Archive for January, 2012

Elections, Congolese style.

January 25, 2012

On November 28th 2011, the Democratic Republic of the Congo held its only 2nd ever democratic elections for the post of President and for the 500 posts in the national legislature. Now, more than 6 weeks later and after the re-installation of Joseph Kabila as president, accusations about the legitimacy of the process continue to reverberate around the entire country and beyond.

Conducting elections in a country almost as big as the whole of Western Europe but with virtually no infrastructure was always going to be difficult and questions were raised weeks before the poll over whether or not enough time was being allowed to set up the polling stations and distribute all of the voting materials. CENI, the national electoral monitoring commission, insisted that it could be managed but on Election Day, it was reported that numerous polling stations failed to open due to absence of voting papers. There were perhaps fewer outbreaks of violence than had been feared but where, in some constituencies, the ballot paper was the size of a tabloid newspaper due to the high number of candidates, it was unrealistic to expect that voting could be completed in a single day. When it came to counting the results, 100% turnout in favour of one candidate or another, as has been alleged in some constituencies, has to be suspicious, while it is also alleged that the entire collection of ballot boxes disappeared altogether in other constituencies, before votes could be counted.


Post-MDG update

January 16, 2012

Snippets of political intelligence, updates and analysis on post-2015 from my various meetings, reading and correspondence over the last few weeks…

The official UN process is kicking off 
We’ve been told to watch out for Ban Ki Moon’s speech on 25th January, where he will be presenting his priorities for his second term.  Beyond 2015 have been pushing for this inauguration speech to be the time when the SG establishes a post-MDG agreement as a major strategic priority. 

The new UN Task Team on post-MDGs, coordinated by UNDP and UNDESA, met for the first time last week.  It’s a big group – all the UN departments as well as the Bretton Woods Institutions, OECD and others.  The Task Team has been mandated to produce a report on post-MDGs for the Secretary General at the end of May, doing groundwork for the High Level Panel which will be appointed in June.  Then they will disband.

UNDP have got their proposal for a 50 country consultation on post-MDGs signed off.  They are putting together a workplan by end of Jan/early Feb with the specifics, including which countries, and which themes for the planned ‘thematic’ consultations.  The expectation is that these will be quite heterogeneous exercises – led by the UN country teams according to the context.  Sounds like we can expect a wide variety of approaches, for better and for worse.  There is clarity that these will be multi-stakeholder processes including a whole range of different groups – and that these will *not* primarily be focused on grassroots, community-level engagement with people living in poverty.  This is, however, being planned elsewhere (contact me for info).

Rio +20 Jabberwocky
The Zero Draft of the Rio+20 outcome document was leaked last week.  It talks, amongst many other things, about Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have been put forward by Colombia (see paragraph 105-110) and are one of the few concrete proposals currently circulating as a potential post-MDG framework.

Are the SDGs going to be combined with development goals to form a post-MDG framework?  Are they going to form a separate, complementary set of targets?  Will there be two sets of goals, which are both part of one ‘post-2015 agenda’?  Are they, on their own, a proposal for a new set of MDGs?  The zero draft keeps every option open, twisting its text in circles to the point of Jabberwocky: “We consider that the Sustainable Development Goals should complement and strengthen the MDGs in the development agenda for the post-2015 period, with a view to establishing a set of goals in 2015 which are part of the post-2015 UN Development Agenda”.  I think that is clear as mud.

“Focus on the inter-governmental process”
On overall advocacy tactics, I’ve been given a strong steer to expect and focus on an inter-governmental process.  Increasing sense that this won’t be a question of UN technocrats going away to write a framework to which governments then agree.  National governments will be setting the agenda, and so they are the ones that advocacy groups need to influence.  If this is going to be a government-to-government affair, the strategy is to influence national governments; build bilateral coalitions; then build international momentum. 

This is surely the ideal world scenario for how international agreements ‘should’ be negotiated, but it does sound quite optimistic.  National governments will anticipate and pre-empt how their proposals will be received internationally, so work pitched at this level will be important to keep ambition levels high.  But it’s an important message nonetheless – and one which could give much clearer focus to civil society groups trying to influence a post-MDG framework.  

The UK context
Talking of national focus, there has been some interesting developments in the UK recently as the post-MDG issue was raised in parliament.  Gareth Thomas, who was the Minister of State for International Development under the Labour Government (now in opposition) led the questioning of Stephen O’Brien, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development.

 The full text of the debate is here.  Some encouraging acknowledgement of CAFOD’s work, of our colleagues at other agencies, and Beyond 2015 (Gareth Thomas praised our “interesting and thoughtful set of essential must-haves”).  The CIGI and IFRC goals, which I contributed to last year, also picked up attention. 

 Some increasing discussion, both in the debate above and elsewhere, about how the UK could use its position as chair of the G8 next year to take forward post-MDG discussion.  Much acknowledgement of the need to maintain a UN lead, but reflection starting on what kind of opportunity, if any, this forum might present for the debate.  A delicate set of issues – and a good example of the dilemmas involved in an intergovernmental process where different governments have different relationships to power.

 If you want to know more details, or discuss any of the above, I’ll be online on Skype at 12:00 GMT on Tuesday 17th January for live SMS chat.   My skype name is “amypollard”.



Snap! When aid to conflict-affected states gets un-conflicting

January 5, 2012

The International Development Committee has kicked off the New Year with a report on “Working Effectively in Fragile and Conflict Affected States: DRC and Rwanda” .  There are some strong resonances with the arguments CAFOD made in 2010 on how the UK should be spending its bilateral aid money.  Who knows whether they’ve read our stuff or not (it might be that we’ve both been influenced by the same third parties) – but there are a number of policy ‘snap’ moments.

The IDC report leads with same key message as CAFOD:  That the rationale for why some countries get more aid money than others needs to be made explicit.  This is particularly important to address the issue of whether the UK’s security interests are playing a part in aid allocations – a critical concern in fragile and conflict affected states.

Last year we also scrutinised the then Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, when he complained that the requirements on aid transparency would make life more difficult for the MOD.  The IDC are on the same page when they point out the need for clarity on whether activities are eligible as aid or not, especially when other government departments are spending this money.

CAFOD made a specific submission on the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of the Bilateral Aid Review, and there are several resonances with this document and the IDC report.  We share recommendations to emphasise community level development rather than exclusively focusing on government systems, and call for the transparency and accountability of the mining sector.

A report on conflict that is, on these issues at least, distinctly un-conflicting.  Whether by coincidence or influence, these emerging areas of consensus may offer a few stepping stones of shared ground in a policy area where this is often hard to come by.