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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 15:46 GMT
Summit disappointments
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by Belen Vazquez
ActionAid campaigner in Monterrey

Monterrey was a conference that failed to provide the long-term solutions to secure the resources needed for reaching the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals. The final declaration contains nothing radical and nothing new.

Civil society groups were given just two minutes' floor time.

Aid has monopolised everyone's attention because there has not been any progress in other important areas - the lack of solutions to the debt problem or the missing commitments to reform the unequal trade and international financial systems.

As a result, Monterrey has looked like a donor pledging conference rather than a UN summit.

New aid promises

Although they offer limited progress, the EU and United States aid announcements are late "face-saving" exercises to avoid coming empty-handed to Monterrey.

The pledges of the rich countries fall short - yet they still claim the targets can be met.

And their unilateral proposals undermine the spirit of building a consensus.

They provide only short-term solutions, with nothing pledged beyond 2006.

And US aid comes laden with conditions - good governance, policy reforms, investment in health and education and democracy and rule of law.- before the money is granted. Some of these conditions are so subjective that they could be used for political purposes.

Token role

The financing for development conference was presented as an inclusive exercise where all stakeholders - governments, the private sector and civil society - were to participate.

However, there has not been much space for civil society participation. It has been difficult to influence governments in Monterrey.

Governments have not shown much interest in listening to civil society demands as the final declaration (the Monterrey consensus) had been agreed beforehand.

The much-publicised ministerial round tables, where for the first time governments, the private sector and non-governmental organisations were to sit together and debate on financing development, have not proven useful.

Civil society groups were given just two minutes' floor time.

UK position

The UK government has played a low profile this week.

The absence of highest-level UK representation in Monterrey sent a mixed signal concerning Britain's validation of the process.

Much of the work has been done behind the scenes with its European colleagues.

Britain has not taken the lead in pushing for more aid, but concentrated on convincing the EU to commit themselves to untying aid (so that countries cannot require that aid money is spent only on goods and services bought in the donor country).

Hope for the future

Monterey has highlighted the lack of consensus on the way the millennium development goals can be met. The pledges of the rich countries fall short - yet they still claim the targets can be met.

Although the declaration mentions the responsibilities of poor countries and donor governments in development, it ignores mutual accountability.

If there was true mutual accountability, developing countries could hold donor countries accountable for the way aid is used or delivered.

ActionAid believes that the donor governments have a responsibility to provide enough good quality development assistance.

They should double their aid levels and announce a time frame to reach the level of 0.7% of GDP.

That would ensure that the vague Monterrey commitments become tangible benefits for developing countries.

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