Finance conference must meet the needs of world's poorest children

Updated: 2015-07-16 10:56

By Dev Kar and Joseph Spanjers(

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Finance conference must meet the needs of world's poorest children

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim addresses the opening of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, July 13, 2015.

World leaders and Finance Ministers meeting in Addis Ababa on July 13-16 for the Third International Financing for Development Conference (FFD3) will decide on the future of development finance. The survival and development of millions of children depends on strong financial commitments made this week.

At Save the Children, we believe that this conference represents a unique opportunity for governments to step up and set things right. In September, the UN General Assembly will adopt 17 ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in New York. The Addis Ababa conference urgently needs to ensure that financing is available to make these goals a reality.

We are not alone in thinking this. The action/2015 movement, made up of nearly 2,000 organisations worldwide, including Save the Children, is calling on the Addis conference to finance a better future for the world’s poorest people. In the weekend prior to the conference, tens-of-thousands of people, coordinated through action/2015, took to the streets to demand that governments step up and take action.

The future of millions of children is at stake. It will be impossible to eradicate poverty within our generation unless we increase the money available to finance development, and ensure that sustainable development and financing efforts benefit the poorest and most marginalized children. For this reason, Save the Children has three key demands for our governments: Countries must commit to mobilize more money for development, ensure that the money is prioritized to reduce inequalities and adequately spent on essential services such as health, education, nutrition and protection, and finally to make sure that they can be held to account for commitments they make.

The lack of sufficient and equitable investment in children remains one of the biggest barriers to realizing children’s rights. Millions of children are deprived of the essential services they need – in 2013 6.3 million children died before their fifth birthday due to easily preventable diseases, and the number of out-of-school children is on the rise globally. This starch reality underscores the importance and urgency of an ambitious and transformative outcome in Addis Ababa.

Governments must take immediate action to adequately fund essential public services such as universal health coverage, education, nutrition and child protection through a new social compact. Inclusive and equitable services are central to achieve our common ambitions of a world without extreme poverty.

More public funds, from both domestic and international sources, must be mobilised in order to deliver these commitments. Domestic revenue, especially from tax, is the most sustainable and predictable source of public financing and investments in children. All countries must pledge to increase domestic resource mobilization, with emphasis on progressive taxation to avoid unduly harming the poorest. Donor countries should support domestic action by pledging their support to capacity building and assistance in raising domestic revenue.

However, actions at the national level must be supported and complemented by actions at the global level. Governments at the conference must agree for the UN tax committee to be upgraded into an intergovernmental body with the necessary resources and mandate. Global Financial Integrity has estimated that illicit financial flows, where money is illegally earned, transferred or spent, are draining developing countries of almost 1 trillion dollars annually, money which is desperately needed to finance development . We must move towards stronger and more equal international tax cooperation and end this scandal.

Furthermore, it is time for the world’s richest nations to finally honour the commitments they made more than 40 years ago to provide 0.7% of their gross national income to official development assistance (ODA), They must commit to ambitious timelines for this, and increase their support to the least developed countries (LDCs) to 50% of ODA. While LDCs are among the countries that face the biggest challenges to realize the SDGs, only around 30% of ODA is dedicated to LDCs.

Last but not least, it is vital that the financing commitments made in Addis are not perceived as a one-off event but rather as a platform for further actions to be taken both individually at country level and collectively at regional and international levels. In addition, governments must agree on a clear path to follow up and review the commitments that they make.

2015 could be a momentous year. It could be the year that governments across the world commit to ending extreme poverty, ensures that no child dies from preventable causes, that every child gets a good quality education, and is protected from violence. The stakes for billions of the poorest people around the globe are just too high for governments to allow failure to be an option.

Dev Kar and Joseph Spanjers, Global Financial Integtrity (2014), Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries 2003-2012