Thursday 28 February 2013

Dili Consensus on Post 2015: progress but questions

“With the right policies, investments and global collective action on challenges beyond our control, we have the potential to build peaceful, vibrant, just, resilient, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies. The post 2015 development framework must help us realise our potential”. 
So said the G7+, a group of countries who have been forging a new way of doing development that actually works in states affected by violence, and all that comes with it, at the culmination of the Dili Conference on the post-2015 development framework this week.

In a communique issued after the conference the G7+ addressed a wide range of shared challenges, over which they noted they had little direct control. Having been joined by Pacific Island countries it was no surprise that climate change got special attention, itself a threat to the very existence of nations such as Nauru, who were there.

But most of their attention was reserved for the way in which development has to change to be relevant, effective and legitimate. And many of the observations they made have relevance far beyond the 1.5 billion people officially classed as living in fragile states.

The relationship between government and the governed was at the heart of this:
“We agreed that good governance is fundamental to the achievement of our goals, and that development progress in our countries, particularly in newly independent countries and those recently emerging from conflict is impeded by weak state capacity.” 
And that:
[The] “…effectiveness of the state and its institutions is critical to achieving national development goals”. 
This is a welcome re-statement of the centrality of how states emerging from war are able to invest in the institutional capacity to manage either localised or national conflict:s over resources, or wider contested visions of the state itself, frequently an unresolved issue even in the case of a military victory by one side over another. One reason why the implementation of the New Deal is so important - but that is strangely absent from the Consensus.

But there was much else on the table. Building on the insight of the World Development Report of 2011 this conference talked about jobs, more jobs and then even more jobs. Economic growth being critical for development, but the equitable spread of that employment being critical to peace with one being indispensable to the other.

Sign at UN post2015 Consultation for Africa: November 2012, Liberia
And there was a warning shot to donors too. Just as the conference re-stated that “business as usual is not an option” they also argued that the partnerships between rich states and poor needs to be just that – a partnership. While they made a very reasonable argument that there were far too many multiple international initiatives, all with different reporting requirements, they also had a more profound message which won’t have gone unnoticed in Western capitals, namely:
“…the importance of corresponding improvements in the policies and practices of many of the developed countries with whom we interact, including in the areas of trade, the regulation of the activities of multinational corporations and the management of aid. We recommend our development partnerships be based on mutual trust rather than conditionality.” 
While the Doha Trade Round, started in 2001 and currently frozen, stands as a monument to the unwillingness of donor countries to accept that the logic of free trade should also apply to their own markets, the specific mention of multinationals is also interesting. Foreign Direct Investment dwarfs aid money in any case, so they are clearly part of the picture. But stories such as those raised recently by Action Aid of tax avoidance by a British firm in Zambia on a grand scale, along with longstanding concerns about the extent to which companies act in ways that may provoke instability suggests that this area needs much more focus. Despite the active involvement of the private sector in the High Level Panel on post 2015 I have not seen much on the subject emerging from those discussions, simply a restatement of the importance of private capital. To coin a phrase, surely the question is “How” as well as “How much”.

On the post 2015 framework itself the Dili Consensus supports the emerging idea of a global set of goals with local targets:
“We support the pursuit of universal aspirational goals at the global level. At the same time, we emphasise that national ownership of the development agenda is imperative. Our national development frameworks must reflect our national priorities and circumstances. They should be aligned with, but not subordinate to global goals”. 
Again this is a welcome reflection of the need to ground approaches in the local context. The fact that the MDGs are unlikely to be met by any conflict affected country illustrates the nonsense of a one-size-fits-all approach. But the danger in proceeding too far down a “national ownership” path without corresponding measures to ensure that citizens can hold governments to account for how they are prioritising what they do with that money – which is conspicuously absent from the Consensus – would be to undermine that state capacity the G7+ argue they need.

In sum, the meeting concluded that the post 2015 framework should seek to address:
“…inclusive economic growth, state effectiveness, peace and justice, …climate change and environmental management.” 
While existing MDG goals on health, education and so forth should continue but be adjusted to be fit for purpose.

A useful meeting, and one which raises a series of important points. You have to hope that they make it into the final draft of the High Level Panel report that will be presented to the UN in April after their final meeting in Bali next month. But most eyes are now on the point at which that baton is passed to the Open Working Group, recently established and now the talk of every official in European Foreign Ministries I've met recently.

To be continued....

Sunday 10 February 2013

UN Peacemaker: coherence in peacebuilding?

A new set of tools has been launched by the UN aimed at supporting what it calls "peacemaking" efforts by UN agencies, Governments and NGOs. I guess we add "peacemaking" to the lexicon of peacebuilding but the interesting thing about this tool is that it seems to be intended as a resource that gets real investment and becomes well used rather than a website where PDFs of reports get uploaded once in a while, as seems to sadly be the case with other well intentioned initiatives.

This might be a valuable contribution to bringing some coherence to peacebuilding approaches between donors, practitioners on the ground and non governmental actors. And if it does that, then it will have made a really useful contribution. The challenge will be the extent to which the international financial institutions are part of that picture, with the World Bank already having launched something similar.

