Trade Unions at the inaugural Financing for Development ECOSOC Forum

The ECOSOC ECOSOC The United Nations Economic and Social Council coordinates the economic and social work of 14 UN specialised agencies. It serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues, and for formulating policy recommendations addressed to member states and the United Nations system. Financing for Development Forum (FfD) was held at the UN headquarters in New York from the 18th to the 20th of April 2016. The first in a series of annual follow-up forums, it was set up to focus on the implementation side of the FfD process and was marked by an unwillingness to engage in substantive negotiations on behalf of the US and its allies.

Financing for Development (FfD) has been acknowledged as an essential part of the push for attaining the global development goals. In 2002, the first international conference on financing for development saw the adoption of the Monterrey Consensus which saw the USA and the EU make development aid commitments, among which a pledge to dedicate 0.7% of national GDP to development aid. More recently, the third conference on Financing for Development saw the signing of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) in 2015. While generally recognized as less ambitious than its predecessors, the bolstering of the role of the follow-up process was considered as one of the AAAA’s positive outcomes.

The ECOSOC ECOSOC The United Nations Economic and Social Council coordinates the economic and social work of 14 UN specialised agencies. It serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues, and for formulating policy recommendations addressed to member states and the United Nations system. Financing for Development Forum series was set up with a mandate to provide a platform on which the details of implementation could be agreed. The inaugural Forum in that series was a three-day event held from the 18th to the 20th of April 2016 at the UN headquarters in New York. In the build up to and during the forum, member states were heavily engaged in the negotiation of the Forum’s outcome document.

The Negotiations

The negotiations were led by the G77 group and China on one side and USA and the Global North countries on the other. The two co-facilitators were Jean-Francis Regis Zinsou, Permanent Representative of Benin, and Vladimir Drobnjak, Permanent Representative of Croatia. In the build up to the Forum, negotiation had laid out a ‘skeleton’ document which brought together the established common ground as well as thematic blocks, the inclusion of which were still to be negotiated. These block were informally categorized as follows:

• Countries under foreign occupation
• Capacity building
• ODA commitments
• The reporting modalities of the Global Infrastructure Forum to the FfD Forum
• FfD Forum’s role in relation to UNIDO’s work
• FfD Forum’s role in relation to the Doha Development Agenda and UNCTAD UNCTAD The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development is the main body of the United Nations General Assembly dealing with trade, investment, and development issues. It formulates policies related to all aspects of development including trade, aid, transport, finance and technology. It’s also a forum where the developing countries can discuss the problems related to their economic development.
• Illicit financial flows
• Migration

During the FfD Forum the negotiations were at a standstill and, by the last day, the 7th draft still contained many bracketed paragraphs. With the end of the FfD Forum looming and a general unwillingness to work towards a substantive outcome document on the part of the US and its allies, the draft was scrapped and the skeleton agreement that served only as an acknowledgement of the FfD Forum’s existance was adopted as the outcome document.

Round Table debates

There were six roundtable debates. Civil society organizations, including trade unions, spoke as one voice and were given up to three interventions from the floor per debate, depending on time. Notable interventions from the trade union movement were made by Kjeld Jakobsen (TUCA) and Matt Simonds (ITUC). Speaking in the round table entitled Global Framework for financing sustainable development Kjeld Jakobsen made the point that in the face of a huge global lack of social protection coverage, the priority should be given to extending and strengthening it in order to provide essential social services to the most vulnerable. His intervention included six concrete example of how this could be achieved. Matt Simonds spoke in the round table on Domestic and international private business and finance highlighted the need for a regulatory and policy framework to be established in order for all governments to ensure that private financing and activities are in accordance with sustainable development principles and human rights.

You can read Kjeld Jakobsen’s full intervention here and Matt Simonds’ intervention here. A comprehensive report of the CSO group’s participation in the Forum is available here.

Conclusion

Marked by a failure to reach any substantive outcome or consensus, the result of the inaugural FfD Forum is certainly not positive. This negative outcome may be marginally mitigated by the fact that the trade union movement, and civil society more broadly, engaged in the official dialogue. It should also be noted that the FfD follow-up mechanism in its present form is in its early days. While negotiations were marked by a clear and paralyzing lack of consensus among Member States, the space for challenging the current polarization of the two main negotiating groups was highlighted. It is within this space that trade union priorities can be promoted.