For first time, SDG and Financing for Development processes meet

At joint negotiations, calls for sub-national and disaggregated data excite urbanists.
Kenyan envoy Macharia Kamau, a co-facilitator of negotiations toward the Sustainable Development Goals, speaks in New York on the first day of joint talks between the SDG and Financing for Development processes, 21 April. (IISD/ENB,

In this busy year for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, two major upcoming and intimately interrelated summits have for the first time linked their negotiations: the Sustainable Development Goals and the Financing for Development process.

The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is slated for a special summit in September in New York, an event that will mark a new era in the global fight against poverty. Two months earlier, in July, the international community will come together in Addis Ababa under what’s known as the Financing for Development (FFD) process. There, a broad spectrum of development actors aims to establish a global financing scheme to pay for the implementation of the SDGs.

Achieving the 17 proposed SDGs will require trillions of dollars in new development spending and aid. In particular, SDG 17, which covers the “means of implementation” for the other 16 goals, is seen by industrialized member states as the eventual outcome of the FFD process. In Addis, then, finance ministers, development banks, multinational corporations, major philanthropies and the rest of the multilateral system will determine how to implement the Post-2015 Development Agenda. (In turn, those decisions will likely lead directly into the New Urban Agenda, to be decided at next year’s Habitat III conference on cities.)

It makes sense that the SDG and FFD processes would eventually come together, an intergovernmental event that finally took place in late April. With such high stakes, however, it is inevitable that not everyone would be on the same page; indeed, at the joint talks, the scope of the FFD process itself remained under debate.

In a dissenting statement, the Group of 77 (G77) developing countries and China urged that the FFD process go beyond mere implementation of the SDGs, as per the vision of many of the industrialized countries. The G77 is instead recommending agreement on financing mechanisms for other development projects in Addis, as well — most notably around climate, which will be the subject of its own U. N. conference in December in Paris. (A related statement from the G77 and China is available here.)

“So far, FFD3 is not paying enough attention to the demonstrated trend of urbanization needs and opportunities.”

Maruxa Cardama
Executive coordinator, Communitas

This fundamental disagreement between the developed and developing world has now prompted three additional negotiating sessions, in May and early June, as the FFD outcome remains hazy in advance of Addis. Niger, speaking for African countries, argued that while the scopes of the FFD process and the SDGs are effectively the same, the former should not be considered the means to implement the latter due to perceived weaknesses in the FFD negotiating text. That text is currently weak on concrete targets and timelines, Niger stated, and is imprecise in identifying roles and responsibilities.

Post-talks analysis by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin highlighted concerns around FFD’s potentially murky outcomes. “With such differing ideas of the identity of [FFD] and its purpose for the post-2015 agenda,” the analysis stated, “many left the four-day meeting without a clear view for how this traditionally difficult cluster of issues would be resolved in the 80 days remaining before … Addis.”

Jennifer Vinas-Forcade, of the Latin American and Caribbean Youth Alliance, summed up civil society frustration with the process during a meeting with stakeholders on the sidelines of the April negotiations. She asked whether delegates had tried to explain the FFD and SDG processes to their families, warning that terms such as “partnership” and “universal agenda” are “empty”.

Sub-national data

For urban watchers, the FFD process has likewise been a slow road, albeit with some bright spots. “So far, FFD3 is not paying enough attention to the demonstrated trend of urbanization needs and opportunities,” says Maruxa Cardama, the executive coordinator and co-founder of Communitas, the Coalition for Sustainable Cities and Regions in the new U. N. Development Agenda.

However, for those invested in the debate over sub-national data for the SDG indicators, repeated calls for investment in the capacity of national statistical offices have been welcome. During the April joint negotiations, several groups — the NGO Restless Development, the regional government of Catalonia, and envoys from Japan and the United Kingdom — all made strong statements in support, suggesting broad backing for strengthened national-level capacity.

Another common refrain also bodes well for urban advocates. A global “technology facilitation mechanism” (TFM) remains the major incomplete objective of Rio+20, the summit that ignited the SDG process, and many countries are now calling for the Addis Ababa summit to set aside funding for that purpose.

A TFM could potentially bolster efforts to equip national governments with geospatial monitoring capacity, a key tool for successfully gauging the impact of the SDGs, once they start to be implemented. This is especially important for place-based goals and targets such as Goal 11, the urban SDG.

Overall, Cardama hopes for a broader recognition of cities’ role in the financing process. “Member states should note that good urbanization can be an endogenous source of finance by creating economic activity and redirecting investment toward equality, sustainability and resiliency,” she said.

Note: For additional Citiscope reporting on debate around financing powers for local-level authorities in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, please see here and here. Correction: This report has updated the explanation of the stance of the G77 plus China around the scope of the FFD talks.

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