In the course of the last six months, the European NGO coordination, actively comprised of over 40 European NGOs in 11 countries including 8 national networks, has made continuous steps to focus and revise NGO demands regarding the FfD process towards a realistic, achievable and meaningful political outcome.
The nine points in the Consensus Paper of Dec 2001 served as a basis for our expectations of the FfD process and included:
- Stabilization of international financial markets
- Increasing aid levels and agreeing a binding timetable for reaching the UN target of 0.7 percent GNP for ODA
- Improving the quality and effectiveness of aid for poverty reduction
- A human development approach in measuring external debt sustainability
- A fair and transparent debt arbitration procedure
- Trade and foreign investment for sustainable development
- International cooperation on tax matters
- Participation in economic global governance and monitoring the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals
In response to ongoing negotiations, the members of the European NGO Caucus, which met daily in New York during the 4th Prep Com, issued a seven point paper on our minimum demands for the Monterrey Consensus document, signed by 20 European representatives and distributed to the government delegations, in the form of an appeal (see attachment). The seven bottom-line demands developed and presented at the January 2002 Prepcom were viewed as representing the threshold for a meaningful outcome of the FfD process.
Based on an assessment of the final outcome paper in comparison with both the agreed consensus paper targets and minimum appeal demands, it is apparent that the outcome document to be agreed in Monterrey, does not meet the minimum demands of the European NGO community for the success of the Financing for Development process.
1. A failure of the process
Of the seven bottom-line NGO demands, none has been fully achieved.
Four demands are not being adressed at all in the final outcome paper:
(1) immediate increase in ODA and agreement on a timeframe;
(2) mandate to the UN to explore measures to enhance the stability of the international financial system and explicit reference to CTTs;
(3) evaluation of regulatory frameworks for trade and investment against their impact on achieving the MDGs and environmental protection;
(4) independent external evaluations of the performance of IFIs.
Three demands are addressed in an unsufficient manner to constitute real progress:
(1) measuring of debt sustainability on the financial needs of countries to achieve the MDGs, and widening of elegibility for debt relief;
(2) commitment to enter into the designing of a fair and transparent arbitration process for sovereign debtors;
(3) reform of the international financial institutions, starting with a participatory review process of the composition and procedures of the decision-making bodies.
One demand has been met which is to engage in a follow-up process which provides an means for increased cooperation between the Bretton Woods Institutions and the UN and its agencies on implementing conference results. The extent to which this should be considered a success, however, is tempered by the failure to achieve any substantive outcomes as noted above. The question remains as to what will be implemented if so little is agreed.
Additionally, the FfD process has failed to set the conditions for innovative thinking on development and future practices. The agreed document:
- constitutes a missed opportunity for establishing a human rights framework for development;
- completely lacks references to environmental sustainability for development as discussed in the WSSD Rio process;
- reaffirms existing power relations in global governance;
- does not establish new processes to increase international tax cooperation;
- undermines the importance of the Millenium Development Goals;
- ignores innovative approaches such as the debate on Global Public Goods and their financing;
- fails to confirm a follow-up procedure or any commitment to implementation for the study of the UN SG on economic globalization, which is to look specifically at innovative measures of finance;
- fails to give a clear role to the UN system in the governance of global economic relations.
In its general attitude, it is thoroughly based on the continuation of neoliberal economic policy prescriptions that – as statistics suggest – fail to deliver development for the majority of the worlds population.
Given this result, we must consider the FfD process and the Monterrey Consensus a failure. The demands of European NGOs have not been adequately responded to in the FfD process and thus, the results of this process cannot be accepted.
It is our political duty to inform the preparations of the WSSD, Rio+10 conference scheduled for the end of August 2002 in Johannesburg about the unsufficient base for the financing of sustainable development as laid out in the FfD process.
2. A lack of commitment to development
The issue of development does not constitute an overriding political goal for any one of the governments participating in FfD. There are neither vested interests nor a perception of political urgency or potential threat to social order or world peace. There is also no potential gain from alliance building for any government. It is still more profitable for developing countries to search for individual solutions.
The G77 cannot be considered a kind of “natural ally” for NGOs. While on issues of ODA and debt NGO and G77 positions largely converge, on most others they diverge. The language draft of some mostly US-based NGOs to the G77 presidency has almost completely been ignored in the G77 positionings. Moreover, the FfD process shows that is highly questionable whether the G77 can be considered a political force. It is still to reconstruct more exactly, why the G77 gave up on a lot of their issues during the final days of negotiation and why they deliberately refused the opportunity to gain political leaverage by extending negotiations on to the Monterrey conference on some key demands.
3. The poor performance of the EU
The EU could not be considered a decisive power-broker or valuable ally for NGOs in the FfD process. Its positions came too late and were too unflexible, its negotiation stature depended too much on the skills (or lack thereof) of the representative of the rotating presidencies, and member state’s engagement was lacking.
The requirement of consistency of the Union’s FfD positions with general EU policies has to it that it is very difficult for NGOs or other political actors to move the EU ahead on particular demands, once in the negotiation hall. NGO advocacy work on the EU must start well ahead of the actual negotiations. The weakness of the EU as a political actor is underlined by the fact that it lost most of its more important issues in the final days of the negotiations.
4. Poor engagement and performance of the NGOs
NGO involvement in the FfD process remained weak if measured against the importance of the issues at stake. The social movements on fair trade, currency transaction taxation, and control of the power centers such as G8 and BWIs are not adequately represented in the FfD process. The core NGO activity drew largely from groups involved in development cooperation, aside from the ongoing caucus groups monitoring the UN, such as women, labor and the ecumenical team.
