ACORD Learning Forum 3-4 Oct. 2013
Event location: Lake Elementaita, Kenya
Runs: From 3rd Oct 2015 to 4th Oct 2015
Topic: Post 2015 Development Framework: the Role of African Citizens in Determining and Shaping the Framework, its Financing and Implementation
The learning forum is a key component of ACORD's governance. It is the vehicle through which ACORD seeks to strengthen wider Stakeholder accountability. It brings together ACORD's partners, Pan African CSOs, governments, the donor community, beneficiaries and like-minded actors from in and outside the continent. The learning forum entails discussions around a specific topic of relevance to the African continent and links especially to ACORD's programming. Consequently, the outcomes of the learning forum are expected to inform or influence ACORD's programming.
To date, ACORD has organized three very successful learning forums. For the 2010 learning forum, the topic of discussion was "The role of civil society organizations and the challenges of peace and security and consolidating peace in Africa." The 2011 learning forum discussion was "From Aid Effectiveness to Development Effectiveness: The role of civil society in ensuring ‘democratic ownership' for sustainable development and social justice". For last year's learning Forum, ACORD selected the "post 2015 development framework process" as a topic for its learning forum. The Topic of discussion then was "The Future We Want For Africa: The Post 2015 Framework, How Inclusive is the process and content"?
As per ACORD's governance manual, after three learning forums, the next forum will be combined with a donor roundtable. The first combined learning forum and donor roundtable were held in 2010 as ACORD entered its current strategic period and were organized back to back with ACORD's annual assembly meeting. Rather than organize two separate back to back events for this year's learning forum and donor roundtable, we are proposing a two day's partnership event with broad participation of different stakeholder groups, including donors, both traditional and potential. These are donors that share ACORD's vision of ensuring that the voices of poor people must be brought to the forefront of global processes and promote civic driven change (CDC) as the methodology of ensuring that citizens themselves are the agents of change and actors of their own development; their ability to take action on the causes of poverty through determining and shaping local/global processes that affect them is what will transform Africa's future.
Given the continual prominence of the post 2015 agenda process globally and the leadership role that ACORD has played to facilitate the African CSOs' voice in this process on the continent, ACORD envisages linking citizens and the voices of the poor to this process, especially the constituencies ACORD works with. Hence, the topic "The Post 2015 Framework: The Role of African Citizens in Determining and Shaping the Framework, its Financing and Implementation" for this year's learning Forum/donor roundtable discussions.
Lessons from the Past: MDG Successes and Failures
After the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted, dozens of developing-country planning ministries, hundreds of international agencies and thousands of civil society organizations (CSOs) rallied behind them. Together, they have contributed to remarkable achievements; half a billion fewer people in extreme poverty; about three million children's lives saved each year. Four out of five children now get vaccinated for a range of diseases. Maternal mortality gets the focused attention it deserves. Deaths from malaria have fallen by one-quarter. Contracting HIV is no longer an automatic death sentence due to availability of ART as well as related care and support services. In 2011, 590 million children in developing countries - a record number - enrolled in primary school. This unprecedented progress was driven by a combination of economic growth, government policies, civil society engagement and the global commitment to the MDGs .
Despite these glowing tributes to the current MDGs by the High Level Panel (HLP) of Eminent Persons on the post 2015 agenda process, it is common knowledge that the MDGs were written by a small, elite group of UN insiders. Consequently, when it comes to drafting the successor framework this has meant that there is little chance of replicating the closed-door approach, which prevailed in the designing and drafting of the original MDGs. Furthermore, the MDGs have been accused of being a donor-led agenda and paid little attention to local context; of missing out on crucial human dimensions of develop¬ment such as cli¬mate change, the quality of education, human rights (women's rights remain a major concern), economic growth, infrastructure, good governance, fragility and security; of inadequately addressing global systemic issues such as trade, financial flows, and tax; and of neglecting the poorest and most vulnerable in measuring progress at the national and global levels where there is a risk that some people will fall through the net, just to mention a few.
What lessons and future framework for Africa?
Scholars such as William Easterly have attested that "Sub Saharan Africa stands out in that it will not meet ANY of the MDGs" . Those in the MDG Campaign have often claimed that with the current course "Africa will miss all the MDGs". Other remarks include those from the UN World Summit Declaration 2005, that "Africa....is the only continent not on track to meet any of the goals of the Millennium Declaration by 2015" . The Blair Commission for Africa in its communiqué in 2007 declared that "sub Saharan Africa is the only region, at current rates, that will meet none of the MDG targets by 2015."
In an attempt to explain these claims, Easterly asserts that the MDGs are unfair to Africa. The MDGs are poorly and arbitrarily designed to measure progress against poverty and deprivation, and their design makes Africa look worse than it really is. He argues that Africa has not performed well in all areas but its relative performance is better given the particular manner in which the MDG targets were set. Easterly continues to argue that even high growth in Africa is labeled a failure because it doesn't reduce poverty enough to meet this arbitrary Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty by 50 percent. Africa has to have higher growth than other developing regions to attain the same level of poverty reduction in percentage terms. So this means that due to unfair comparisons, what is successful in Africa it is deemed a failure in light of the MDGs, and that is going to be the argument for all the MDGs.
