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The Global Economic and Social Governance Project:
political relevance to developing countries

The Global Economic and Social Governance Project will undertake a wide-ranging and ambitious technical and political examination of two areas of vital concern to developing countries: first, generating the substantial additional finance needed to attain the Millennium Development Goals and other objectives and second, shifting the balance in global economic and social governance arrangements so that decision-making better reflects the interests of developing countries.

This work is premised on the idea that, along with efforts to improve governance and policy settings at the domestic level, it is crucial for the long-term interests of developing countries that the global architecture of development finance and leadership is tilted further in their direction. It will be exceedingly difficult for significant progress to be achieved on the domestic level without changes in global arrangements.

The distinctiveness of this project comes from its combination of scholarly research and a high-level consultation process that is designed to engage key political actors in these important debates, and to develop strategies to advance certain proposals.

Additional financing

The ACP has recently made the point that "additional ODA and debt reduction is needed to enable developing countries to use development funds to achieve the internationally accepted Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially in primary education, health and poverty eradication. Many DEVELOPING countries are currently lagging on key MDGs, including the poverty, infant mortality and education objectives, and are unlikely to reach these goals without substantial additional financial resources. Despite modest increases in ODA arising out of the Monterrey conference, the additional finance currently committed by developed countries falls well short of the estimated $50bn annual increase required to meet the MDGs, which are themselves not especially ambitious.

A critical question for DEVELOPING countries, who would be major beneficiaries of any additional resources to finance the attainment of the MDGs, is how such funds might be generated in the short to medium term. Given that a doubling of regular ODA flows within this window of time is, at best, a politically remote prospect, this project proposes to undertake a comprehensive political and technical review of other sources of additional finance.

There are reasons to be optimistic about this undertaking, but there is vital work, both at the level of political and diplomatic strategy and in terms of technical feasibility, that is needed to advance certain proposals. A good example of the kind of proposal that attracts our interest is the newly proposed International Finance Facility, an instrument which would use long-term donor commitments to leverage in substantial additional funds from the international capital markets. The IFF aims to raise the amount of development aid from just over $50bn a year today to $100bn per year in the years to 2015 in order to finance the attainment of the MDGs, which by any measure would have a substantial impact. The proposal has been put by the UK government and has the backing of the French and several other key governments, and a report has been requested by the G8, although serious obstacles and question marks remain. To advance a proposal such as this one, the GESG Project is in a position to bring to bear considerable technical and political expertise. One of the present applicants, John Langmore, recently convened a high-level meeting on additional sources of financing which included the British Executive Directors to the IMF, the French Alternate Executive Director and the participation of high-level representation from the US, Japan, Germany. The conference was opened by the Foreign Minister of Guyana.

That meeting brought together experts and political officials for a productive discussion about feasibility issues and political strategies to advance the IFF proposal as well as several other plausible sources of additional finance, such as a resumption in the regular allocations of the IMF's Special Drawing Rights, measures to limit harmful tax competition among developing countries, and a range of other proposals to help developing countries increase domestic revenue generation. The meeting also served the important purpose of sharing knowledge and raising awareness about certain proposals that representatives of key governments said they had not fully understood or digested previously.

It is exactly this kind of approach that we would continue during the course of the GESG project. Through our advisory panel and a series of high-level consultations with practitioners and scholars, we intend to advance debate on these important issues where, in many cases, such discussion would simply not take place in the absence of this project. Those consultations would combine senior representatives of developed country governments as well as those of LDCs, with a special emphasis on the least developed countries. Our project team and advisory panel are well placed to bring these people together. We have, between us, significant experience as senior officials in international organizations and as members of national parliaments and governments. The outcomes of these consultations and the ongoing work we propose will be reflected in the final contributions published in the jointly edited volumes. But we hope it will also have a much broader reach politically. We have already established working relationships with key scholars working in related research programs with important implications for the future of global economic and social governance, such as those considering the production and financing of global public goods and theorists of networked governance and multisectoral collaboration.