Beyond ODA: Integrating Philanthropy into the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Last month, representatives at the United Nations Third International Conference on Financing for Development agreed to a number of proposals to fund the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals. Collectively known as the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, these proposals cover a range of financing sources, from domestic tax revenues and official development assistance to private sector financing and philanthropy. The Agenda also included measures to support international trade and capacity building. World leaders now hope that the financing mechanisms laid out in the AAAA will encourage countries to adopt both the SDGs and a climate change accord scheduled for negotiation in Paris this December.


Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon congratulates delegates on adopting the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Source: UN Economic Commission on Africa
Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon congratulates delegates on adopting the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Source: UN Economic Commission on Africa


The SDGs are a proposed set of 17 goals that are meant to provide benchmarks for a variety of development issues over the next 15 years. The goals cover poverty, hunger, health, education, gender equality, energy, the environment, and a host of other global challenges. Each goal is accompanied by a number of targets that serve as tangible metrics of a country’s progress towards the SDGs. These new goals are a follow up to the Millennium Development Goals, a 15-year set of eight benchmarks that world leaders agreed to back in 2000. To improve their drafting process for the new goals, the UN organized the largest consultation program in its history that combined government input with surveys of the general public.


The Addis Ababa Action Agenda, a vital part of the new development goal drafting process, is a step towards recognizing the role of international philanthropy and the private sector in supporting global development. The agreement makes several references to the importance of the private sector in economic growth, particularly the role of the financial sector in enabling small businesses. Furthermore, Article 10 of the agreement explicitly lists philanthropies and foundations as vital members of the “global partnerships” that are required to meet the SDGs. This is a substantial improvement over the funding section of the MDGs, which overwhelmingly relied on official development assistance and did not reference to international philanthropy.


However, there is still a lot more that the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the SDGs could do to support philanthropy’s vital role in development. In June, the CGP cohosted the Conference on Policy Coherence for Mobilizing Private Financial Flows for Sustainable Development with the OECD Development Center. The purpose of this conference was to discuss how to best utilize private funding for the SDGs in the lead up to the Third International Conference on Financing for Development. Dr. Carol Adelman, director of the CGP, provided a number of recommendations, summarized below:


  • Efforts to measure private financial flows and to publicize philanthropic best practices should be increased
  • Private and philanthropic actors should be included in drafting the SDGs
  • Innovation should be the primary criteria for creating public-private partnerships as part of the SDG targets for global partnerships
  • Philanthropy should be recognized as a unique source of development practices rather just an additional funding source for official development goals
  • Countries should strive to improve their legal environments for investing in both for-profits and not-for-profits
  • Intergovernmental organizations should facilitate the distribution of private resources to developing countries by evaluating best practices and identifying successful ventures


Though these suggestions were not explicitly included in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, countries looking for ways to finance their SDG efforts should still consider them. Many of these suggestions simply entail engaging with the private and philanthropic sectors, and collecting new data. However, some countries may balk at evaluating their legal environments. A major finding of the CGP’s new Index of Philanthropic Freedom is that laws created to serve the legitimate interests of the state, such as capital controls and illicit financial flows legislation, often hinder philanthropic efforts as well. Examining their legal requirements will require states to evaluate the benefits of combating illicit finance or managing volatile financial flows against the benefits that come from international philanthropy.


As Dr. Adelman noted in her comments, 80% of the developed world’s economic engagement with the developing world comes from the private sector, philanthropy, and remittances. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda is an important first step in acknowledging these essential flows and how they can help meet the SDGs. But the international community needs to go further in developing a more holistic funding plan for the SDGs, and the recommendations made at the Conference on Policy Coherence are an excellent place to start.


Previewing the 68th Session of the U.N. General Assembly: Questions and Expectations

The high-level meetings of the 68th U.N. General Assembly convened in New York on September 23rd, 2013 and will conclude on October 8th, 2013.

The U.N. General Assembly will once again convene this week as member states will take part in a highly promising yet perilous conference that will focus on the ongoing crisis in Syria,  newly elected Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s speech, and Israeli-Palestine peace talks. But questions abound on various global development issues that CGP will be monitoring in the coming week:

General Assembly President John Ashe has declared  “The Post 2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage” as the theme for this week’s assembly. The body’s eight millennium development goals, first enumerated in 2000, expire in 2015, giving U.N. member states the opportunity to shape the future priorities of development and recommit to current goals. Most notably, “MDGs three, four, and five to address gender imbalances and reduce child and maternal mortality rates are the most off track” and many other MDG deadlines appear unreachable by 2015 unless action is taken now. How will future priorities begin to take shape? Will CSOs take a more meaningful role in international development via the U.N. system? The preliminary talks with such organizations are encouraging but a set of universal goals on intricate issues such as climate change and women’s reproductive rights will be tough to articulate this week in New York.

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Stories in Development: Meeting the MDGs

In September of 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Millennium Declaration, from which emerged the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that the members of the international community had agreed to try to achieve by 2015. Recently, the 4th MDG  (reduce the under 5 child mortality rate to 66% of 1990 levels) drew particular interest from the international community. Child mortality is measured in number of deaths per 1000 live births, and according to a recent article in the Economist, Africa is currently experiencing some of the biggest falls in child mortality.

Of the 20 African countries surveyed by the World Bank, 16 have recorded declines in their child mortality rates. Senegal, Rwanda, and Kenya have recently seen declines in child mortality by over 8% per year. Twelve other countries, including Uganda and Ghana, have recorded declines over 4% per year. These rates far exceed the global decline of 2.8% per year. The two regions, Sub Saharan Africa and Northern Africa have seen total declines of 28% and 68% respectively since 1990. Rarely do we hear such good news in development!

Decline of Child Mortality in Africa

Though the remarkable trend in the decline of child mortality in Africa is astounding, the trend in non African countries deserves some applause as well.  East Asia in particular has seen a 58% drop in child mortality between 1990 and 2008. Among these countries are Bangladesh, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Nepal, all of whom have seen declines of 60% or more.

Currently, 9 million children die each year around the world before they reach their 5th birthday. The highest rate of child mortality continues to still be found in Sub-Saharan Africa. There are many factors influencing the child mortality rate in developing countries. Children in rural households have a higher risk of dying before they reach the age of five than children in urban settings. Children from the poorest households are 2-3 times more likely to die than children from richer households. For example, in a survey from 66 countries, children from the poorest 20% of households are twice as likely to die than the richest 20%. In addition, a mother’s education is a very powerful determinant of child survival. A child’s chances of survival increase with the level of education the mother receives. Continue reading