Africa has actually been growing at 5 to 6 percent since the year 2000. Everybody agrees this is one of the best periods in Africa's history, if not the best, of growth. This is great growth. Yet, the Blair panel says this growth is far short of this 7 percent annual growth that needs to be sustained to make substantial inroads into poverty reduction. They were thinking of the percentage change in poverty. The World Bank and the IMF in the Global Monitoring Report ratchet the required growth in Africa to meet this arbitrary percentage change in poverty target even higher. Easterly concludes that there have been a lot of African achievements in development that have been downplayed by the design of the Millennium Development Goals exercise. Whatever the arguments, in recent years, civil society discussions have focused on the need for a change in the predominant development paradigm, and for a radically new global framework post-2015, recognizing that a more transformative agenda is needed in the face of growing climate change, financial and food insecurity which undermines progress towards poverty eradication. Civil society discussions have been clear that the development of a post-2015 global agenda must not repeat the shortcomings of the MDGs - the process must be participatory, inclusive and responsive to the voices of those directly affected by poverty and injustice. An effective framework will only come out of a process that has been truly inclusive and empowered poor and vulnerable people have participate fully in its design.
The post 2015 agenda process: the role of ACORD and its constituencies
The 2010 MDG summit in New York renewed commitments to achieve MDGs and requested the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) to review progress and recommend (by September 2013) further steps to advance the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015. The Rio+20 Summit in June 2012 ended with a commitment to ensure a coherent and integrated process to prepare sustainable development goals as a core pillar of the Post 2015 framework. The UN Secretary General therefore called for a successor framework that is bold but practical. To avoid a repeat of the MDGs process, there was consensus that the post 2015 agenda process must be inclusive, open & transparent with multi-stakeholder participation, to take stock and encourage contributions from a wide range of stakeholders; governments, CSOs, private sector, media, academics, trade unions, workers etc.
As part of the process of promoting a mutually owned development process, the UNSG named a UN High Level Panel (HLP) of 26 eminent persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda with three co-chairs including Her Excellency President Johnson Sirleaf of the Republic of Liberia. This panel included four Africans as members, and was tasked with accelerating the implementation of the existing MDGs set to expire in 2015 and lead in a consultative process towards drafting a new set of global development goals.
Our Gains So far
For the African continent, ACORD and other African CSOs advocated for a post 2015 agenda process that is strongly informed by African voices and experiences. ACORD has also been advocating for civic driven change (CDC) as the best methodology for the inclusion of citizen's voices in the post 2015 agenda process. Given ACORD's credibility of working with the most marginalized and hard to reach communities on the continent, ACORD assumed a leadership role and has been providing intellectual leadership to approximately 300 African CSOs working on the post 2015 agenda process. To ensure that the process does not become purely UN and that voices of the ordinary African citizens are taken into consideration in the new framework, ACORD seized the opportunity of establishing an African CSO Secretariat to support and influence President Sirleaf and her government and UN led Secretariat. ACORD also led in the formation of a small African working group (AWG) to support the Head of the African CSO Secretariat in the CSO outreach activities in the HLP meetings in Monrovia and Bali in January and March 2013 respectively.
Earlier this year (2013) ACORD also co-hosted, alongside United Nations Millennium Campaign Africa (UNMCA), Tax Justice Network- Africa, Third World Network (TWN) and Christian Aid, two important roundtables held in Johannesburg, South Africa. These roundtables sought to address two crucial issues for Africa; how the new framework can be designed to help achieve structural change in African economies, and how the transformative change envisioned in a new framework will be financed. Underlying both discussions was the idea that despite some impressive growth rates, Africa faces increasing inequality, unemployment and poverty, and therefore, a new framework must provide the tools and incentives to achieve inclusive growth. This will require a transformational approach to economic change, a major shifting of African economies away from low-value addition commodity-dependent growth, and to productive, job-creating growth, and a public-finance system that can fund social development. Africa is rich with resources and can rely less on official development aid (ODA) and other forms of tied aid to fund the new framework. Africa needs to stamp out practices of corruption and tax evasion. This will call for credible mechanisms of domestic resource mobilization (DRM) at the national level that would ensure fair and just systems of taxation, equal distribution of revenues from natural resources and especially from extractive industries.
Besides the programmatic and learning gains for ACORD from our engagement in the post 2015 agenda process to date, it is also worth mentioning the visibility, the recognition of ACORD as a Pan African actor and leader and the networking for new alliances/partnerships that ACORD has earned through this process.
