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The Development Promise of Brussels 2014

Joy Fitzgibbon
Deputy Director, G8 Research Group
June 5, 2014

The G7 meeting in Brussels 2014 provided an opportunity for progress on development challenges in line with the rapidly approaching 2015 deadline to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The Summit Expectations

Conditions necessary for success at this summit included an emphasis on accelerating achievement of MDGs in child health and tuberculosis, HIV and malaria and their continued commitment to these objectives after 2015. Improving the surveillance of disease including strengthening the capacity to deal with antimicrobial drug resistance should be a priority. G7 leaders also needed to provide clear direction on how to advance global partnerships for development, food security and eliminating extreme poverty as it relates to the World Bank Group commitment to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

At a summit in Toronto the week before the G7 Brussels Summit, Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper pledged $3.5 billion toward accelerating the stalled progress of Muskoka Initiative in support of the MDGs 4 and 5 to improve maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH). This commitment provided contributions beyond 2015, sustaining investment into 2020. Harper committed to use all multilateral forums, including the G7, to convince his colleagues to commit additional funds in support of MNCH. Donations in line of $8 billion would provide global leadership, empowering United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon and World Bank president Jim Yong Kim to increase donations from their member states exponentially.

Furthermore, the data available on MNCH are not accurate. Experts estimate that the statistics may be missing 80% of all deaths in Africa. It is imperative that a civil registration system, registering all births and deaths, be implemented worldwide. To do so, midwives and doctors need to be present at all births, which requires meaningful investment. The G7 should endorse this global policy initiative, supporting the World Bank efforts to implement civil registration systems in countries that do not yet have reliable structures in place.

MDG 6 — to combat HIV/AIDs, malaria and tuberculosis — requires sustained collaboration in order for progress to continue. Advances in HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria since 2000 are significant but subject to reversal. Most critically, G7 members need to bridge the funding gaps in each of these policy areas while honouring their existing pledges and extending their commitments to continue to support these investments beyond 2015. Funding gaps alone total an estimated $30 billion.

As the world transitions past the MDG deadline of 2015, G7 leaders must renew their commitment to accelerate progress but particularly to carve out the direction beyond. Economic development should be reframed as sustainable development defined as equally distributing the benefits of economic growth, generated in a manner that promotes environmental sustainability and protects the health of the world's most vulnerable people. This integrated perspective on economics, environment and health is strongly supported by gold-standard scholarly research and practice and was reflected in the statements of Stephen Harper at his MNCH summit. Particular focus needs to be placed on vulnerable groups — those whom the policies are currently failing — within these high-risk populations and, in particular, in Africa post 2015. Related to health, the G7 needs to commit to concrete actions to promote further progress on food security and nutrition in the context of the New Alliance for Food Security, including a critique of existing progress thus far and prospective remedies. Finally, at the MNCH summit and throughout development policy and practice, there is much discussion on partnerships for development — particularly partnerships that intersect in the space between declining overseas development assistance, increasing contributions by recipient governments and the role of the for profit and not for-profit private sectors. The G7 would strengthen the network infrastructure of global development governance should the leaders clearly state how they plan to advance these various types of partnerships in the post-2015 era, providing concrete principles, based on their experience in the MDGs, for future policy relationships.

The Summit Performance

In the final communiquéé, the G7 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to achieve the MDGs and establish a "universal post-2015 agenda anchored in a set of clear and measurable goals." They affirmed the "eradication of extreme poverty" and to continue "promoting development and ... balancing the environmental, economic and social dimensions of sustainable development, including climate change." The leaders emphasized inclusive development, peace and security, good governance, rule of law, gender equality — both in MNCH and more generally and human rights for all. The leaders committed to creating a global partnership, with "shared responsibility and mutual accountability" that ensures it is implemented fully. Attention was paid to promoting "inclusive and resilient growth in Africa" linking good governance with transparency, energy infrastructure, trade liberalization and "responsible and sustainable management of natural resources." They welcomed the role of the African union and ongoing efforts at reforming the African Partnership Forum.

