The past week provided a glimpse of hope amidst times of wars and disasters that a.o. result from climate change and the global run on resources. While on Dutch television it finally occurred to talk show presenters and people watching that climate change is happening and is having severe consequences, in Nairobi government partners from Malawi, Mexico and the Netherlands co-chaired a high level meeting on effective global cooperation for sustainable development.
At the start of this partnership (following the Busan meeting on Aid Effectiveness in 2011) I was still rather critical of including corporates in the development dialogue. Now I must say the Dutch, Malawian and Mexican governments have taken important steps to ensure it is done properly. The Dutch have successively stressed the importance of inclusion of dissenting voices and a constructive dialogues between opposing parties. This is needed in the search for solutions to some of the challenges of our time, of which climate change and its consequences is probably the most important and pressing one.
Usually conferences like these end up with yet another outcome document that has bold statements and harbours few actual commitments showing little change in attitudes and behaviours. However, it seems the world is waking up to face its most important challenge over the past millennia and it realizes the challenge of climate change cannot be tackled with people still defending national interests. The current pathways of economic growth cannot be sustained and CO2 emissions should not only be reduced but also CO2 should be taken out of the atmosphere in order to get global warming under control. This will require technical cooperation on a magnitude and scale we have not seen before.
Science, Technology and Innovation
I was therefore glad to see in paragraph 14 of the summary section a clear mention of the role of science, technology and innovation towards achieving sustainable development. Undoubtedly the glaring absentees during the deliberations. At the start of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation back in 2011 the main goal seemed to be the inclusion of the private sector as an accelerator of global development. Not only for their solutions but also to put their capital to use. What we can see in this outcome docueffectivecooperation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Global-Partnership-Nairobi-Outcome-Document-FINAL-1-December-2016.pdfment is the expansion of the partnership to include some of the big philanthropic institutions hinting in the same direction. However, I was glad to observe a start of engagement with activists and civil society presence through the CPDE. At least at the level of commitments they have joined the partnership, hopefully translating into engagement with public and private sector parties.
14. We will invest in science, technology and innovation as a driver of sustainablde development cooperation.
Usually activists are met by policy makers with a certain level of suspicion and it has to be said that activists in turn are not good at collecting and documenting evidence needed for convincing policy makers to change course. Hence, inclusion of academia in the next round will be a welcome addition to balance interests with evidence and confrontation with cooperation, serving both public and private sector institutions with independent research outcomes. It is now to Germany, Uganda and Bangladesh to cement this inclusion of science and hold on to the presence of activists as important countervailing power to vested interests with corporates currently entering the public space more forcefully with the likes of Trump taking over government. We need not to return to a 'Washington Consensus' with the Bretton Woods institutes dictating the world their market liberalization policies, certainly not now. We will need a new Global Consensus to be able to do something about the major atmospheric changes and its devastating impact on the earth’s surface and its inhabitants. This would rather call for a much better regulated market environment.
Global Platform for Effective Development Cooperation and the challenges ahead
The GPEDC can be a tremendous help in providing a platform where interests meet without having to face already vested interests of outdated institutions that are giving shape to cumbersome multilateral processes without clear action agenda’s. Instead the platform provides a clear set of 10 proces indicators that help setting a new standard for effective development cooperation that is future proof and provides for mutual respect, dignity and reciprocity to global partnerships. The global risks the partnerships need to address are summarized in paragraph 5 of the pre-amble of the outcome document.
"Exposure to risks and the inability to cope with the serious adverse effects of climate change; global economic and social shocks; shrinking civic space; the digital divide and the divide in science, technology and innovation; the youth bulge; persistent gender inequality and pervasive violence and discrimination against women and girls; the challenges faced by people living with disability; unemployment, underemployment and non-resilient livelihoods; migration challenges; physical insecurity and violence; and the threat of terrorism are part of our shared reality and must be addressed through partnership."
Mobilizing the other 99,3%
The GPEDC then uses 6 paragraphs to bring together the long array of conferences and high-level meetings conducted over the past couple of years, confirming their relevance or endorsing them.Then a similar amount of articles is used to include all stakeholder groups. It than re-affirms the role of ODA to basically function as a catalyst to mobilize the other 99.3% of the worlds financial resources for sustainable developmen (paragraph 23) without substantiating why 0.7% would be enough to do so. Starting from paragraph 33 the shared purpose translates into 68 paragraphs of principles and commitments to finally end with a disappointing four paragraphs describing a platform for action, while even making reference to three UN-fora: the High Level Political Forum on the one hand and the Development Cooperation Forum and the Finance for Development forum on the other.
In conclusion: it is good to see the initial Public-Private partnership becoming more inclusive to explicitly include civil society and philantrophy. Science is still to follow and can hopefully help provide the actual technical solutions that all these partners are so dearly looking for. Partnership will help in the sustainable uptake of innovation, which normally takes a while to get everyone on board. In increasingly connected society this should no longer be the bottle-neck. Leaving no one behind suggests there is a way out of this mess for some. However, given the reality of climate change referenced at the start I don't think there is anywhere to go. There is just one planet.
In these days of advent leading up to Christmas, we are reminded of the Christ child entering the world. His star was rising and just like the astrologers long ago we may be curious to get to know this holy child that people still speak about. Hidden from the rulers and religious clergy of his time, but revealed to herders and strangers (the astrologers). His teachings have been preserved like his famous sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7). If only I could practice what he preached. His words just reveal to me that I am as much part of the problem as he encourages me to be part of the solution.
When I was looking for a song that could accompany this text, I was reminded of the eighties that still carried an optimisitc vibe with songs like "Do they know its Christmas?" of BandAid (1984) repeated by BandAid30 in 2014 campaigning for the fight against Ebola. However, I still like the "We are the World" best. Hope president elect Donald Trump in his strive to make America great again will also be reminded of the way in which the Americans wanted their greatness to be known to the world. Many big ego's joined together for a good cause as "the making of" bears witness to. With today's knowledge about how the world 'developed' since, they may sound a bit naieve. However, this song just reminds me that I should stick to my lines and focus on my contribution while enjoying the act of co-creation, which is the true nature of good partnership.
My name is Reinier van Hoffen.
Click here for a summary.
Also find the text of a lecture Dr. Achterhuis held at the 2012 Bilderberg conference.