Social Watch news

Photo: Google

In Azerbaijan reduced budget revenues and cuts in government spending are the result of the decline in crude oil prices, the main export of the country. The Social Watch coalition in Azerbaijan examines how these constraints can also hamper the financing of sustainable development initiatives. As crude oil prices have tumbled, a worsening of the country’s fiscal balance could gradually lead to an increase in the public debt burden and threaten fiscal sustainability in the long term. Azerbaijan’s sovereign wealth fund, SOFAZ, now has very limited profits from the sale of oil, and will contribute less to the fiscal revenues of the state as a consequence. The national state-owned oil-gas company, SOCAR, temporarily cancelled its plans for a new oil-gas refining and petrochemical complex because of the rapid fall in crude oil prices. However, at the same time, the new low oil price environment also offers an opportunity to boost a new wave of fiscal and public administration reforms in Azerbaijan.

The Fed Up campaign reached new heights last month when 120 community leaders and organizers from around the country sat down with ten of the Federal Reserve’s Presidents and Governors for an unprecedented on-the-record conversation about monetary policy and Fed governance in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Workers and community leaders from mostly Black and Latino communities in all twelve of the Federal Reserve’s regional districts left their homes and families to travel to Jackson Hole to tell the Fed that the economy is still not working for their communities. They all belonged to the Fed Up campaign, a coalition of labor unions and community groups that came together two years ago to advocate for a more democratized Federal Reserve.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) should mainstream human rights into all of its activities and issue directives to the dispute settlement panels so that human rights treaty violations are not adversely affected.

This is one of the main recommendations highlighted by the UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Mr Alfred de Zayas (United States), in his report to the Human Rights Council, which is currently holding its regular thirty-third session in Geneva.

"It is high time to mainstream human rights into all trade agreements and World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and regulations, so that trade representatives and dispute-settlers know that trade is neither a ‘stand-alone' regime nor an end in itself," the rights expert said in presenting his report to the Council on Tuesday (13 September).

Due to the lasting impact of the international financial crisis and resulting increase in poverty and insecurity, and especially due to the Government’s extensive austerity policies, Italy faces challenges in many of the areas addressed by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goal.
Moreover, the political context is critical, the result of three changes of Government without elections, in which the executive power has taken decisive initiatives for reform in many fields, including constitutional reforms, resulting in a progressive worsening of the gap between the political action of the "palace" and the daily exercise of citizen democratic participation.

Even in the one area that has seen a positive trend in recent years, namely, the development of renewable energy, there has been a reversal of the virtuous cycle since 2015. In the absence of a national energy plan, government policies continue to encourage fossil fuels (despite popular opposition), and large infrastructural works with new rules to eliminate environmental controls (introduced through the Stability Law in 2016) and with an increase in soil depletion.

Photo: UNHCR/S. Malkawi

Several challenges hinder the implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development in Lebanon. During the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in September 2014 Lebanese President Tammam Salam identified the humanitarian issues caused by the Syrian refugee crisis as one of the greatest challenges to development. It is indeed a significant constraint; yet, one should note that Lebanon was facing a political and socio-economic crisis reflected by a high rate of unemployment and marginalized people, even before the Syrian crisis and the flood of refugees. Therefore, it is worth highlighting that the Syrian war shed light on the structural and systemic problems of Lebanon and aggravated them.

To date, Lebanon does not have a national strategy for sustainable development nor a national economic plan nor a poverty reduction strategy. According to the 2014 International Parliamentary Union Secretary General’s annual report: “the Lebanese Parliament reported that the Sustainable Development Initiative was in the agenda of the Public Work Committee between 2009-2010 period. The current political instabilities, however, forced the Parliament to shift its priorities.” The same report indicates that the Parliament has not been informed of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has not taken any steps to discuss them. 

Inequality’s unrelenting rise has been the subject of growing attention that has come, in the last few years, from unexpected quarters. As a recent example, an article appeared on the IMF’s Finance & Development journal, “Neoliberalism: Oversold?” put the spotlight on the negative effects that inequality has on the level and sustainability of growth. The article generated not only wide press coverage, but also a number of responses. Almost in sync with the article, the IMF felt the need to publish an interview with its Chief Economist, Mr. Maurice Obstfeld, clarifying that the policy rethink at the IMF did not represent revolution, but evolution. Needless to say, to many analysts who had closely followed IMF policies for years, the clarification was entirely unnecessary. In fact, critics were quick to comment that the article was only a mild departure from IMF doctrine, not reflected in actual IMF programs, and even reasserted points that continue to be the focus of contention such as the positive growth effects of trade liberalization, privatization and foreign direct investment. Nonetheless the article, reflected wider concern with inequality at an institution that until not long ago considered it an afterthought.

Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) held a seminar to discuss issues related to Business and Human Rights in the context of the Pilot Project for the Promotion of Social Dialogue in the Southern Mediterranean Region. 

In the context of the Pilot Project for the Promotion of Social Dialogue in the Southern Mediterranean Region (SOLiD), in partnership with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and BUSINESSMED, ANND held a two day seminar in Beirut on 7 and 8 September 2016, to discuss issues related to Business and Human Rights.

Roberto Bissio, Social Watch Coordinator, joined the workshop participating in Session 1, The privet Sector and the New Development Paradigm - A Rights Based Perspective, Financing for Development from a Rights Based Approach (see his intervention below).

After more than five years, the conflict in Syria represents a catastrophic failure of the “international system” in terms of maintaining basic human rights (including the right to live), peace and stability. This system, including the UN as well as influential world states and organizations, has failed to reduce the escalation of conflict, let alone create effective mediation processes to reach a decent solution. Furthermore, many international and regional actors have fueled the conflict by providing political, military, logistic and financial support to the warring parties, investing in identity politics to deepen polarization and strengthening hostility and a spirit of revenge in their local affiliates.  The conflict has largely destroyed Syria’s economic structure, foundations and institutions, severely depleting resources and capital, human capital, social capital and economic governance. Economic priorities shifted as all subjugating powers reallocated resources to fuel violence and its related activities. This economic environment came along with the absence of rule of law, property rights, and accountability, in addition to a surge in corruption. It generated new actors and/or changed the behaviour of previous actors to be part of new rules of game: that of imposing hegemony by force and building new political economies to sustain the conflict. Effectiveness and equity, as goals of economic policy, have been diminished as the authorities sacrificed the core development goals and achievements to serve the new “development in reverse” dynamics.

Photo: DECIDAMOS

Paraguay faces strong challenges in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with their focus on reducing inequalities and their complex links to production and growth. The right to health has not been met yet and social protection is still not a right for everyone. Even if there is a systematic improvement of the indicators of the past decade, these positive results were achieved only after years. After more than a decade of economic growth, lost opportunities in terms of welfare, the lack of productive transformation and tax justice place the country in an unfavourable position to meet the goals of reducing inequalities and ensuring socially and environmentally sustainable growth.

Social protection is still a right to aspire to. Current contributory programmes are fragmented, incomplete and have a low level of coverage. The coverage of non-contributory programmes has increased significantly in recent years, but the lack of comprehensiveness hinders the possibility of substantial impact in reducing the risks that people face throughout their lives.

Syndicate content