Issue-based caucuses did not meet outside the FfD Prep Coms to prepare statements and positions and thus wasted excessive amounts of time building a consensus and crafting generalized and often weak statements. A lot of time went into internal discussions and consensus building processes between groups of NGOs whose compositions changed from Prepcom to Prepcom, and even from day to day. Little time remained to engage in direct advocacy work with government delegations, which, moreover, was not systematically reported back to the NGO Forum.
The lack of adequate computer and photocopying facilities as well as available meeting space at the UN further undermined the efficacy of the NGO community as much time was wasted preparing materials or finding places to meet. For example, although the European NGO caucus was quite well prepared in terms of its positions, it took almost a full day to agree on comments to the EU negotiation positions, to formulate, compute, print and distribute copies to the EU member delegations This failure to provide adequate facilities, in particular, should be raised by the NGO community in a letter to the FfD Bureau and the UN Secretary General’s office. NGOs cannot be seen to be a partner in the FfD process, if they are not afforded the facilities to be competent players.
The daily NGO morning meeting during the Prepcoms performed important service functions for NGOs, allowing for announcements, briefings and updates. It did not however, evolve into a strategic forum for the sharing of intelligence gathered on the conference room floor. In this regard, NGOs were poorly coordinated as a whole and this became very problematic during week #2 when access was restricted and thus intelligence hard to gather. NGOs failed to design a system of reporting back, position finding, proposing new ideas etc with the result being that the second week of negotiations represented a failure of strategy and cooperation tactics.
Partly, however, this failure is due to a situation in which the presence of NGOs was clearly unwanted, meeting rooms so small that even government delegates had difficulties to get in, time pressure that made interventions other then from the big players unwanted, procedures unclear, meetings open-ended and hence not allowing for planning meetings in break times.
Select caucuses and groupings were naturally more effective than others. The European Caucus met every day and became an effective forum for strategic information sharing and gathering. The meetings were used to develop and revise tactics in response to ongoing negotiations and intelligence gathered in private conversations and meetings. . Informal meetings with the Spanish representative speaking on behalf of the Union and accession candidates proved to be useful. They also prepared the entry for quick encounters of 30 seconds within the hall, commenting ad-hoc on EU interventions.
In summary NGOs had difficulties becoming real actors in the FfD process and were largely cut-out when the negotiation process started. The strategic use of media by several NGOs, however, ensured that while we were excluded from negotiations, we were not without voice. It is unfortunate that the media had not been more fully engaged in the FfD by the NGO community prior.
5. A failure of multilateralism
Multilateralism is in a crisis that started long before the 11 September and has been exacerbated by the terrorist attacks. We cannot uphold or strengthen multilateralism, as long as the main political players, in particular the USA, do not obey to its rules of engagement, such as fostering consensus building processes respecting the will of majorities. Multilateralism minus x countries, or regionalist initiatives must be reconsidered temporarily a substitute way forwards.
The outright arrogance of the USA and its allies Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand overshadows the whole FfD exercise. It is shocking that no government had the courage to publicly denounce this behavior. It is even more shocking that NGOs too, feel intimidated by the US and afraid to speak out, even though it is our role.
If NGOs fail to criticize the US when they criticise the FfD process, then we become a part of the US strategy which seeks to undermine the UN and multilateralism in general. It is a goal of the US to further undermine any multilateral processes where it is not solely in control. While the political value of UN-led processes has diminished, with consequences for NGO activity and engagement, to criticize the UN without criticizing the US, will only strengthen the US hand. Thus, any follow-up strategy must place as its centerpiece and acknowledgement of the role of the US in undermining multilateralism. This will become increasingly important as the Rio+10 process is now at risk.
Next steps – how to respond
The European NGO caucus has been created to coordinate advocacy activity at the European level. With negotiations over, participants will need to indicate as to whether there is interest to coordinate media outreach, especially during the days of the Monterrey conference and the preceding alternative forum, and other forms of activity, such as protest letters to our governments. Some suggested points for consideration follow.
With negotiations over, the political scope for going to Monterrey must be newly defined. Harnessing media attention, both within Europe and internationally as a means to voice our critique of the Monterrey Consensus should become a primary goal for the remaining 1.5 months.
Areas of emphasis for media could include :
- a strong critique of the US for its role in undermining this process and multilateralism more generally;
- the EU for capitulating to the US;
- the absolutely inadequacy of the Monterrey Consensus to address the needs of development;
- our dismay that NGO demands have almost completely been sidelined during the entire process
- a critique of the neo-liberal agenda and how this conference contributes to it.
The Monterrey Roundtables should be viewed by those participating as an opportunity for formulated dissent and an opportunity to utilize media.
We might want to merge with the wider political and NGO communities that has followed the FfD process in the discussion of next steps. Eurodad/One world presently organize an electronic discussion on FfD issues and policies that could offer the occasion for debatting strategic direction. A motion for a resolution in the European Parliament which is strongly critical of the FfD outcome document will be debated on Feb 6th.
Additional NGO efforts are emerging and should be considered. BOND in the UK, in cooperation with CCIC in Canada are preparing joint letters on the failure to commit to 0.7 ODA and are seeking input on a “flood the politicians” email protest campaign. Please contact Howard Mollett at BOND (email@example.com ) tel: 0044 207 837 8344. Those NGOs with public constituencies could coordinate the launch of a public campaign to embarrass the EU as it heads to Monterrey prepared to be perceived as a world leader in development.
Should we want to discuss strategy more thoroughly between us, an occasion to meet would be around the General Affairs Council meeting of 18 February in Brussels, which could also offer the occasion to organize a press conference denouncing the shortcoming of the results of the Monterrey Consensus in the moment that the EU expresses itself publically on this topic.
We would like to ask you to rapidly express yourself on these last points, since a meeting around the 18 February would need to be fixed 10-14 days prior.
Martin Koehler, Robin Round