"Transformative power of people" highlighted at Addis Ababa side event

"Transformative power of people" highlighted at Addis Ababa side event

Simona Costanzo Sow of UN Volunteers speaks at a side event in Addis Ababa on 15 July 2015. Left to right are Yetnebersh Nigussie, Dereje Wordofa, and Serik Tokbolat.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—15 July 2015

To a large extent, the focus of the Third International Financing for Development Conference was on highly technical financial issues, such as “tax cooperation” and “multilateral development banks.”

But, as the outcome document acknowledges, the “transformative power of people” is also an essential aspect of any overall global development plan.

As such, a side event to the Conference titled “Unlocking People’s Capacity as a Means of Implementation: the Human Face of Financing for Development” was well received here, drawing more than 60 participants, many of whom said the emphasis on people was an important but often overlooked element.

“The success of the outcome document of this conference in Addis Ababa, regardless of its quality will, no doubt, depend on identifying realistic and effective means of implementation,” said Serik Tokbolat, a representative to the United Nations of the Baha’i International Community, which organized the event with SOS Children’s Villages.

“We believe that reframing the role people’s capacity will play in contributing to implementation of the Financing for Development agenda will be critical,” said Mr. Tokbolat, who moderated the 15 July 2015 event.

Yetnebersh Nigussie, executive director of the Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development, stressed the importance of the participation of all people – including those with disabilities – in the planning and implementation phases of development programs.

“For participation to be meaningful, it must be inclusive and accessible to all persons, those with and without disabilities,” said Ms. Nigussie, noting that persons with disabilities as a group were absent from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Their absence has been rectified inthe proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), she said. Such inclusiveness, she added, must not be allowed to merely become a slogan.

It is imperative, said Ms. Nigussie, that people with disabilities not only be seen as the beneficiaries of development, but also “contributors and active actors and solution providers within the Financing for Development [framework] for the next 15 years.”

She used herself as an example of how perceived disability can actually open doors to development. As a young girl in Ethiopia, her blindness removed her from the possibility of a life as an uneducated housewife. Instead of being forced into an arranged marriage, her ‘disability’ became the reason she was free to study law.

“Disability is a reality for one billion people -- and a possibility for the rest of you,” she added. “I’m not trying to threaten you, but one way or the other, [most] people go through the disability channel.”

Dereje Wordofa, the international director for Eastern and Southern Africa of SOS Children’s Villages International, discussed the needs of children, especially those who have lost parents, in the context of the SDGs, calling for greater investment to ensure their well-being.

“When children lose their parents, they become hungry, which is goal 2, they lose health care, which is goal 3, they underperform in schools, which is goal 4, they have difficulty keeping and finding a job, which is goal 8, and they face inequality, which is goal 10,” said Mr. Wordofa.

“So investing in this group of children is of paramount importance in order to unlock their potential and fulfil their own dreams -- but also contributing fully to society,” said Mr. Wordofa.

Simona Costanzo Sow of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme said those who contribute their time in support of development without the expectation of financial gain – the definition of volunteers – are already contributing hugely to global development.

Capitalizing on that “energy and commitment,” she said, is critical “if we truly want to make the post-2015 agenda transformative.”

“If this energy were channeled more systematically, if it was scaled more systematically, if governments looked at ways of leveraging this expertise more systemically, we could come a ways further in achieving the SDGs,” said Ms. Sow.

She continued by saying that people are experts about their own lives and needs. “People know best what the issues are that they are facing, whether it is people living in rural areas, whether it is young people, old people, people with disabilities or just a 99 percent abilities. Whatever it is, people know best what it takes to make a difference in their lives.” she said.

Jean Letitia Saldana, a senior policy advisor for the Catholic International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity, said any new development framework in the post-2015 era should first and foremost strive to eliminate the structural barriers that prevent people, especially marginalized groups, from mainstream decision-making.

The side event, which was loosely based concepts in a previous BIC statement titled: “Unlocking Human Capacity as a Driver of Social Development,” was organized in collaboration with the International Disability Alliance, the International Disability and Development Consortium, the NGO Committee on Financing for Development, Soroptimist International, and the UN Millennium Campaign.

In addition, the BIC sought to contribute overall to the FfD Conference by submitting a statement: “Take No Pride in Gold and Silver: A relationship lens on financing for development” and by participating in a second side event, convened by the African Interfaith Initiative in partnership with the UN Millennium Campaign, which brought together policy makers and faith leaders, on 14 July 2015 at the Grand Yordanos Hotel.

The BIC’s engagement at the Interfaith Initiative event was undertaken by the BIC’s Addis Ababa Office (AAO). In a speech, Techeste Ahderom, the BIC’s representative for the AAO emphasized the importance of applying spiritual principles – such as “ethics, values, duty, honesty, and justice” – to the issues of financing for development.