2005 World Summit: Sustainable Development Remains Central in the International Development Agenda

Source: Sustainability Watch, Press Release

Kampala, Uganda- Despite taking half-hearted and lukewarm steps towards speeding up implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to eradicate poverty, the 2005 World Summit held last week in the United Nations Headquarters in New York has reinforced sustainable development, says Sustainability Watch network.

At the current pace and trend, at least 50 developing countries with a total population of some 900 million will not even reach one out of the 7 MDGs by 2015. Many of these developing countries depend on aid from Official Development Assistance (ODA) to achieve the MDGs. Moreover, this comes in the light of the fact that while the average income per capita in rich countries increased 6.070 US dollars since 1990, the ODA aid has decreased 30% in the last 15 years.

“The impact on the poor could have been worse”, says Happy James Tumwebaze, coordinator of Sustainability Watch, a network of non governmental and civil society organizations in 18 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, “as the Summit in general affirms that free trade and economic growth should remain the driving force for development”.

Tumwebaze also explains that “although the (Final Outcome Document) text is not as strong as we had hoped, it contains key elements supportive of sustainable development which can still reinforce the international development agenda in the right direction, especially with sustained civil society monitoring and advocacy with our governments and international cooperation among various development players.”

“Whereas the Draft Outcome Document of June 5 contained only two references to sustainable development, the Final Outcome Document contains 25 such references. This is a major victory”, says Teresa Flores, the Latin American Sustainability Watch Regional Facilitator. Some highlights of the text include the commitment to “promote the integration of the three components of sustainable development” as “interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars”.

However, the Outcome Document also places sustained economic growth equally side by side with poverty reduction and sustainable development. Reference to market-oriented policies outweighs the light reference to equitable sharing of resources, fair trade, and rights to development.

The good news is that “environment-poverty linkages have been affirmed in the outcome document. Sustainability Watch believes that such a framework is crucial for sustainable development especially if and only if it is properly linked with targets on MDG 8 targets on Global Partnership for Development. “We should further develop this as a mechanism for local monitoring of MDGs to assess sustainability” says Roy Cabonegro, Asian Sustainability Watch Regional Facilitator.

Also, Sustainability Watch welcomes the only target on sustainable development agreed in the Outcome Document: By 2006, all countries should adopt and implement comprehensive national development strategies to achieve the internationally agreed development goals and objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“National planning processes should therefore integrate environmental sustainability into the existing national sustainable development strategies and plans, poverty reduction strategies and should be reflected in the national planning and budgeting processes”, says Happy James Tumwebaze.

“Despite Asia’s fast economic growth in general, the real income poverty picture is not conclusive due to lack of data. With what we have, the 2005 Asia Pacific Regional MDG report showing that there are some improvements. However, the distribution of this poverty reduction has been uneven. These achievements may have already been negated with Asian countries registering sharp increase in income inequality according to the 2005 UN report, The World Social Situation: The Inequality Predicament. Worst, environmental sustainability has clearly been sacrificed over economic growth as MDG 7 targets have been one of the most off tracked among Asian countries according to the 2004 regional MDG report”, says Roy Cabonegro.

The shortfalls

Sustainability Watch notes the following shortfalls in the Outcome Document:

  • Aid. The MDGs will not be met if only a few rich countries agree to immediately meeting the 0.7% of GNP target for Official Development Assistance. Only the European Union promised 0,54% GNP by 2010 and 0,7% by 2015. It is inexcusable that rich countries require another 10 years to implement an agreement that is already 35 years overdue. The rest of the rich countries must follow the EU lead.
  • Trade. Trade has been the major cause of environmental degradation and natural resources depletion. Global trade must incorporate environmental and social concerns, and this is not reflected in the Outcome Document. Another major setback is that references to “all agricultural export subsidies”, and the “full realization of the development mandate of the Doha” round were not included. Also, weak commitments to confront the serious flaws of the current multilateral trading regime within the WTO by merely calling for coherence and consistency of the international monetary, financial and trading systems without confronting the issue of perverse agriculture subsidies by the developed countries.
  • Debt. Resources for investment in poverty eradication programmes to facilitate the achievement of MDGs are currently tied up to external debt in most developing countries. The Outcome Document sets weak language on the need for new targets on debt cancellation for only the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries in the IMF framework. New resources, and not those intended for commitments to increase ODA, should be used by the developed countries to cancel debt of poor countries. No comprehensive proposal, however, is mentioned on middle income countries’ debts, except proposing “creative financing mechanisms” such as debt swaps for sustainable development. We welcome this with stern warning that it should not lead to swapping debt for equity and ownership of national resources that is tantamount to selling countries’ national patrimony.

For more information see the www.suswatch.org website