2015 is a crucial year for our world. The challenge that lies ahead is this: to reach consensus at three UN meetings that will deliver meaningful change for people living in poverty and protect the environment in which we all live.
But while there has been a lengthy and involved process for both the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the climate change negotiations, the financing summit, due to start next month in Addis Ababa, has until now been treated as the poorer cousin, with much lower-level political engagement and fewer preparatory sessions.
As many are now realising, however, success in achieving the new SDGs and a new climate agreement is contingent upon a good commitment coming out of Addis Ababa. So why are the discussions on finance so important?
1. Making sure there is enough money
The Addis Ababa Summit is about financing the new sustainable development goals. Despite advances in the last 15 years, there are still around 800 million people going to bed hungry each night. Our partners in Ethiopia, just a few miles from where the conference will be taking place, work with communities where not everyone goes to school or has access to clean water, and where farmers' harvests and livelihoods are under threat due to changing weather patterns.
Although not just about pledging, the money made available in Addis will give an indication of how serious governments are about eradicating poverty. Donor countries have already committed to giving 0.7% of their national budgets to aid, however only five so far (Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark and the UK) have met that target. This public money is essential, as it is often targeted at key public sectors such as schools and hospitals, where other resources aren't available. There needs to be a recommitment to the 0.7% target with clear timelines for its fulfilment, as well as ways for newer donor countries to contribute.
2. Tackling wider issues in the global economy
There is little point in providing more money for development without tackling the unjust systems and structures that keep communities and countries poor. Despite advances in debt relief, many countries are still diverting resources from key sectors such as health, education and agriculture to service their debt repayments. Too many multinational companies still transfer profits out of the countries they operate in, depriving developing countries of much-needed tax revenue.
These wider economic issues have been core to the financing for development agenda over the past decade, but we have seen too little progress so far. Not everything can be done at once, but we need to see advances on the key issues if poverty eradication is to become a reality.
3. Spending money on the right kind of development
Where the money goes is as important as the amount of money available. The Summit in Addis Ababa provides an opportunity for financial priorities to be joined up with priorities of eradicating poverty, reducing inequality and protecting the environment, to be agreed later this year.
This would include prioritising investments in renewable energy, like solar and wind, as well as signalling what is no longer considered as acceptable pathways to growth: economies founded on coal, oil and gas, and activity that harms local communities and the environment. It should not be seen as development if the environment is harmed in the process.
At the same time, development finance is increasingly being provided by, or channelled through, the private sector, but too much money either doesn't go to where there is greatest need or is still associated with human rights abuses, such as displacement from land and environmental degradation. To ensure that all money goes to development that puts people and planet first and that limits any harmful impacts, the financing summit should ensure that all development finance meets clear sustainable development criteria and has stronger accountability mechanisms.
4. A chance to do global politics differently
Finally, the Financing for Development Summit is a test to see whether the current global system can deliver, and whether doing politics differently, so that global interest trumps national concerns, is a workable model. These three summits offer a-once-in-a-lifetime moment to make huge leaps in the global agenda. We need to find a way of going beyond the traditional negotiating blocs in the UN to foster a global solidarity where common interests and the lives of the poorest people and the environment are given priority.
Although the three summits have different agendas, processes and people involved, they are all fundamentally about the same issue: how the lives of people in poverty can be improved and how to preserve and protect our environment for future generations.
Success in Addis would be the sign of a new global model of fairness and justice for the world's poor.