As many as 4.5 million dead, major economies shut down, businesses crushed… The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic caused panic and hardship, but it also accelerated change. Although the capacity for devastation had been so much greater in previous pandemics that the population in Europe clearly shrunk, this pandemic took the world by surprise that historians said everything will be different after the COVID-19 crisis. A certain concept, global cooperation or multilateralism, has become more valuable than ever in dealing with the post-COVID reality.
Early September, Egypt organized a global forum that gathered policymakers and economists from around the world to discuss the post-pandemic recovery and identify global solutions to the world’s most critical challenges.
Egypt – International Cooperation Forum (Egypt-ICF) concluded with Cairo Communique, which drew upon the insights of preeminent leaders in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Latin America; multilateral and bilateral development partners; along with the private sector and the civil society
Emerging economies will need nothing short of a new social contract that is based on a redesigned global governance system to ensure a green economic recovery in the post COVID-19 economy, and sketching new pathways for the emergence of innovation-driven sectors, rethinking social protection and green recovery, along with a progressive transformation of the labour market to mark the beginning of a new quality of growth.
The Egypt-ICF Communique was endorsed by the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council and its President, Ambassador Collen Vixen Kelapile, who demanded the integration of the recommendations into the international agenda.
Sketching new pathways by engaging globally
Dedicated to scaling up impact and deepening global development partnership in every sphere of policy through evidence-based common standards, platforms for dialogue and policy reform, Egypt-ICF was organized by the Ministry of International Cooperation, under the auspices of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, on 8-9 September, which included more than 1,500 participants via online and on-ground attendance.
President Al-Sisi gave an opening speech emphasizing that Egypt advocates the spirit of open and inclusive partnership, and its importance in supporting development. Reflecting the policy recommendations that were laid out in the Cairo Communique, he underscored the urgent need for the international community and financial institutions to support developing countries as they strive to achieve a green recovery in the post COVID-19 economy.
The president also emphasized the private sector’s role in advancing all development endeavours, as governments alone will not be able to face all challenges. In addition, the speech highlighted that success stories are vital to promoting change in the region, and that there is a need for the exchange of experiences between Egypt and other countries to transfer knowledge and share experiences.
Repositioning of developing countries
Minister Al-Mashat pointed out that the recommendations push for deepened reform and actively pursued mutually beneficial cooperation to provide impetus and confidence for the global recovery, and that the Ministry of International Cooperation is working with multilateral and bilateral development partners to activate the findings of Egypt-ICF in order to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Al-Mashat added, “Despite the circumstances imposed by the pandemic and the inability of many delegations and international participants to come to Cairo to partake in the first edition of the Forum, it witnessed an active virtual and actual presence, together with effective, influential, and rich discussions. I am certainly looking forward to the next edition of the Forum, as we aspire to attract more participation and attendance including representatives of governments and international financial institutions.”
In his closing speech, Ambassador Vixen Kelapile stressed the importance of integrating Egypt-ICF’s recommendations into the international agenda. Moreover, he discussed many vital issues, including the significance of advancing infrastructure while developing countries, in addition to raising the level of investments to achieve development with the participation of the private sector. He also added that the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council will hold two events to tackle what was reached during the Forum’s activities, especially at the level of the private sector’s role in development, and the importance of development funds while implementing the SDGs.
Laying the foundations of a new inclusive economy, the recommendations of the Egypt-ICF focused on designing pathways to foster more effective and agile multilateral cooperation capable of addressing the pressing and emerging global challenges of developing economies, and thereby, reintegrate their position in the future economy.
It also emphasized the importance of following-up on commitments and agreements at the various global summits and international platforms, including the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda, and encouraging the initiation of an inclusive, multi-stakeholder global dialogue on the establishment of a universal monitoring framework to track the implementation of such commitments were emphasized.
The South-South and triangular cooperation add value to conventional forms of development cooperation, which facilitates access to technical and financial resources, promotes knowledge sharing, exchange of experience and technical know-how and ultimately contributes to sustainable development. The South-South does not substitute North-South Cooperation, which is key to bridge the technological gap between the North and South.
To promote transparency and open governance, the recommendations also enable each country to take innovative approaches in mapping their progress to align the results of international development cooperation projects with the SDGs’ objectives, and strengthen inclusive and impactful engagement with development partners, governments, global policymakers, the private sector and civil society.
In order to recognize the persistent SDGs financing gap, as an additional $3.7trn a year will be required to achieve the SDGs by 2030, all nations and international organizations must be called upon to capitalize on the indispensable role of the private sector and private investments in achieving the SDGs through the promotion of sustainable corporate practices and impact investment.
Businesses must also be encouraged to implement more inclusive economic policies that increase cross-institutional collaboration and align all stakeholders towards environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles, hence fostering impact investing and creating sustainable value chains.
To advance global environmental governance and pursue green and low-carbon development to proactively tackle climate change, the communique highlighted the need to seize the opportunities arising from technological progress, and to support emerging economies to upgrade their economic and industrial structures as well as the energy mix at a faster pace.
The role of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) must be reaffirmed in boosting growth and integration of the African economies, which can come about through negotiations relating to the enactment of an e-commerce protocol as a guiding tool must be reiterated in order to harmonize data regulations, facilitate cross-border digital trade, and enable digital taxation on e-commerce.
The importance of harnessing the potential of digital technologies to provide women-led businesses with vast opportunities and enhance their competitiveness must be realized, by calling for enhancing accessibility to digital technology, especially for those residing in rural areas and providing women with the necessary digital skills and strengthening their entrepreneurial capacity. The recommendations call upon increasing investments directed to ICT infrastructure, which would in turn improve internet connectivity, and ultimately promote women’s participation in entrepreneurship and innovation.
The international community must support the development of a roadmap that outlines short-, medium- and long-term solutions for building resilient agricultural and food systems. It would entail guidelines to facilitate knowledge sharing; promote technology transfer; adopt country-led sustainable agricultural methods; foster smart-climate practices; and support the diversification of livelihoods among rural communities seeing as they are the most vulnerable to food scarcity in the face of climatic shocks.
The economic infrastructure is one of the most prominent sectors with persistent financing gaps ranging from $770bn to $950bn. The communique calls for formulating strategic infrastructure development plans, as well as gauging the amount of annual investments needed.
Embracing a people-centered approach to development, investment in human capital is the starting point to meet the aspirations of all nations for a better life. This should be attained by increasing the development funds directed to develop those citizens’ capabilities, as well as strengthen the health and educational services and the social protection programmes for the lower-income classes, hence take part in creating resilient societies that are capable of having a better future.