Reflections on HLM Mexico

21/05/2014 at 9:46 pm Leave a comment

Guest blog by Justin Kilcullen

 

“The HLM in Mexico saved the Busan process”. So a leading CSO advocate summed up the High Level Meeting after two days of debate, wrangling over the wording of the communiqué, and the usual high profile set pieces featuring, among others, the president of Mexico, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the head of the OECD, leading politicians and media stars.

So does this outcome amount to success or failure?

If the starting point was that “Busan” needed rescuing, then certainly something was achieved. It was clear from the monitoring report that progress had stalled on almost all fronts. After Busan the post MDG agenda became the issue of the day. The Busan Steering Committee Co Chairs were also co chairing the MDG process , and changed their focus to the UN special event in September last year. Without political leadership the officials could make little advance.  If we can say one thing about the Mexico outcome it is that the Development Effectiveness agenda is back on track.

The disappointment is that much more was needed! Recommitting to past pledges without adding to them is now standard practice, for donors in particular.  There were few if any new commitments in Mexico, just a resolution to try harder! However what did emerge, and may well add energy to the process, is the realisation that the Global Partnership forged in Busan will be the only game in town after the 2015  Development Goals summit and the Paris 2016 meeting on Climate Change. The framework for delivering the outcomes of these landmark meetings is the Global Partnership and, if it is not to be bypassed by impatient donors looking for mechanisms to demonstrate impact and value for money, it has to start to perform.

What did all this mean for Civil Society?

The Mexico outcome was something of a mixed bag. The draft communiqué prior to the meeting had diluted the human rights and gender commitments of Busan. Apparently the Chinese were being difficult again!  But in the end the Chinese failed to show up, and the Mexicans, who were facilitating the drafting process, became more open to revisiting these articles. However, there was no move on the enabling environment for CSOs.

As we know, CSO space continues to be curtailed. The concept of Civil Society as an independent development actor, as recognised in the Busan agreement, is beyond the understanding of the majority of developing countries’ governments. I spoke on behalf of Concord in a focus session, sponsored by the European Commission, and including the Minister of Finance of Rwanda along with Commissioner Piebalgs. Rwanda is regarded as the most advanced of the EU partner countries in relation to joint programming. As far as the minister was concerned, CSOs were to deliver services in line with government policies – end of story! I was tempted to ask  him “what part of independent development actor do you not understand”, but the moderator, a feisty BBC Africa journalist, did the job for me in her own way. He was not pleased.

Things were different when it came to the private sector. Major European donors along with the US were the main movers in promoting the private sector, “to ensure the best value is got from development assistance”. Where CSOs are being closed down doors are opening everywhere for the private sector. Where reporting and accountability is being emphasised for traditional development actors it’s back to laissez faire capitalism as far as the private sector is concerned. However, they didn’t reckon with the parliamentarians! Busan also recognised Parliament as a development actor for the first time, and the parliamentarians used their new found status to great effect in blocking the final communiqué until it included a clear statement on the accountability of the private sector according to “accepted international norms”. It was a significant achievement.  It ensured that all those defined as “development actors” will be subject to the same standards, and in the case of the private sector, not given free range to act as the like.

Other interesting developments included a focus on taxation, both as a means for countries to raise their own resources and to stem the flow of unpaid taxes from multinationals to tax havens, and a commitment from Arab countries to engage more fully in the development process.

So, did over two hundred CSO delegates make a difference to the HLM outcome? I believe we did.

CSO speakers were prominent in all plenary events and half the focus sessions. I noted the quality of their contributions, due to their passionate commitment to their cause. This is in contrast to so many others who spoke from notes prepared by officials, doing it because it is their job. The CSO commitment was infectious and was welcomed by many players who shared our views, including more enlightened governments and officials. It all played into creating an atmosphere where those in the inner room negotiating the final outcome could not ignore what was going on outside the door.

What next?

The Global partnership remains the only international process where Civil Society is present by right at the negotiating table. This is the process that will guide intentional development efforts post 2015. It is critical we stay engaged, leverage our growing influence, and ensure that those on whose behalf we speak see real and lasting benefits from our efforts.

 

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