Reflections on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda

By Claire Schouten, IBP— Jul 20, 2015

After months of intense negotiations, world leaders have finally agreed to an agenda for financing global development over the next 15 years. A non-binding but critical agreement, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, was finalized late last week at the third Financing for Development (FFD) Conference in Ethiopia. It is the culmination of an intergovernmental process that began in October 2014.

The conference set out to assess the challenges and the progress made in the implementation of the 2002 Monterrey Consensus and the 2001 Doha Declaration, and to address new and emerging issues in development finance.

This included:

  • the evolving development cooperation landscape;
  • the interrelationship of all sources of development finance;
  • the synergies between financing objectives across the three dimensions of sustainable development (social, economic, and environmental); and
  • the need to support the development agenda beyond 2015.

Finally, the conference aimed to reinvigorate and strengthen the financing for development follow-up process, which was lacking in previous agreements.

Claire at FFD3
Claire Schouten speaking at a side event at the Financing for Development conference. Photo credit: TAP Network

Many express concerns that, while the Agenda sets out the principles and narrative to finance efforts to help eradicate extreme poverty, it fails to outline concrete actions to do so. The Civil Society Response to the Agenda highlights several shortcomings in the agenda, including gender equality, trade, debt and private finance, tax justice, and transparency and accountability. Tax issues were particularly prominent at the conference — in fact, they were nearly a deal breaker. At IBP, we welcome the emphasis on tax issues as a matter of domestic resource mobilization but, as we  emphasized at the conference, there is a need to address and report on expenditures as well. In particular, spending needs to be linked with results.

On the positive side, the Action Agenda establishes a social compact to deliver essential services and provides for specific investments in areas such as agriculture, infrastructure, and energy; support to harness the data revolution; and an annual intergovernmental, universal forum for FFD follow up. Still, a lot of work remains, particularly around budget transparency.

We know governments are not providing enough information to connect resource investments to results — for instance, three quarters of the 100 countries included in the Open Budget Survey 2012 failed to provide sufficient budget information about government investments, plans, spending, and performance. Advocates for transparency, participation, and accountability have been clear in our call for more timely, accurate, comprehensive, and accessible information on resource flows and activities for development. We expect change at all levels to ensure this happens around the world.

“We know governments are not providing enough information to connect resource investments to results.”

While we welcome the commitment to increase transparency and equal participation in the budgeting process in the Action Agenda, we want to see genuine efforts by country governments to engage citizens throughout the budget cycle. Executives and legislatures need to enable meaningful public participation by conducting public hearings on budget plans and implementation. Supreme audit institutions need to establish mechanisms to collaborate with citizens and civil society on oversight, including social audits as institutionalized in India and citizen audit request systems as in South Korea. Finally, governments need to show clearly how public inputs are taken into account throughout the budget cycle.

It has been exciting working with our peers and leaders both in preparation for the FFD conference and during side events. IBP presented during a panel discussion on practical measures for implementing FFD commitments organized by the Transparency, Accountability and Participation in Post-2015 Network (of which we are a proud member) and the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service. In a side event on increasing fiscal space in Africa, we highlighted the critical need for fiscal transparency and welcomed engagement with leaders around the release of the Open Budget Survey 2015 in September.

In another side event that brought together government officials, NGO partners, UNDP, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the International Aid Transparency Initiative to discuss the role of data standards, we explained how the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency and the Open Contracting Partnership can contribute to FFD delivery. And, during an event on bolstering public financial management, we described how previous development agendas failed to ensure public reporting on investments, spending, and results and explained how transparency and public engagement can improve the monitoring, efficiency, equity, and effectiveness of financing for development. Along with our civil society partners, such as SEND Ghana and the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, all of IBP’s efforts leading up to and during the FFD conference focused on how to move from principles to practice — this will continue to be our aim as we go forward.

As the dust settles in Addis after this powerhouse conference, our energy turns to the Post-2015 agenda and the implications of the Action Agenda for the design of the means of implementation and post-2015 indicators. Governments, international bodies, and coalitions  have opportunities to deliver on their commitments as we move on to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, and the Conference of Parties on climate change in December. We look forward to continuing our work with partners to further advance our calls and help make accountability to citizens around the world a reality.

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