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In discussions of sovereign debt, some actors occasionally project the sensibility, implicitly or explicitly, that efforts to bring issues of justice and sovereign debt together are not entirely appropriate. In this view, questions of human rights, governmental accountability to citizens, and justice more generally fall into one legal and political arena, while sovereign debt belongs to another sphere—namely, to the hard-headed world of international finance, which has its own set of rules and market principles.  This underlying assumption can ground the contention that, although it is possible for these areas to overlap to some degree, they should be understood as belonging to two separate worlds.  Relatedly, this assumption also can undergird resistance to criticism of the existing sovereign debt regime and undercut efforts to change these practices.

Recent austerity policies are undermining economic, social and labour rights within the European Union (EU) and are hitting the most vulnerable, the United Nations Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and human rights, Mr Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, has said.

This conclusion was highlighted in an end-of-mission statement following his recent official visit to EU institutions to assess the response of these institutions and of EU Member States "to the sovereign debt and financial crisis from a human rights perspective."

Last June 19th, we have been witnesses of the extremely violent actions of the Mexican State repressing the teachers and the organized civil society in resistance in different areas of the State of Oaxaca including the Istmus of Tehuantepec, Nochixtlán and the city of Oaxaca.

As a result of the excessive use of force, at least six persons have lost their lives and dozens have been injured and arrested. At this moment there is no information about the whereabouts of the arrested persons neither there is an exact total number of injured and killed persons. Medical attention was not guaranteed and civil society had to create points of emergency medical attention to injured persons without being able to cope with the demand.

There are happening particularly violent actions in the city of Oaxaca tonight. We have witnessed the arrival of a large number of airplanes of the Federal Police and the Gendarmerie in the city throughout the day as well as we witness that the tension is increasing every minute.

Malta will hold the Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2017 and it should practice what it preaches, argues the Maltese NGO Kopin, "by ending European agricultural subsidies and other unjust practices that are harming and keeping poor undeveloped countries from reaching their potential". Justice and dignity for Maltese citizens cannot be separated from that of all citizens around the world and therefore the role of Malta as tax haven should be revised, since "tax evasion and money laundering are two major causes of global poverty and injustice". Further, the Mediterranean island should do more towards the integration of migrants, combatting xenophobia and "putting special emphasis on the rights of children and youth who are migrating, irrespective of their reasons to move".

Jordan is a middle income country, but the consequences of the global economic crisis and the massive influx of Syrian refugees are enormous challenges. Despite some progress in achieving the MDGs, little was made on goals that required structural change, harmony among policies, continuity and sustainability of funding–notably the targets on employment and environmental sustainability. The country is not receiving adequate international support to host 1.3 million Syrians (one for every five Jordanians) which together with a fast growing population impose stress on social services and water provision. Yet, for civil society "the main challenge is lack of good governance".

Since the 1990s, when democracy was reinstated,  Bangladesh has been able to make some extraordinary achievements.  The poverty rate was 57 percent in 1991 and was reduced to 31.5 percent in 2010, enrolment in primary education reached 98 per cent and girls slightly outnumber boys in schools. But budget allocations to health and social security are far from enough, corruption and illicit financial flows divert resources and climate change is set to produce more physical damage in Bangladesh by 2025 than in any other country. Rising sea levels, severe storms and other extreme climate-related events are going to produce millions of "climate refugees" in a country that has not contributed to generate this phenomenon and is not receiving compensation for enormous loss and damages.

According to a recent human rights report, “in its operational policies, in particular, [the World Bank] treats human rights more like an infectious disease than universal values and obligations.”

No, the recent report was not from a health agency, but from the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Mr. Philip Alston. In the report, he summarizes the World Bank (“the Bank”)’s practice on the matter in four propositions: “(a) pay lip service to human rights in official settings, as long as there are no consequences; (b) acknowledge the theoretical significance of human rights in studies and analyses of issues in relation to which they are incontestably relevant; (c) ensure that, as a general rule, the Bank does not engage with any aspect of human rights in its actual operations and lending; and (d) be prepared to make exceptions when political imperatives require it, even if that involves a high degree of inconsistency.”

In describing the Paris Agreement (PA) as being "historic" and an important "milestone", key developing countries stressed that the Agreement is to enhance the implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and not to replace it.

At a side-event jointly organized by the South Centre and Third World Network on the first day of the Bonn climate talks (16-26 May), delegates from India, China and Egypt presented their views on the PA.

They also stressed the need for a balanced approach in the implementation of the PA, emphasizing the importance of all elements including mitigation, adaptation and the means of implementation.

Constitutional Assembly
(Photo: ANHRI)

The defining feature of the framework for Egypt's national sustainable developmental strategy is the lack of a detailed roadmap to achieve several key goals, especially reducing poverty and unemployment and tackling the informal sector, for which it also lacks indicators. This is in addition to the lack of clarity in implementation mechanisms and the lack of consistency among the goals, despite the overarching strategy. The indicators used to measure the goals reflect the Government's continuation of the neoliberal approach, which is contingent on the development of the private sector and dependent on it to finance the development goals. Thus, for example, to reduce the deficit, the strategy does not include raising taxes on companies, instead opting to tax consumers, such as with the 10 percent value added tax (VAT). In addition, the strategy differs in important ways from previous development strategies, none of which were discussed in Parliament or through any sort of social dialogue.

The successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda requires bold and transformative steps that are urgently needed to shift the world on to a sustainable and resilient path. In order for it to be a collective journey, on which no one should be left behind, the scale and ambition of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets require a broad and integrated approach not only to balancing and realigning the normative architecture of the global economy but also to restructuring regional and national political-economic practices. Politics as usual and economics as the determined by the rich and powerful will have no place on this new path. Merely tinkering with uncomfortable edges of the micro-economic status quo will not do. The historical direction and social-structural content of such a shift will involve the modification of the deep structures of poverty in the periphery economies up to and including addressing the different aspects of state autonomy and the underlying democratic deficits that stand on the way of building sustainable national economies.

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