The Addis Ababa Summit: An important step towards a better future for children

Afghan midwife holds newborn baby
A midwife in Afghanistan holds a newborn baby. In Addis Ababa last week, crucial decisions were made that will affect hundreds of millions of children in the future.

Last week while the world’s attention was focused on the marathon Greek Euro talks in Brussels, a continent away in the Ethiopian capital another meeting of top politicians were also discussing serious money matters.

While the summit in Addis Ababa, or the Financing for Development Conference to give it its official title, didn’t get the TV time or column inches its fraught EU counterpart did, the stakes were just as high, perhaps even higher.

At the UN meeting, governments from rich and poor countries sought to agree on how to pay for ambitious new global development targets (known as the Sustainable Development Goals) in areas critical to children, such as healthcare and education.

Thousands of Save the Children supporters have been pushing for meaningful results in Ethiopia and our policy team has been lobbying hard in the corridors of power on children’s behalf.

And while not everything we wanted got through, there was real progress on access to healthcare, tax reform and aid.

Closing the gap

The world has made great strides in the last 25 years in reducing infant mortality and getting more children into school; hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty.

Yet within countries themselves many children have been left behind. A new challenge is how to make sure that as a developing country gets wealthier, all its children benefit.

That’s why we welcome the adoption at the summit of what’s being called the Social Compact. It commits governments to the principle that everyone has the right to free healthcare and education.

No child born to die

A world where every child has access to free primary healthcare will mean an end to child deaths from illnesses like pneumonia and diarrhoea which modern medicine can cure or prevent. It’s a huge step forward for our cause.

The agreement encourages governments to set targets on how much they will spend in these vital services and others such as water and sanitation – all helping to reduce the daily toll on young lives in poorer countries.

There was also progress on tax reform – another key area that our supporters have been campaigning hard on.

Life and taxes

In too many poor countries, governments don’t get all the taxes they’re owed. Both inefficient domestic tax collection and a global tax regime which allows billions to wind up in secretive global tax havens play their part.

This missing revenue is costing these nations cash that could be spent on doctors, hospitals, teachers and schools.

While we didn’t get the independent global tax body to police financial movements to tax havens, tax reform is now well and truly on the agenda and we expect rapid progress in the months to come.

A fair share

But poor countries aren’t going to be able to fund the new Sustainable Development Goals themselves even with improved tax collection. Support from richer countries will continue to be essential.

The summit produced welcome re-commitments to the longstanding target of rich countries spending 0.7% of their national income on international development – a target the UK met earlier this year thanks, in part, to campaigners like our supporters.

There was also a new promise by rich countries to spend half of their aid budgets on the world’s poorest countries  – so money goes to where it’s really needed.

However, children in the poorest countries still need the wealthiest nations on earth – which still account for half of global income – to come back with clear and ambitious timetables to action these promises.

A historic opportunity

Overall, the Addis Ababa summit made progress – it wasn’t everything we wished for but it was an important step forward.

The great opportunity now is to build momentum towards the UN summit in September where world leaders will be approving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Save the Children and our supporters will be calling on all leaders to go to New York with clear action plans to deliver the promises they will make.

We hope you will be joining us in that call so that together we can build a world where no child dies of preventable causes and every child has the chance to fulfil their potential.

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  • David Hughes

    Pleased it was Justine Greening, MP at the Conference. Justine knows more on the subject of the developing countries than anyone else on the Government benches. I think that the work you are doing is of such importance to all the peoples of the world that I only wish I was a Rockafeller to give you all I had.