The HLP report was released on May 31st, 2013. Almost immediately, ACORD issued a press release that was shared with stakeholders within and beyond the continent including 124 journalists based in Africa (East and West Africa), UK, France and North America. In the press release, ACORD, which works with marginalized communities across Africa, welcomed the boldness of the report and was particularly pleased with its emphasis on the adoption of the ‘leave no one behind' principle, most prominent is the recommendation that no target is considered met unless it has been achieved amongst specific social and economic groups. ACORD also welcomed the commitment to gender equality and women's rights, including the bold commitment to end violence against women (VAW) by 2030. Ranking the goal on women and girls second after the goal on ending poverty demonstrates the level of commitment by the HLP. However, whereas we appreciate the ‘hits' in the report, we must also appreciate the fact that the report has enormous ‘misses` in both the narrative and goals that need highlighting.
For instance, in terms of inclusive growth, the lack of focus on income inequality is very problematic. The UN global consultation on inequalities in a post-2015 framework found that countries with higher inequalities, and those where inequalities are growing, face a worsening in existing fragilities and vulnerabilities, such as conflict, natural disasters, weakening social cohesion and insecurity . The political turbulence and conflict in North Africa and the Middle East region over recent years has largely been found in states where growth had been strong but where inequalities endured or increased. Inequality also has a strong impact on the achievement of growth with poverty reduction: high and growing inequality correlates with a reduction in the pace and sustainability of growth, reducing productive potential of citizens and their potential to contribute to growth . Recent projections analysing if poverty levels below $1.25 a day can be eliminated by 2030 concluded that it largely depends on reductions in inequality .
But perhaps the biggest ‘miss' in the HLP report is the total lack of ‘true inclusion' of the grassroots, the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in the process. This ‘miss' is very much apparent in the report. The report treats citizens and their needs as subjects and not as active participants that needed to be consulted on priorities. This neglect does not auger well with the principle of ‘leave no one behind'. The UN, through its global survey, my world, which seeks to reach out to at least 2 million people on their priorities for a post-2015 agenda has focused primarily at the national level priorities and has not reached out to the hard to reach areas and marginalized people of the continent. Furthermore it relies on a simple box-ticking exercise to highlight issues, without delving deeper into the values and aspirations of communities and how they would like to see change happen, and with no plans on how to more intensively involve them in the design of policy and its implementation. Correlated to the issue of design, is the question of the nature of the causal relationship between growth and inclusiveness. The report addresses this causality by asserting that inclusiveness is an important measure of growth. What would the design of the targets look like if we incorporated the understanding that gains in inclusiveness can be instrumental for growth?
In anticipation of the shortfall in consultations at grassroots' level, ACORD has been conducting online national CSO consultations and community-level grassroots consultations in the countries where it works, seeking to hear from the African CSOs and grassroots what the hopes and aspirations of citizens are, learn about the realities they face, and detail the changes they want to see. The analysis of the data from these consultations is currently on-going. Furthermore, ACORD Kenya has just embarked on an in-depth grassroots consultations in a number of counties in Kenya in order to bring additional input into the analysis. The outcomes of all of these consultations will inform the next steps/directions of ACORD's involvement in the post 2015 agenda process. Furthermore, since the HLP report is no longer open to feedback, ACORD seeks to identify spaces globally and in the continent, to champion the strengths of the report, but also to challenge its weaknesses and to propose how the new framework can address the most important issues facing communities on the continent; based on the outcomes of its analysis of the grassroots consultations. Such emerging spaces include: The Open Working Group, the African Union High Level Panel Committee, as well as our own advocacy work with the AU, regional bodies, national governments and local communities.
It is for this reason therefore that ACORD has decided to share the outcomes of the national and grassroots level consultations on the post 2015 framework priorities with ACORD staff and Assembly members, partners and donors during this year's partnership event (learning forum/donor roundtable). Participants will hear firsthand from citizens' voices on what their priorities will be for the successor framework. Linked to this rich data from ACORD's areas of work will be two presentations addressing some of the most fundamental debates on the post 2015 framework; notably ‘inclusive growth from an African perspective' and ‘aid and financing development'.
The Objectives of the event
1. To share firsthand community voices from ACORD's areas of work on their priorities for the post 2015 framework and their role in determining what kind of framework for the continent.
2. To share an analytical analysis of ‘inclusive growth and aid and financing development' from an African perspective and their impact on the successor framework and the African citizenry.
3. To discuss financing of the post 2015 agenda bearing in mind that such an agenda will be a global one and partnership would be the preferred modality thereof
4. To demonstrate the link between the post 2015 framework priorities and ACORD programming priorities.
5. To jointly develop a road map for ACORD and partners in their future involvement in the post 2015 agenda process and agree on the emerging spaces of influence in the continent and globally.
Download list of speakers and their profiles.
1. A shared analysis of the community voices on the same priorities from 10 of ACORD's countries of programming
2. A thorough understanding of the role of the African citizenry in determining the new framework
3. An enhanced understanding of the discourse on inclusive growth and financing development, especially in relation to the new framework
4. A clear understanding of donors priorities in the post 2015 framework and it impact on the African continent
5. A clear road map of ACORD's involvement in the post 2015 agenda process and spaces for influencing