IFAD Governors discuss role of multilateral institutions in delivering solutions to global challenges

Rome, 14 February 2018 – On the second day of IFAD's Governing Council 2018, the interactive session "Multilateralism – Opportunities and challenges" reflected on the prospects and role of multilateralism and multilateral institutions in realizing the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda. The session was typified by a dynamic interaction between Governors and panellists, with the use of polling technology for the first time at IFAD's Governing Council enabling the moderator, Johannes Linn, Senior Fellow at Brookings Institute, to pose several salient questions to the audience to gage opinion in the room and feed the debate.

The panel for the event comprised:
• Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency,
• Martha Elena Federica Bárcena Coqui, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to Rome-based United Nations Organizations of the United Mexican States,
• David Nabarro, Director of 4SD – Skills, Systems and Synergies for Sustainable Development, and
• Alvaro Lario, Associate Vice-President, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Controller, Financial Operations Department, IFAD.

The world needs more, not less, multilateralism
Despite a global context in which, as noted by Linn, "there are plenty of sceptics of multilateralism these days", the audience indicated broad agreement that more multilateral engagement is needed to address global challenges. And the perception that multilateralism generally is in a state of crises was strongly challenged by panellists. "Multilateralism has brought us enormous progress – the 2030 Agenda and the way it was negotiated represents a new paradigm and the Paris Agreement on climate change would have been unthinkable decades ago. We should not be excessively negative on a 'crisis' of the multilateral system," stated Bárcena Coqui, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to Rome-based United Nations Organizations of the United Mexican States, and panellist for the session.

At the same time, it was acknowledged that challenges such as globalization, inequality and increasing pressures on national budgets were calling for changes in the way the multilateral system and its institutions operate. While creating unprecedented wealth, globalization, for example, is leaving many of the poorest people and countries behind. Several Governors expressed concern that not everyone is benefitting from current multilateral approaches, with many smallholder farmers for example being excluded from opportunities to access finance and export markets.  "Multilateral systems need to be adapted to find solutions," said Mayaki.

New mindsets and new approaches to multilateralism
Fresh ways of approaching and finding solutions to problems are needed, emphasizing partnerships and multi-stakeholder approaches. As stressed by Nabarro, this means focusing on challenges rather than the role of individual institutions. And it means prioritizing those at risk of being left behind. "Movements of multiple stakeholders for change is the key term," he suggested.

Global solutions are needed for global problems. There was wide agreement in the room that this means more partnerships – encompassing a wider range of stakeholders – for food security and nutrition. Smallholders and their organizations must be central to these partnerships, as emphasized by Nigeria. It is crucial that multilateral systems support small farmers and extend systems to enable especially young farmers to access finance and markets.

In this respect, IFAD is a key part of the multilateral architecture. Equally, the role of national governments is obviously crucial alongside multilateral actions. And national policies and strategies must reflect the success of individual projects from multilateral actors such as IFAD in order to scale up progress towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

A new vision for IFAD
As pointed out by Germany, multilateralism is expensive and the ambitions of the SDGs require new financing arrangements in order to be realized. Against a global context of high pressure on national funding, an increasing focus on co-financing and private financing was inevitable, pointed out Lario.

The question of IFAD prudentially engaging in private capital markets to expand its capacity was put to the audience, with tentatively positive, though mixed responses from the audience. Looking to the future, as well as ensuring value for money, IFAD needs to step up its impact by focusing on key themes such as youth, gender, climate and nutrition, around which mainstreaming commitments have been made during the replenishment consultation for IFAD11. A future vision, against a reformed UN system is for IFAD to have an "more borrowing capacity...[and] a bigger impact," Lario put forward.

Concluding the session, Linn emphasized the importance of multilateral financing institutions to leverage resources efficiently and prudentially, but also called on countries to support multilateral institutions to avoid a future scenario where the means to deal with global problems will no longer exist. Linn urged multilateral institutions to speak up for themselves and their role in addressing global problems such as hunger, poverty and climate change – a salient message on the day that the IFAD11 Consultation reached its conclusion.

David Suttie