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Hope and despair as the Civil Society Forum on Financing for Development kicks off

Civil society is determined to influence the outcome of the Third UN International Financing for Development (FfD3) Conference, which will be concluded next week in Addis Ababa. There is, however, great concern as most critical issues raised by civil society have been removed from the Conference's draft outcome document.
Bakar Khamis
12.7.2015

More than 600 members of civil society across the globe are participating in the Civil Society Forum that started yesterday in Addis Abeba in Ethiopia. The main agenda is to discuss and strategize ways of ensuring that the Addis outcome document contains actionable commitments which will lead to transformative changes to bring about sustainable development. As the forum started, members were urged to speak about values and aspirations and present concrete proposals.

"There is still room for influence as much of the content is not conclusive, but we need to engage in the process with clear and concise messages", said a representative of the Women’s Group during the opening plenary.

The General Secretary of the FfD3-conference reiterated the need for CSOs to continue engaging in the process as negotiations will continue amidst stiff competion due to diverse intrests of UN member states. He also emphasized the role of civil society in promoting sustainable development.

"Civil society has been active in pushing governments to set up a more transformative agenda and they have been successful. Member states have stepped up efforts to support poor countries [...]The UN needs civil society support now and forever," the FfD3 Secretary General said.

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However, CSOs are concerned that the level of ambition has been extremely disappointing and generally problematic. Forum members pointed out that the draft 'Addis Agenda for Action' has been diluted and is devoid of critical issues including women’s rights and empowerment. The commitment to establish a new UN intergovernmental tax body has been left out and the pact is biased towards the private sector and public private partnership. There is for example no ambitious commitment to the UN Principles on Business and Human Rights.

African CSOs warned about the shrinking space and operational environment for civil society in many African countries. The current situation in Africa is rather alarming as governments have moved from aggressive means to using more sophisticated policy measures to control and squeeze the space for civil society to operate. A representative from the Ugandan NGOs Forum reminded that if we want to achieve sustainable development in Africa there is a need to strengthen state accountability to citizens. The current draft outcome document is blind in committing governments to respect the rights of civil society and in providing an enabling evironment for them to operate independently.

The discussion continued in thematic tracks to concretize CSOs asks that would form a joint civil society declaration to be presented to the conference opening plenary on Monday.

At the moment there is no certainty about what the outcome of the FfD3-conference will look like.