UN Financing for Development Conference Update

Rethinking Bretton Woods | Thu, Jan 24, 2002

By Aldo Caliari

The Center of Concern continues to follow the preparatory process leading to the UN Financing for Development (FFD) conference, scheduled to take place March, 2002, in Monterrey, Mexico, a meeting that should promote the people-centered development central to Catholic social teaching. The Second Session of the 3rd Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting for that conference took place last October 15-19.At this PrepCom, the delegates discussed a Draft Outcome document prepared by the Facilitator, Mauricio Escanero. The ten-page document attempted to reflect areas of agreement reached so far and to propose a series of measures aimed at making globalization work for all. In doing so, it took note of many of the concerns raised by developing countries and civil society during the process to date. However, the draft was met with dissatisfaction on the part of several developed countries and flatly rejected by the U.S. government. By the end of the PrepCom, the Facilitator was entrusted with the task of making a new draft that reconciles the different views expressed by the delegates during the PrepCom. The draft should be completed by late November and will be considered at the Fourth (and last) PrepCom, January 14-25, 2002. Despite the encouraging fact that Mr. Escanero remains in office, it is clear that his ability to address what developing countries and civil society perceive as the most significant obstacles to development financing will now be significantly restricted. Nonetheless, it should not be forgotten that the FFD conference is only one more step in a long road that started with the UN global conferences of the '90s and that it remains one of the few fora (besides the streets) where civil society can coalesce to promote an alternative and holistic view of development. Indeed, FFD can launch some important initiatives that begin or continue ongoing processes with a potentially meaningful impact on the international economic system. Relentless support and advocacy from civil society will be needed on the road from here to March, 2002 in order to reframe the terms of the debate, hold countries accountable to the commitments they had undertaken in the conferences in the '90s, and take full advantage of the potential of the process to generate recommendations that could continue building momentum for relevant changes. Three main themes seemed to drive the U.S. position at the conference. First, the U.S. delegation said that the need to seek consensus on an outcome document might stall ""potentially powerful ideas"" and be useless to address ""actual development challenges."" In doing so, the U.S. position denied the usefulness and potential of an inclusive debate in order to arrive at solutions for collective problems. Thereby it downplayed, at the international level, the democratic values that, domestically, are deemed to be at the root of the strength of the American society. Second, the U.S. delegation clearly stated that it is not going to negotiate changes in the system since it ""serves too many countries, too well."" Thereby, the U.S. negotiators rejected the drafts acknowledgement of the existence of shortcomings in the system, including the evident increasing polarization between haves and have-nots and the impact of the imbalances and asymmetries of the international economic system on poor countries' chances to develop. Third, although the FFD process is taking place at the UN, where participation of every country on an equal footing is the ride, the U.S. delegation called into question the legitimacy of the FFD process to address the reform of the public institutions that currently drive the international economic system, like the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO. While commending the ""marvelous dialogue and cooperation"" that so far has taken place between those actors and the UN in the FFD process, the U.S. made clear that demands that threaten their mandates or governance structures might drive them away from the process. It seems to be the U.S. view that the financial and trade institutions are participating in the process only to bring their expertise, but that no issues related to their own policies are in need of being addressed. Such a view ignores the strong backlash against those institutions in developing countries and the street protests that are becoming a consistent feature of their periodic meetings. Coming in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the U.S. delegation's position is all the more worrisome. It shows a U.S. government adamant on keeping unilateralist practices in the international arena and unwilling to rethink any of the economic policies that, by generating global poverty and exclusion, feed anti-U.S. sentiments around the world. The Center of Concern, in partnership with Interaction, will continue to do advocacy around the Conference. For CoC's latest FFD updates and analytical materials, including commentary on the Facilitator's draft text, check For more information on the FFD Conference, check here.