Event Report - After the Millennium Development Goals: What next for international development?

On 9th November 2010, A4ID hosted the event After the Millennium Development Goals Summit: What next for international development? as part of National Pro BonoPro bono is the provision of free legal services by volunteer lawyers. It is not the same as legal aid which is the state provision of free legal advice to members of the public. Week. The event explored progress to date in global poverty reduction, future challenges and how the skills and expertise of the legal sector can be best utilised to meet development targets.

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The event kicked off with an introduction to A4ID by Roger Leese, A4ID Chairman and Partner at law firm Clifford Chance, who highlighted the over £7 million worth of free legal advice that A4ID has facilitated, impacting on the lives of communities in 92 countries around the world.

The SolicitorIn some countries lawyers are split into two disciplines: solicitor and barrister. Historically a solicitor advised clients and barristers, who could only be instructed by solicitors, presented cases in court. These distinctions are becoming blurred with barristers advising clients directly and solicitors gaining rights to present cases in courts. General of England and Wales, Edward Garnier QC, MP, then spoke about the broader context of Pro Bono Week in the UK, which is now in its ninth year. He reiterated both his and the government’s support for Pro Bono Week and all that it represents, including A4ID and the opportunities it provides for lawyers to extend their free legal advice services and their knowledge in the international arena.

Alison Evans, DirectorA director is responsible for the day-to-day management of a company. Directors are also primarily responsible for the company’s business plan. of the leading UK international development think tank, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), then gave a presentation on the progress made in achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the wider development agenda so far. Using Ghana as an example, she explained the many inspirations that can be drawn from the international development arena. Ghana is experiencing sustained growth and decreasing poverty and hunger, and is in the process of entering the ranks of the middle-income countries. But while there has been unprecedented progress in achieving the MDGs, and development in general, in many countries, it is likely that we will not achieve all the Goals by their 2015 target date.

Alison explained that we are now at a very interesting time in terms of international development and we will need to put development goals into a different context moving forward. Global power is increasingly shifting from West to East and the geography of wealth and poverty are changing in a way that cuts across old dichotomies of North-South, first- and third-world. There has been a considerable rise in South-South investment and cooperation, especially with the rise of the BRIC/BASIC countries. In absolute terms there are now also more people living in absolute poverty in middle-income countries than in low-income countries, which will influence where donor communities decide to focus their aid budgets. New private sector actors, such as ethical investors and venture social capitalists, are also playing an increasingly important role in furthering the international development agenda.

In looking into what the future holds for the international development ‘project’, particularly after 2015, Alison explained that what will be important is whether we choose to focus on the failures or successes of what has been achieved so far. She believes that the MDGs have become a prescription for “wholesale public service delivery” and we will need to move away from the heavily bureaucratic thinking of the past towards pragmatic solutions to development challenges, that are often country or region specific. These solutions include combining the voluntary, private and public sectors in achieving long-term, sustainable growth, focussing on inequality in order to prevent the divergence between growth and development, focussing more on tailored knowledge and specific solutions than on traditional aid solutions and, by tapping into the benefits of globalisation, placing more emphasis on policy coherence through multilateral approaches to development challenges.

The final speaker Gavin Davies, a Partner at Herbert Smith LLP, spoke about his recent sabbatical, during which he completed a pro bono in-country placement advising the government of Sierra Leone through the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI). The AGI aims to achieve the MDGs through good governance, which is promoted by placing special advisors, such as management consultants and lawyers, next to government ministers on various skills transfer projects.

While in Sierra Leone, Gavin worked on a number of joint venture and finance agreements with the government, which utilised his many years of experience in corporate mergers and acquisitions. His day-to-day tasks were often similar to those required of him at Herbert Smith, such as moving deals forward and talking to stakeholders. Gavin’s initial objective was to find lawyers in the Government of Sierra Leone and transfer certain knowledge and skills to them. However, he soon realised that the government was very limited in terms of legal resources, and so he turned instead to guiding the government on how to be a better legal user. Gavin emphasised that doing international pro bono work broadens one’s horizons and gives lawyers a chance to work in new and different jurisdictions.

He concluded with three comments on how to improve the international pro bono process.
• It is essential that developing countries recognise the availability of free legal assistance and that their buy-in is attained on pro bono projects.
• The value that can be derived from doing pro bono work makes it worth it for lawyers, who often have conflicts of interest and other complications on pro bono projects, to work through those issues.
• The volunteer community needs to coordinate amongst themselves so that they ensure that they don’t all offer the same services to those in need.

A4ID would like to thank Herbert Smith for their generous hospitality in hosting the event and reception.

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