Once again, 2014 demonstrated the fact that underdevelopment and poverty in large swathes of the world produce a range of intensifying crises that know no borders. These included the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and spiraling terrorism in the Middle East and west and east Africa. The recognition of a strong mutual interest in dampening and resolving these crises between wealthy and poorer nations has been a key driver of international development cooperation. Unfortunately, this ethos is under threat at the United Nations from a number of sources. These include lingering effects of the economic crisis of 2008, the shift to the right in western politics and, ironically, the lack of common history, empathy and experience with global development cooperation particularly among former soviet bloc countries from Eastern Europe.
At a time when global development cooperation is under profound pressure, and when the kind of visionary development cooperation that followed WWII is sorely needed, a mean spiritedness and isolationist tendency has crept into the debate on international cooperation and the global fight against poverty.
This inward looking approach will fail all of us. There are no walls high enough to hold out the consequences of a world filled with the poor and marginalized who lack hope and who are preyed on by illiberal ideas and forces. Most countries are working hard to pull themselves up by their bootstraps through domestic resources, entrepreneurship and hard earned savings. But further support is required; after all, most wealthy countries today had a helping hand up from a richer security or trading partner in the form of a former colonial master, preferential trade agreements, foreign direct investment, shared ideas and/or technology transfer.
The recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed at the UN in July 2014, have signaled that the world today needs a healthy balance between economic, social and environmental development and that economic progress must be balanced with greater equality between people, climate effects and biodiversity loss. Equally importantly the SDGs have shown that international cooperation and global partnerships are the only way to this balance. No one country or group of countries can go it alone. Moreover this balance can only be secured in a world that respects the rule of law and promotes equality not only within countries but between countries as well.
Having agreed on the SDGs the UN is now committed to design the Agenda that will help coordinate the implementation of SDGs and secure the resources to do so. 2015 is a crucial year. The Financing for Development Conference (Ffd) slated for July 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will be one of the most important steps in this process. The conference will seek to identify and help avail the trillions of dollars required for financing the SDGs. It will provide the center piece for the post 2015 Development Agenda. Without it, there will be no Agenda and global effort to stem climate change, halt biodiversity loss and embrace the hopes of billions of people to be pulled from under the yoke of poverty and corrosive ideas will be laid waste, just when a truly transformative future is coming into sight.
With the Millennium Development Goals of 2000 hundreds of millions of people were pulled out of abject poverty in the past fifteen years but, sadly, billions more remained mired in it or at its margins. The old paradigm of multilateral development cooperation reliant on aid and humanitarian assistance, whist still relevant and useful, has reached its limits and needs to be supplemented by a more extensive and robust model of global development cooperation and investment that is fully financed, transformative, universal, equitable and sustainable. The post 2015 Development Agenda will sketch the way to that model but the Ffd conference must succeed and provide the means for its implementation if the Agenda is to see the light of day.