By Bhumika Muchhala
The outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 established three key processes within the UN to further develop and sustain momentum on sustainable development, and to integrate the sustainable development mandate with the Post-2015 global development agenda, which is to take the place of the Millennium Development Goals targeted for 2015.
The three processes are: (1) the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, mandated to develop a set of sustainable development goals; (2) the Expert Committee on Financing for Sustainable Development, mandated to identify financial resources and actions as part of the means of implementation; and (3) the process to develop a technology facilitation mechanism, mandated to identify new ways to enable developing countries to access technology for sustainable development.
These key substantive processes are expected to complete their work by September 2014, at which time intergovernmental negotiations on the Post-2015 global development agenda will commence. The final reports from these processes will serve as the foundation for the negotiations.
The two Co-Chairs of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing are from Nigeria and Finland. Respectively, they are Mansur Muhtar, Executive Director for Nigeria, Angola and South Africa at the World Bank, and Pertti Majanen, Former Finnish Ambassador to Ireland.
The current work of the Committee is to decide on the establishment of clusters and working groups. Three clusters will start in a sequenced manner, the first two will commence immediately and the third after the second session of the Committee is held in December.
The three clusters are:
1. Assessing financing needs, mapping of current flows and emerging trends, and the impact of domestic and international environments;
2. Mobilization of resources and their effective use, which is further divided into three areas:
a. domestic resources (public and private), increasing effectiveness and mobilizing additional resources;
b. external resources (public and private), increasing effectiveness and mobilizing additional resources; and,
c. blended finance (domestic and international) and new initiatives; and,
3. Institutional arrangements, policy coherence and governance issues.
Co-Chair Pertti Majanen said that the Expert Committee agrees to officially organize themselves around the work of these three clusters, and to amend these clusters as needed, based on further discussion as the work of the Committee proceeds.
The purpose of organizing the Committee around these specific workstreams is to facilitate an open process that allows for the participation and input of all 30 members of the Committee through the facilitation roles given to 2-3 coordinators who have been identified for each of the three clusters. The names and country affiliations of these individual coordinators are not yet available at the time of writing.
Majanen added that “the process of the Expert Committee as it is mandated implies synergies of existing instruments and a view toward preparing a report to propose effective solutions to facilitate the mobilizations of resources to finance sustainable development in the context of the Post-2015 framework.”
The first session of this Expert Committee also agreed on the dates of subsequent meetings which span the course of a year: the recently concluded closed meeting of the first session (28-30 August), second session (2-6 December), third session (3-7 March 2014), fourth session (12-16 May 2014) and fifth session (18-22 August 2014).
In response to the strong concerns regarding the closed nature of the meeting, expressed by some Member States as well as civil society orgnaisations (CSOs), the Co-Chairs mentioned that there is an outreach plan for all external stakeholders that is currently addressed by the Committee. Specifically, there will be multi-stakeholder consultations and interaction meetings with UN agency staff.
(There is a CSO a letter that calls out against the exclusive and non-transparent manner in which the first session of such a critical Expert Committee was held. The letter, which has now been signed by dozens of organisations and networks worldwide, is addressed to the two Co-Chairs of the Expert Committee and states:
"Failure to uphold the well-established principles and modalities of multi-stakeholder participation agreed in the UN Financing for Development process and to provide a platform to the many civil society organizations with expertise on development finance and financial and economic expertise that have historically engaged in it, and those that haven’t but have valuable contributions, would be regrettable. It would represent a dramatic retrogression on the status of civil society participation in financing for development discussions at the United Nations, clouding the objectives of generating trust and broader support towards the committee’s outputs. But it would also be a great loss for the Committee insofar as it would exclude a key source of non-governmental inputs that stand to be of great relevance to the workings of this Committee and to governments.")
With regard to the terms on which the Committee will organize their deliberations with external stakeholders, the Co-Chairs mentioned that they have just begun to look at some principles by which to organize their interactions. The Co-Chairs noted that the Committee is currently based on the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development processes. Both processes formulate important parts of the Committee’s work. However, a lot of developments have also passed since both of these processes, so the question now is to discern the actions needed on the Committee’s part for outreach and forward-looking improvements.
At the conclusion of the first session the Committee decided to have a very open and informative dialogue by listening to and learning from stakeholders, as this will be an indispensable part of the process. The Committee stated that it fully intends to integrate a very specific outreach strategy in its modalities of work. However, no details are available yet.
The Co-Chairs also confirmed that the Committee’s financing considerations and mandate authorize them to integrate their final report into the UN’s Post-2015 global development agenda process.
Several civil society organisations (CSOs) with observer status at the ECOSOC have also noted that the deliberations of the Expert Committee on sustainable development financing has the ability to shape discourse and make decisions on financial means of implementation for both the Post-2015 global development agenda and the Financing for Development follow-up process.
Within the UN General Assembly there has been an ongoing debate as to whether the content of Financing for Development should be merged with that of sustainable development. The CSOs stress that while the sustainable development agenda is critical, it should be coherent with and additional to the broader development agenda, including the process of Financing for Development. Whether there is a decision to merge the two processes of Financing for Development and sustainable development, or to keep them separate, civil society groups urge for consistency and coherence between the two areas.
In particular, the CSOs highlight that the recurring act of postponing the decision on a date for a post-Doha Financing for Development conference is very problematic. The follow-up conference was supposed to be held by 2013 at the very latest. However, as of now, there has been a lack of any decision-making in the General Assembly (despite repeated attempts by the Group of 77 and China in the negotiations within the Second Committee to agree to a date and agenda for a post-Doha Financing for Development conference).
There is some concern that developed countries in particular want the five sessions of the Expert Committee on sustainable development financing to subsume the Financing for Development conference and process. CSOs, and in particular the NGO facilitators of the Financing for Development process, have expressed grave concern regarding such a simplistic amalgamation. They argue that the two processes must remain distinct in order to reflect that while the topics are connected and interdependent to each other, the means of implementation and some of the analyses on the international financial architecture, are distinct and must be addressed separately.