We must think outside the box in fresh anti-poverty global agenda

Saturday August 08 2015

A slum in Nairobi, where poverty levels remain high. PHOTO | FILE

When Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa completes his one-year tenure as president of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly next month, among the things he will be remembered for is his push for the adoption of the new global anti-poverty agenda.

Over the past year, Mr Kutesa has been pressing for a change of mindset and new means of financing for the action-oriented post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, which are to replace the Millennium Development Goals.

“We need to think outside the box and find alternative means of financing if we want the post 2015 development agenda to be transformative,” he said.

While the MDGs, adopted in the year 2000 helped to reduce poverty rates and inequality, Mr Kutesa, says they failed on most targets because the developing world relied on aid to finance their implementation.

The eight goals sought to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.

It is expected that the three key summits in this calendar year — the Third International Conference on Financing for Development that took place from July 13-16 in Addis Ababa, the UN Summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda due in September in New York, and the COP21 UN Conference on Climate Change due from November 30-December 11 in Paris — will chart a way forward for achieving the 17 SDGs.


However, the “Addis Ababa Action Agenda,” the blueprint adopted at the Addis conference, makes no mention of new resources to fund the investments needed to end poverty by 2030.

READ: Post-2015 anti-poverty agenda: Rich countries stay non-committal

According to Romilly Greenhill, team leader for development finance at the UK-based Overseas Development Institute, while the document does not provide new commitments to increase the share of aid allocated to least developed countries, it is helpful in setting the framework for action.

“It sets out key priorities in terms of financing the sustainable development goals,” said Ms Greenhill at the Addis summit.

Countries will have to look within their own boundaries to mobilise resources by, for example, widening the revenue base, improving tax collection and combating tax evasion and illicit financial flows.

The financing gaps for sustainable development across the globe are daunting.

The UN estimates that in order for the world to surpass the accomplishments of the MDGs by wiping out extreme poverty (defined as the proportion of the population living on less than $1.25 a day), additional financing in the range of $135 billion to $195 billion is required per year, and between $5 and $7 trillion is needed for investments in critical infrastructure. 

For the private sector, especially small and medium enterprises, which form the bulk of the developing world’s businesses, the unmet credit needs are estimated at around $2.5 trillion in developing countries and about $3.5 trillion globally.

“The level of partnership for development will have to be expanded to tap into other resources such as sovereign wealth funds and pension funds to finance long term strategic investments particularly in infrastructure development,” said Mr Kutesa.

“It will also be essential to mainstream private sector and civil society participation, and establish partnerships with other philanthropic organisations.”

The Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Dr Mukhisa Kituyi concurs, saying that for the world to achieve the SDGs, it must deal with impediments such as the lack of infrastructure and financing for SMEs, while working on partnerships and synergies that will deliver growth and end poverty.

“For sub-Saharan Africa to emerge from poverty, it should not just repeat China’s economic miracle of the past 20 years; it must better it in the next 20 years,” he said.

The impact of climate change on the other hand, is critical because it has the potential of reversing the gains made with the MDGs.

Last year, during the Conference of Parties in Lima, Peru Mr Kutesa called for collective political will and financing to address the challenge when the world gathers to craft a legally binding deal in Paris.

“Increasing financing for climate change technologies, including investment in renewable clean technologies, will be critical for many developing countries,” he said.