More than a hundred Heads of State and Government will gather in New York this week to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda is intended to make the UN ‘fit for purpose’, but it is important to ask, ‘whose purpose will it be fit for’? 

A new study from Global Policy Forum warns that the United Nations is embarking on a new era of selective multilateralism, shaped by intergovernmental policy impasses and a growing reliance on corporate-led solutions to global problems. The changing funding patterns of the UN and its funds, programmes and specialized agencies reflect these alarming trends. Key features are the growing gap between the scale of  global problems and the (financial) capacity of the UN to solve them; the growing share of non-core contributions and earmarked trust funds in UN finance; increased reliance on the corporate sector; and the outsourcing of funding and decision-making to exclusive global partnerships.

The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) is considered one of the key achievements of the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Twenty years later, this principle has become a focal point of current negotiations on climate change and the post-2015 agenda. The developing countries that make up the Group of 77 want to preserve the principle unchanged. However, the US, EU and other industrialized countries want to do away with it in its present form. They argue that global power structures have changed. In their view, fair burden sharing must include contributions to climate protection from emerging economies like China, India and Brazil. "If consensus cannot be found, there will be neither a new global climate treaty nor a global development agenda worthy of the name in 2015" writes Global Policy Forum's director, Jens Martens.

When the United Nations began negotiating a Code of Conduct for Transnational Corporations (TNCs) back in the 1970s, the proposal never got off the ground because of vigourous opposition both from the powerful business community and its Western allies.

Gustave Assah.

The participants in the civil society strategy meeting on monitoring and accountability organized by Social Watch last february in Montevideo were asked about how they personally work and relate with the huge task of making the powerful accountable. Here is what they said:

In a new working paper entitled "Corporate influence in the Post-2015 process" GPF's Lou Pingeot discusses the influence of transnational corporations in the Post-2015 process. This working paper by Brot für die Welt, Global Policy Forum and Misereor provides an overview of the main corporate actors in the post-2015 process and how they shape the discourse on development. The paper advocates for more transparency around the participation of corporations in UN processes, including their financial support to UN initiatives, and for more reflection on the risks of a corporate, private interests-driven development agenda.
The paper draws conclusions from its findings and makes recommendations for how to deal with corporate interests in global policy making in the future.

Jens Martens. (Photo: IISD.)

The UN has launched an extensive worldwide discussion on the new development agenda that is to succeed the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. Jens Martens, long-time observer of international development and environmental policy, cautions in an interview against consultation overkill and calls on NGOs to develop alternatives that go beyond what is currently politically feasible.

In terms of gender equity Germany places itself well above the European average, but below the Nordic countries and Spain.

Sustainable development in general seems to be widely accepted in the country. A more detailed look however shows that there is still some resistance. Climate change is not properly addressed, and renewable energy sources are still reliant on subsidies from the Government and consumers. Moreover, these subsidies are being reduced, particularly for solar power, while the operating life of nuclear plants is being extended. In addition, the budget item for economic compensation to countries affected by climate change has been deleted from the 2011 draft budget. Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor is growing and social policies are not fully implemented.
The change of government resulting from the 2009 elections has yet to produce any benefits for the poor or others affected by the financial crisis. No new direction is discernable in the labour market or in social policy, and the impoverishment of large sections of society is continuing. Moreover, environmental issues have played a very minor role in the Government’s response to the crisis. According to World Wildlife Fund, only six out of the 32 stimulus measures had a positive impact on the environment, and just 13% of them can be considered sustainable.
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