress. Poorer countries need support, they need investment, tax justice and development cooperation.

“Political leadership of the highest order is urgently needed. Ireland, as co-facilitators of the SDG process in September, has a vested interest in success in Addis Ababa and should make a firm promise to the poorest people on earth to honour its commitment to give 0.7% of GNI in aid by 2020.”

Lorna Gold, Head of Policy at Trócaire, who is attending the summit in Addis Ababa, said:

“UN members have spent two years intensely focused on fine-tuning the vision of a new SDG world. The effects of mass migration, growing inequality, absolute poverty, climate change, war, terrorism and resource conflicts all call for urgent collective action.

“Addressing these collective challenges requires that governments think beyond the interests of their own country to work together and make necessary sacrifices to address the common good. It is essential that real and binding aid commitments are made if the SDGs are to be successful.”

July 07, 2015

Gaza: Not a single home has been rebuilt

One year ago, the Gaza strip was ravaged by an Israeli military operation (‘Protective Edge’) that lasted 50 days. This hugely disproportionate conflict saw the Gaza strip devastated, with entire neighbourhoods left in ruins. 

Over 1,400 Palestinian civilians were killed, and a third of them were children. Six Israeli civilians were also killed by Palestinian militant rocket fire.

Today, over 100,000 people still remain displaced in Gaza – living in temporary accommodation, with extended families or at UN schools. 

Not a single destroyed home has been rebuilt in Gaza in the last 12 months.

Due to an economic blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt, less than 1% of the construction materials required to rebuild and repair houses destroyed and damaged during the 2014, and previous hostilities, have so far entered Gaza.

The UN has said “the extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come”.

Please watch and share this video:

We have been here before. Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012, Operation Cast Lead in 2009, Operation Warm Winter in 2008 and so on. These cycles of military operations in Gaza happen with alarming regularity. Without accountability for grave breaches of international law, a climate of impunity exists. We see history repeating itself with the repeated devastation of Gaza and an incredible loss of civilian life. 

If action is not taken to challenge impunity, another round of conflict in Gaza in the coming years is all but guaranteed. We need meaningful pressure to be put on Israel and the Palestinian Authority by the international community. 

Trócaire has been responding on the ground in Gaza over the last year, providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities including providing medical supplies, food and blankets and providing counselling to traumatised victims.

We are also working with human rights organisations to provide legal aid to affected families in their search for justice, and are working with both Israelis and Palestinians to build a long term peace based on international law. 

This week Trócaire tied ribbons to the railings of Merrion Square, Dublin, and St Mary's, Chapel Lane, Belfast, for each of the children killed in the war (see images below).

 

For more background information on the conflict, please visit our partner’s websites:

Learn more about Trócaire's work in Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and Israel.

June 29, 2015

Have you ever broken a promise?

Don’t let the Irish Government continue to break its promise to the world’s poorest people on your behalf.

In 2000, Ireland made a promise to the world’s poorest people to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid. We promised that the target would be met by 2007, but this was broken. The deadline was then deferred to 2012 and finally to 2015.

However, in early 2014 the Government announced that Ireland would, once again, break its promise. Today the Irish Government spends less than 0.4% of national income on overseas aid, which is around 40 cent in every €100.  

2015 is a landmark year in the global fight against poverty, with a number of upcoming international summits aimed at creating a more just and sustainable world. From the 13th-16th July, UN member states, including Ireland, will meet in Addis Ababa to agree a global agreement on how to finance sustainable development. For more information on why this conference matters, read our June 2015 Briefing Paper on the Addis Accord.

How you can take action

In advance of the conference in Addis Ababa, it is vital that we put pressure on the Irish Government to set out a credible plan for meeting our aid promise. Take action today and demand concrete steps towards meeting Ireland’s 0.7% commitment by 2020

Use the tweets below to send a message to Charlie Flanagan TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade:

Don’t break Ireland’s promise to the worlds’ poorest on my behalf @CharlieFlanagan – please #RecommitToAid with a plan for 0.7% by 2020

Without a clear plan on 0.7% Ireland will have little credibility in Addis Ababa. @CharlieFlanagan – please #RecommitToAid

 

If Twitter is not your thing, don’t worry – you can still take action by contacting Minister Flanagan’s constituency office directly to voice your concerns.

Here are his contact details:

Charlie Flanagan TD, Constituency Office, Lismard Court, Portlaoise, Co. Laois
Telephone: 057-8620232
Email: charles.flanagan@oir.ie

 

Take action in Northern Ireland

For supporters in Northern Ireland, earlier this year the UK Government enshrined their promise of 0.7% in law. We encourage you to tweet the UK Chancellor, George Osborne MP, urging him to attend the important finance conference in Addis Ababa, and to push for a global commitment of 0.7%.

Please attend #FFD3 @George_Osborne and help secure global 0.7% aid commitment by 2020

 

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Have you ever broken a promise?

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