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"Innovative financing : it is now time for action"

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by Bernard Kouchner for France, Katsuya Okada for Japan, Charles Michel for Belgium (september 1st, 2010)

Are you aware of the realities of today’s world ? A billion people don’t have access to drinking water ; a billion people suffer from hunger ; nearly one million people die each year of malaria, 1.3 million of tuberculosis and 2 million of AIDS ; and poverty keeps some 72 million children out of school and prevents them from realizing their potential.

To tackle such global issues, the UN set out the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which the international community should achieve by the year 2015. A wide range of financial resources that are sustainable, predictable and additional to the traditional Official Development Aid (ODA), need to be mobilized to meet global development needs, including the MDGs. Given the inexorable urgency, we must act.

We are determined to find an effective way to finance development that would accompany-and not replace-public aid. In a world marked by substantial gaps in development and standards of living, we must promote innovative approaches and instruments.

Current measures of innovative financing include, among others, taxes on airline tickets to finance access to essential medicines through UNITAID, a fund hosted by WHO, and bonds secured by government pledges to finance immunization (GAVI). Such measures have made it possible to mobilize resources to fight against the three major infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria) and to scale up immunization programs. They have produced remarkable results. Moreover, efforts to encourage voluntary contributions such as donations by citizens, consumers and companies have been made.

The Doha Conference in November 2008 called on the world to expand the scope of innovative development financing. New instruments that are based on global activities are becoming available to us ; broad-based financing that could, through miniscule contributions repeated many times over, change the dimensions of hope, if properly coordinated.

With a view toward the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals this September, we will endeavor to make more countries understand the importance of innovative development financing, whose success has already generated more than $3 billion since 2006.

France has promoted innovative development financing from the start. Together with Spain, Brazil, Chile and others, it launched the Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development in 2006, and 60 member states have already joined the Group. Japan assumed the Presidency of the Leading Group in June, and will hold the 8th plenary meeting in December. Under its presidency of the European Union, Belgium decided to put this issue on the development agenda. Discussion on innovative development financing must now be further extended to the global political arena through the efforts of the Leading Group including Japan, Belgium and France.

As a concrete step towards achieving this aim, we established a Taskforce on International Financial Transactions for Development in October 2009 with a single objective : to come up with a shared analysis of what is feasible ; and to make concrete, realistic proposals.

We approached the top specialists : legal scholars, economists, researchers and even bankers, to analyze the different options. They proposed several different mechanisms for levies on financial transactions, including on foreign exchange movements (currency transaction development tax).

Their work is now available in a solid, well-documented report. This report assesses technical issues in a comprehensive manner, and provides estimates on tax revenues. The report mentions that a levy of five cents for every $1,000 exchanged could bring in more than $30 billion per year. It supplements and updates other analyses carried out regularly over the years by the UN, the European Commission, and the Landau Report. It also provides us with common ground to discuss innovative financing, and has started to play a significant role in prompting greater international discussion.

The report and other sources mention that with financial flows up sevenfold since the beginning of the decade, the financial sector is one of the main beneficiaries of global economic growth, and the volume of foreign exchange transactions worldwide is about $3.6 trillion daily, so the volume of all transactions (stocks, bonds, derivatives) is even higher ($210 billion daily for bonds and $800 billion for stocks).

What should be done with the revenues mobilized by innovative financing and how ?

By 2015, the target year of the MDGs, we must provide safe water for a billion people ; enough food for a billion people ; appropriate treatment for major pandemics ; education for children.

In order to achieve these goals we should not be inward-looking. We need to have sympathy, as fellow human beings, with people who are struggling throughout the world and extend our support to developing countries.

We cannot just rely on the traditional ODA. The real challenge today is designing an innovative mechanism based on strict governance and allocation criteria. It is time to act, and to do it in an exemplary fashion.

7 September 2010

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