G7 leaders linked security and development in conflict regions with "terrorism, organized crime, corruption, instability and poverty," encouraging the efforts of the African Union in this regard. They endorsed the Deauville Partnership and Arab transition efforts to strengthen governance, inclusive growth and job creation particularly for youth and women. G7 members relied upon plans to use side meetings among finance ministers at the UN General Assembly and the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank as opportunities to advance this partnership.

The G7 leaders supported work that raises global standards on extractive transparency and affirmed their commitment to implement extractive partnerships launched in 2013. Members announced a new initiative called "Strengthening Assistance for Complex Contract Negotiations" (CONNEX) providing resources to developing country partners when negotiating complex commercial contracts. The first area of focus will be extractive industries.

Tax evasion remains a focus from the 2013 Lough Erne Summit, strengthening the efforts articulated there. Commitments were made to build upon the G20 efforts and work with governments and financial centres to recover assets.

G7 members reinforced the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and affirmed the message from Toronto just prior to the Brussels summit. Themes emphasized there were reinforced: "sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, ending child early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation ... universal access to medical care for women and children, strengthening health education and child protection services, improving nutrition and access to immunization through the GAVI Alliance in an effort to reach and additional 300 million children post 2015 — in the 2016-2020 period." Leaders also confirmed their previous commitments to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Finally, echoing discussions at the MNCH summit in Toronto, the leaders welcomed Germany's offer to host the second replenishment of the GAVI Alliance in 2015, affirming the possibility of a health-focused summit then.

G7 members agreed to partner with other countries to strengthen compliance with the World Health Organization's International Health Regulations and promote the global health security agenda. Improving disease surveillance is a priority that leaders committed to develop a global action plan on antimicrobial resistance. This action plan builds on discussions that began at Lough Erne and were further explored in a special conference held at Chatham House in London, soon after. Global food security and nutrition remain priorities and leaders continue to support the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition under "strong African leadership" and plan on using the International Conference on Nutrition in November 2014 and Expo Milan 2015 for the debate on post-2015 sustainability, food and nutrition security. They also continued to promote the consistent implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests through the 2013 land partnerships launched by the G7 and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program.

Conclusions

These commitments are positive, if at times lacking in concrete deliverables in advance of next year's summit. The G7 seeks to accelerate progress on the MDGs prior to the upcoming 2015 deadline. Efforts to look beyond hint at the agenda of the Sustainability Development Goals beginning in 2016 and currently under discussion. Discussion of the complex relationships between socioeconomic, political and environmental conditions and health represent an effort at an integrative approach to global public health and development while attention on MNCH, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDs and malaria continue to concentrate on priority areas among high-risk populations. Two new concrete initiatives are in place: the commitment to develop a Global Action Plan on antimicrobial resistance and CONNEX. The first speaks to a growing global crisis in public health present in wealthier and poorer societies alike. Its inclusion on the agenda is necessary to protect global health. The second addresses capacity building in the negotiating resources of low-income states at a critical time when the lack of such skills is keenly felt as these countries negotiate partnership agreements with corporations.

The G7 failed to provide a clear indication of where the post-2015 development goals may be heading. Instead, the leaders favoured statements that endorsed general principles. There was not a strong critical edge to the approach: the leaders did not explore failures in current approaches and provide sharp and tangible directives to unblock the progress. While they did endorse the MNCH summit decisions, they did not explicitly emphasize the civil registration system necessary for improving data on MNCH post 2015.

Overall, given the rapid organization of the summit and the focus on the issue of Russia and Ukraine, the leaders addressed some critical points to consider at the next summit and proposed two important deliverables. That said, significant questions remain over the direction of the Sustainable Development Goals agenda — including on the functioning of partnerships and future contributions financial contributions to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and maternal, newborn and child health.

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