What's Addis All About?

UN Economic Commission for Africa Conference Center in Addis Ababa. Photo by Jose M. Alonso
UN Economic Commission for Africa Conference Center in Addis Ababa. Photo by Jose M. Alonso

By Anuradha Rajivan

Everyone in the development community seems to be talking about Addis these days. The capital of Ethiopia is hosting the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development on 13-16 July.

Everyone these days seems to be talking about Addis. Everyone in the development community, that is. Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa, finds itself host to governments from all over the world. The UN leadership, other development partners, business leaders, think tanks, civil society, and all the multilateral development banks (including ADB) are headed there too this week.

Hotels in Addis, especially the ones near the UN Economic Commission for Africa, are doing unprecedented business – not just the rooms, but the meeting rooms and restaurants are all booked too. Latecomers have to find accommodation further off. Clean enough, but with spotty electricity and Internet. Flights are full. A new Ethiopian Airlines flight from Manila to Addis timed their inaugural week perfectly. Addis faces a major logistical and security challenge with so many leaders from varied spheres headed there.

So what exactly is happening there? Addis is hosting the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development on 13-16 July. When the discussion is about money, interested parties have to be there –  both to offer what they have and, equally importantly, to listen to what the others have to say; to strategize, and find opportunities for business and to collaborate.

In some ways, the corridor discussions may be far more significant than the formal sessions. After the first conference in Monterrey resulted in the Monterrey Consensus, and the second one in Doha with the Doha Declaration, we have in 2015 this third one.

Why is the Addis event so significant in the global fight against poverty? The conference is about governments coming together around the challenge of finance, not just to end poverty and hunger, but also to achieve sustainable development. The draft outcome document, in its very first couple of paragraphs, highlights this intent – to pursue development that supports prosperity for all, is socially inclusive, and also protects the environment. It is deeply interlinked with the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global development agenda set to succeed the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).

The SDGs are a set of sustainable development goals on the table relevant to all countries, developing and developed, that needs to be backed by credible means of implementation. Unlike the MDGs, which focused largely on average deprivations in poor countries, the 17 proposed SDGs aim to be universal and  address deprivations-cum-disparities, while also being environmentally responsible.

The success of the Addis conference (or otherwise) is expected to have downstream effects on, both the UN General Assembly in September, where member states are poised to agree on the proposed SDGs; and the December COP 21, where a global climate deal is to be negotiated. It is a critical time for international development cooperation, which is seen as being at a crossroads.

For ADB, the outcome of the Addis conference is important, as we are poised to start work on ADB’s new strategy to follow our current Strategy 2020 that underpins all our work to end poverty in developing Asia. It is also important as our members—both developing and developed—negotiate the new post-2015 sustainable development agenda that will follow the MDGs. While national policies, the enabling environment, and domestic governance are all critical in the implementation of a far more ambitious sustainable development agenda that is expected to replace the MDGs, money is sufficiently distinct to require its own focused attention.

Multilateral development banks, as aggregators, managers, and suppliers of development finance which also can draw in private funds for sustainable development investments, are among the important stakeholders in the dialogue. The draft outcome document points to multilateral development banks several times. Multilateral development banks will also have a dedicated side event on what they, along with the International Monetary Fund, can bring to the table.

Much analysis will be done later on, as the wording in the final outcome document are examined more closely by a spectrum of constituents. But in a deeply interlinked world, no country can go it alone. Economic prosperity, social equity and environmental responsibility are the defining challenges that the present generation faces, and our responses will have long-term effects for generations to come.