The UN seems to recognise this and describes the challenge:
"The actions of the international community, including the United Nations, regional, subregional and other organizations, States, NGOs, national and local actors, all have an impact on mediation, even if their engagement in a given mediation process may vary. This diversity can be an asset, as each actor can make unique contributions at different stages of a mediation process. But multiplicity also risks actors working at cross-purposes and competing with each other. Different decision-making bodies, political cultures, legal and normative frameworks, levels of resources and financial and administrative rules and procedures will make coherence, coordination and complementarity difficult".
Here's how the UN describes Peacemaker:

UN Peacemaker is an online mediation support tool developed by the Mediation Support Unit (MSU) in the Policy and Mediation Division of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA).

Intended for peacemaking professionals, it includes an extensive database of peace agreements, guidance material and information on the UN’s mediation support services.

UN Peacemaker is part of the UN’s overall effort to provide advice and support to the Secretary-General and his Representatives in their efforts to resolve international disputes and internal conflicts. It is also intended to be useful to UN partners actively engaged in peacemaking efforts, including Member States, regional organisations, civil society, non-governmental organisations and national mediators.

Re-launch in 2012

Initially launched in 2006, UN Peacemaker is the product of a multi-year learning project drawing on DPA’s leadership and experience in peacemaking and preventive diplomacy.

In the summer of 2011, MSU initiated an end-user analysis in partnership with Swisspeace. In order to adapt UN Peacemaker to the emerging needs of the mediation community, MSU undertook a comprehensive overhaul and update of the website, which was re-launched in 2012. UN Peacemaker has one of the most comprehensive databases of peace agreements with an advanced search function.


Intended to support peacemakers in their efforts to manage peace processes and negotiate peace agreements, the website offers key tools and resources such as:
  • A comprehensive database of more than 750 peace agreements.
  • Guidance documents on mediation.
  • Information on UN mediation support activities and services.
  • A library of selected literature on key mediation issues (e.g. power-sharing,
  • wealth-sharing, constitutional issues, mediation processes and strategies etc.).
  • MSU will also be adding video interviews with mediation experts discussing strategies and tactics on how to manage mediation processes and providing guidance on specific themes.
The overhaul of UN Peacemaker was made possible by the generous support of the governments of Canada, Finland, Germany and Ireland.

Current Management

UN Peacemaker is currently managed by MSU in DPA.

Saturday 2 February 2013

IF revelations... embarrassing yes, possibly counterproductive?

Politics is a funny old game. It leads to unexpected alliances and, as we’ve seen in the UK recently, strains among partners.

Now it seems the large aid NGOs have become embroiled in an odd situation, which threatens to fragment the voices on the future of development just at the time when a coherent voice is arguably most needed.

The story seems to be thus: the large BOAG (British Overseas Aid Group) NGOs wanted to launch a campaign this year, which for a long time was widely known informally as “Make Poverty History II” but has since been labelled “If..”, complete with slick marketing materials and a focus on food, using four lenses of tax, land, aid and transparency. They wanted it to be this year in order to dominate the agenda of the UK’s Presidency of the G8, and influence the course of the High Level Panel on post-2015, of which of course the UK Prime Minister is co-chair. But it seems the campaign was actually planned in minute detail with Government officials who thus helped shape the nature of it. Which raises the pretty obvious question of why it is called a “campaign” at all since its primary target has itself helped shape its agenda, and therefore already shares its aims.

This was suspected by a number of organisations who would normally be part of a campaign such as this, but who have decided not to as a result of its perceived closeness to the UK Government. They point to the credit the campaign routinely bestows on David Cameron, and it was a Freedom of Information request from War on Want that obtained documents revealing just how much the campaign was jointly planned. Unsurprisingly the Trades Union movement has largely kept its distance too.

It’s all turned a bit nasty with War on Want criticising what they see as basically a sell-out. They are:
“..particularly concerned that the IF campaign in promoting a false image of David Cameron and the UK government as leading the fight against global hunger, at a time when nothing could be farther from the truth. A number of the aid agencies at the centre of the IF campaign have already praised the UK prime minister for his “leadership role” in holding a hunger event with Mo Farah and other celebrities at the end of the London 2012 Olympics”
Which brings the rather catty response from the IF campaign:
“Let’s acknowledge that when charities start falling out with each other over the organisation of their campaigns, we risk coming across to the public and to policy-makers like the Judean People’s Front arguing with the People’s Front of Judea in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. That’s regrettable”.
Well, yes. But replying to what seems on the face of it to be a fairly legitimate complaint with language like that is probably not going to do much for Judean national unity.

IF had the sort of launch in the House of Commons that lobbyists working in Westminster dream of – a packed room, addressed by each of the main party leaders, and introduced by the Secretary of State for International Development. Which itself took place after an event at Somerset House that wouldn't have looked out of place at a Hollywood awards dinner. Serious cash was splashed. Following the event one of the leaders of the campaign, Brendan Cox said on social media that he thought he’d witnessed the aid industry “shifting from defence to offence”, before jetting off to the High Level Panel on post-2015 in Monrovia.

I have a lot of sympathy for where those behind IF found themselves. Because their real target isn’t actually David Cameron at all – it’s the people who sit behind him, and as we saw farcically last week, are in many cases actively plotting against him. They don’t like this aid agenda one little bit. So the IF campaign is largely about giving Cameron cover from his own side, which is presumably why the Government was so keen to help.

I understand that. Everyone can understand that. But it might be that in flying so close to the sun, and getting their wings burnt by some embarrassing documents, they’ve undermined that central objective already.

Which is a shame.