chapter  4
20 Pages

Global public goods: More aid, better aid or harnessing globalisation?

The concept of global public goods (GPGs) – that is, goods whose provision or associated benefits spill over national boundaries – became a key theme in international development at the end of the 1990s.1 Supporters, which included various international organisations and a number of European countries, argued that an adequate provision of GPGs not only enhanced the effectiveness of aid but also helped manage the negative consequences of globalisation. Moreover, considering that these goods provided benefits to both developed and developing countries, they needed to be funded by additional foreign aid or innovative sources of financing. Opponents included several industrialised countries, which questioned the issue of additionality, and a large number of developing countries, which feared the potential diversion of resources from poverty eradication.2 The battle between supporters and opponents was fought at two international conferences. The first clash occurred during the preparatory process of the Financing for Development conference (Monterrey, March 2002), but because of the negative attitudes of the US and Japan and some divisions within the EU, any reference to GPGs was dropped from the Monterrey Consensus. A second clash happened in the context of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, August/September 2002), but again no substantial progress was made for similar reasons. The subsequent setting up of an International Task Force on GPGs (April 2003-September 2006) by France and Sweden can be seen as a consequence of these breakdowns, as well as a result of the failure of the EU to achieve a common and ambitious position. The Task Force, however, took more than three years to finalise its work, which for some was a sign that the initial momentum had been lost. This chapter looks at these debates from the European Union’s perspective; particular attention is devoted to the divisions inside the European Commission between supporters and opponents. Before doing so in the second and third section of this chapter, the first section introduces the concept of GPGs, with a specific focus on definition and financing.