10 September 2011

Will Busan and Rio+20 Change Anything?

I was at the German Development Institute yesterday, presenting on “5 things to do by 2015 to accelerate hunger reduction”. Those of you who are regular readers will not be surprised by the content of my talk:

(1) build political commitment (don’t wait for it to magically materialise)—I shared some of the results from our Hunger Reduction Commitment Index work (showing Germany as 11th out of 22 donor countries)

G2) spend more public funding on agriculture (donors have only met 22% of their L’Aquila commitments and the deadline is 2012; and only 7 of 25 signatories of the CAADP target of 10% of government expenditure on agriculture have made that target with another 13 countries in the 5-10% range)

(3) focus money, energy, innovation on realising the “critical triangle” of more food production, hunger reduction and sustainability (with resilience—the ability of the food system to perform these 3 functions under shocks and stress—being in the middle of the triangle)

(4) dramatically improve cross-government coherence (e.g. does it matter if a country focuses its ODA well on hunger if it supports the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU?) (the UK scores poorly on this from our Hunger Reduction Commitment work)

(5) use 21st Century metrics: get estimates of hunger (not food production); be nimble about assessing hunger (using mobile technologies) and embed the critical triangle in the metrics (e.g. food production by hunger reduced by CO2 emitted).

The conference--well organised by Dirk Messner and his team at GDI around the theme “Rio+20: Planet Under Stress”-- was a good mix of greyhairs and those early in their careers. It touched on a number of interesting points:

• Will Rio+20 in April 2012 mark a paradigm shift as Rio did back in 1992 (did it?) or will it just be ensuring that we properly follow through on the 1992 agenda? The audience of 200 was pretty split on this.

• Is the focus of the rich countries on climate adaptation simply a form of displacement activity when they should be dealing with the much harder (politically for them) issue of mitigation where there will have to be real change in the intensity of resource use of voters

• Will Busan (the meeting in November 2011 to take stock of aid effectiveness) get to grips with the new pluralistic landscape in the ODA world (foundations, philanthropists, person to person giving, and new aid programmes in India and Russia)?

• Should the DAC aid effectiveness framework and commitments apply to new forms of aid (such as climate finance) and even more controversially to emerging forms of development resources such as tax revenues (apparently tax revenues in Africa amount to $440/person compared to $40/person for ODA)? Again, there was some division on these Busan questions.

I would like to see 3 “practical” but symbolically important things emerge post-Rio+20 and post-Busan:

• Ditching the old metrics on growth and consumption and replacing them with items (or at least denominators) that measure the intensity of resource use and carbon emissions

• Ditching the terms “developed” and “developing” countries and replacing them with new terms such as “sustainable developing countries” and “developing countries” to stress the work that the richer countries have to do. Germany might be in the former category and the USA and China in the latter (although strictly speaking no countries can be classified as sustainable developing countries if the collective action failure on emissions continues)

• Begin to think about replacing “aid programmes” and Ministries of Development with “Ministries of Global Development” which bring together international and global elements of business, climate, security and aid together under one roof, apply aid effectiveness indicators to all of it, and use these new ministries as building blocks for international agreements on global public goods.

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