Daniel Nelson



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“It is as clear, as crass and dramatic as that,” he told the annual conference of Bond, the UK membership body for organisations working in international development.

Steiner said the consensus underpinning the international development consensus is under assault by politicians and parts of the media.

This “tsunami of political disruption” was “deeply disturbing” because it was out of proportion to the amount of money spent on lifesaving humanitarian interventions and because aid and development finance are as much in the interests of the donors as of the recipients.

He pointed to remarkable recent successes, including

* the adoption of Agenda 2030 - the first time since second the Second World War that the world has negotiated a shared agenda; 

* the Paris agreement that will allow the world to address climate change in a collective sense; and

* the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal protocol on the ozone layer which “is succeeding in what I see as the greatest planetary repair job ever attempted”.

There have also been “brutal failures”, he noted, such as the response to the refugee crisis – which followed the misjudgement of governments in refusing to heed UN warnings of refugee needs: “When people have nothing left to eat, no opportunity for their children, not even fundamental healthcare being provided, what alternative do they have but to flee?”

Striking a positive note in order, he said, to avoid depressing the 1,000 participants expected over the two days of the meeting, he noted that more than four-fifths of humanity “lives in parts of the world where Agenda 2030, moving towards a lower carbon economy, leaving no-one behind, moving the agricultural sector and achieving foot security are actually paramount to the daily agenda, in politics, economics, investment and economic progress.”

Steiner called for countries to apply the Nelson Mandela principle of “sufficient consensus” - building alliances rather than focusing on areas on which they differ.

In addition, it was necessary to frame issues such as climate change not only in terms of challenges but of opportunities. 

In Africa, for example, two-thirds of the population do not have access to electricity and yet renewables are becoming a short-cut for the poorest people and an opportunity for economic investment.

Similarly, combatting bacterial resistance and offering affordable drugs also offer opportunities.

He ended with an appeal for more emphasis on accountability and good governance, which embraced building the capacity of legislatures to challenge the executive, and for the strengthening of courts and judiciaries “because they are the last recourse for a citizen to challenge the inaction of their governments, including non-adherence to international commitments.”

Steiner is director of the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford..

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