Social Watch news

When Hungarian government officials talk about implementing the SDGs they mean less public expenditure in social sectors. Between 2010 and 2015 the Orbán government on the one hand increased state expenditures, doubled spending on the economy, and significantly increased spending by allocating about US$ 340 million annually on sports, mainly for building football stadiums. On the other hand, it decreased expenditures on public health, education and pensions.

The government did not save only on pensioners, but also on unemployment benefits, by decreasing their size and duration even when they were taking place on an insurance basis. These measures decreased annual family support expenditures as well, which can be explained by a decrease in the number of children and the decades-long freeze in services. Social benefits were decreased, while extreme poverty increased over the past eight years.

Following 8 days involving 43 Voluntary National reviews (VNR) and 147 side events with 77 ministry-level participations and 2458 registered stakeholder representatives, the statistical outlook of the 2017 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals is quite promising. It is only the second review and just two years after the kick-off for the implementation of a universal agenda towards leaving no-one behind. Yet, time is marching on and there is a long way to go on the level of implementation.

At the 2017 HLPF, Jordan became the third country from the Arab region to participate in the VNR process; following Egypt and Morocco in the 2016 review. The first words of Jordan’s national report made reference to the same issues: ‘the power of working together’ and taking into consideration ‘the urgent world issues’.

Guatemala should abandon the old patterns of ‘development’ based on the extraction of natural wealth, environmental predation and exploitation of cheap labour, and turn its gaze towards more creative and inclusive forms of production, promote democracy and make the distribution of wealth and political power more equitable, recommends the civil society report on the SDGs contributed by Helmer Velasquez and Arlyn Jimenez of the Coordination of NGOs and Cooperatives of Guatemala (CONGCOOP).

Bulgaria is the poorest EU member state, with almost half of its children living in low-income households and more than half of elderly people with pensions below poverty line. The Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (BGRF) and Bulgarian Social Watch coalition report that policies shaped by EU priorities and advice provided by the IMF and the World Bank declare as their fundamental purpose “the struggle against poverty”, but "they keep on demanding economic reforms which have proved to be totally inefficient". The leading assumption is that only the free market and strictly restricted government intervention can guarantee prosperity. Once adopted, "no one measures whether the welfare of people has improved, but only to what extent the recommended neoliberal policies have been implemented".

The present and future of economic and social rights in the UK will depend considerably on the legal and policy consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

In recent years, the UK has introduced significant changes to its welfare state with the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016. The reforms were justified on two grounds: deficit reduction and ending welfare dependency by facilitating access to work.

In the first four months of 2017, severe floods isolated hundreds of Peruvian towns, leaving thousands of families homeless and destroying over 100 bridges. The waters have swept away bridges and roads. The Amazon, Marañón, Ucayali and Napo rivers, in the Amazon region, are under red alert because owing to a critical level of flow and danger of overflow. According to the World Bank, damage to the environment has an economic cost of 3.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and mainly affects the poorest populations. In spite of te high vulnerability to human-made natural disasters, the national Social Watch report finds tenacious resistance to more sustainable practices by those who argue that environmental regulation is an obstacle to economic growth and corporate profits.

Photo: Agaron Adibekyan (Sociometr)

The Armenian government seeks to liberalize socioeconomic and political activities in a framework of respect for human rights and gender equality, acknowledges the national Social Watch report. Over the past 15 years, the poverty rate has fallen from 51 percent to 26.5 percent, but the unemployment rate is unchanged, which remains one of the main factors driving labor migration: almost one in four families (23%) in Armenia has members outside the country, of which 20 percent are in Russia and 3 percent in Europe.

The analysis of the Center for Development of Civil society concludes that despite a certain increase in per capita income, the current level allows families to cover only the costs of food and some utilities, since the state's minimum wage and various allowances do not take into account needs for medical care, education, vacation time or cultural activities.

Photo: UN Web TV

“Social Protection is a Human Right. Every right has a right holder and a duty bearer. We know who the right holders are: every human being, particularly those more in need of social protection: The right to be protected and cared is a right of children, the elderly, the sick, the people with disabilities" said Roberto Bissio, coordinator of Social Watch, speaking on behalf of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) in the side event: “Global Partnership on Universal Social Protection: Ending Poverty by 2030” held during the HLPF on July 10th.

In discussions at the UN about achieving Agenda 2030, it has become de rigueur to highlight the role of the private sector.

It is often introduced as the discovery of the idea that private sector investment and financing is indispensable to achieving Agenda 2030.

For developed country diplomats and their associated experts this new celebrity treatment appears to be an article of faith, at least during negotiations on economic matters in the UN.

Reflections on the 2017 United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. In his opening remarks, the UN Secretary-General said that 20 years ago “there was the idea that globalization would not only increase global wealth, but that it would trickle-down and would benefit everybody in our planet”.

He went on to describe that at the present time, “globalization and technological progress have dramatically increased global trade and global wealth. It is true that the number of absolute poor has been reduced and that living conditions have improved all over the world but it is also true that globalization and technological progress together have been factors in the increase of inequality”.

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