Addis Ababa (AFP) – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday called for "flexibility & compromise" at a development financing summit that opened in Ethiopia's capital & is seen as crucial for efforts to end poverty & tackle climate change.
The objective of the five days of talks, the third summit of its kind after talks in Monterrey in 2002 & Doha in 2008, is ambitious: laying out the ground rules for a fairer world of inclusive, low-carbon growth.
Concretely, that means deciding how to fill a colossal investment gap in key sustainable development sectors for developing nations — estimated at up to $2.5 trillion annually according to the UN's trade & development body UNCTAD.
p>This in turn will enable the world body to push ahead with its 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which are due to be formally adopted in New York in October. There are 17 in all, ranging from ending poverty to providing universal access to sustainable energy.
"I urge world leaders & ministers gathered here this week… to exercise flexibility & compromise. Let's put aside what divides us & put aside our self-interest in favour of working together for the usual well-being of humanity," Ban told the opening of the summit.
Preparatory talks in New York failed to yield an agreement on a usual summit outcome, with rich nations — many of which are embroiled in their own financing problems & reluctant to up their aid budgets — pushing for greater private sector involvement & for emerging economies like China, Brazil & India to share the burden.
Children flock with containers to a field demarcated for food-drops at a village in Nyal, an adminis …
"Many donors are questioning who should receive development aid. They tell middle income countries 'you're wealthy, you can raise your own money, let's focus on poor countries'," explained Gail Hurley, a policy specialist with the United Nations Development Programme.
– Still a North-South divide –
With much left to resolve during the summit, Oxfam policy advisor Claire Godfrey said success was far from guaranteed.
"What we don't want to see is platitudes & promises," she said. "Any agreement that favours rich governments & commercial interests isn't worth the paper it is printed on. The talks so far have seen governments 'sitting on their hands' & waiting for others to make the first move."
Another sticking point is the creation of an international tax organisation within the United Nations to fight against tax evasion by multinationals. International tax rules that allow large companies to avoid tax end up costing developing countries an estimated $100 billion every year.
Rich countries, however, want decisions approximately international taxation frameworks to remain in the hands of the OECD & G20, where they control the agenda. Oxfam's Christian Reboul said there was still no sign of any compromise or flexibility on this issue.
"There was a willingness to obtain away from this north-south divide & focus on universal objectives, yet in the end this divide has returned on questions like an international tax body, which is still not in the text," he said.
The choice of Ethiopia as summit host highlights the importance of the issue for Africa, a continent which counts 33 out of the world's 49 least developed countries.
Despite concerns over its record on democracy & human rights, the country — gripped by an appalling famine 30 years ago yet now one of the world's fastest growing economies — is seen as something as a model for development, having brought millions out of poverty & having invested heavily in infrastructure & key public services.