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Financing for Development (FFD): Myths and Realities

PAI and the rest of the global development community are putting our efforts into developing a bold new framework for global development, called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is currently a target under two of the SDGs. It needs to be maintained in both places, and measured through strong indicators.

How the SRH targets—and the entire SDG framework—will be financed is another question. The third Financing for Development (FFD) conference this year will hold some of the answers, but there are a lot of misconceptions about FFD’s promise. Let’s look at what FFD is, and what it is not.

FFD: Reality

Financing for Development is a United Nations process to bring countries together around a common framework for global financing. The third conference on FFD will be held July 13-16 in Addis Ababa, at the UN’s Economic Commission headquarters. The Addis Ababa Accord being negotiated from now through July covers the same issues addressed in SDG 17: “the global partnership for sustainable development.” It includes finance-related topics, such as domestic resource mobilization and official development assistance; as well as technology, capacity building, trade, and systemic issues. But FFD covers a broader range of financing topics like remittances, measuring economic output, responsible sovereign lending, etc. What the SDGs briefly touch on in two pages, FFD’s draft Addis Accord does (and a lot more) in 25 pages.

Given these overlaps, the SDG and FFD tracks are anticipated to formally converge in the coming weeks. If this happens, the SDG means of implementation (MOI) will essentially be negotiated as part of the FFD process culminating in Addis this July. The FFD negotiations will get a lot more important to a wider group of stakeholders.

Based on the latest draft Addis Ababa Accord, we can hope to see affirmations of the responsibilities of governments to provide public funds for social services, donors need to target official development assistance (ODA) to where it is most needed. If we’re lucky we’ll see a strong reference to the age-old commitment of donors to provide 0.7 percent of their gross national income to ODA, with a follow-up commitment to target countries most in need. A Civil Society on FFD group is working hard to keep CSOs meaningfully engaged in the negotiations. And the Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development is pushing for strong commitments to policies and financing for gender equality and women and girls’ human rights.

The launch of the Global Financing Facility for RMNCAH alongside the FFD Conference is the reason most colleagues in the reproductive health community have heard FFD. The latest draft Addis Ababa Accord celebrates the GFF’s multi-stakeholder approach using ODA to catalyze additional public and private investment. While the attention to the GFF and therefore RMNCAH is welcome, many (including PAI) are still cautiously optimistic about GFF’s promise.

The Myth

What we will not see coming out of the FFD process is a specific, measurable, time-bound framework for financing or implementing the SDGs. In other words, FFD will not cost-out the SDGs, and then identify the sources of funds to fill the gaps and provide a monitoring framework to make sure it happens.

It is also very unlikely that we will see a specific reference to addressing SRH needs in the Addis Ababa outcome document. The FFD process does not address “sectoral” issues like health, much less SRH. But in promoting women and girls’ human rights, FFD can be used to promote SRH as part of a set of priorities at the country level. Advocacy efforts may make it possible that we will get a reference to the ICPD, or the word reproductive health in the Addis Ababa Accord, but FFD is not the place for a strong reaffirmation of sexual and reproductive health rights. The SDGs is the right place for SRH.

What is at Stake?

FFD may not be the absolute answer to where the money for the SDGs will come from, it is still important because it will define the agenda for funding development (including SRH) for the coming decade. But the Addis meeting will set the tone for the SDGs: If the FFD negotiations fail and the Addis Ababa Accord is weak, it will hurt the chances for a strong financing and implementation framework for the SDGs. In a worst-case scenario, a breakdown in Addis could upset the entire SDG outcome. So while the payoffs of engaging in FFD are not huge for SRH, the cost of not engaging is. In the process, we get the chance to advance women’s rights and global development.


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