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The traditional definition of aid is being eroded at the same time that governments have committed to achieving the UN's ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Jeffrey Sachs, special adviser to the UN Secretary-General on development, told IPS Thursday.

"A lot of governments have a kind of magical thinking which is, we're all for the Sustainable Development Goals but don't come to us if you want to achieve them, go borrow from the private markets," said Sachs.

Aldo Caliari, who represents civil society in UN Financing for Development (FfD) negotiations, told journalists here Monday that there has been a "significant shift in the language" in these negotiations towards "a larger presence of the private sector".

The money needed to fight climate change and make the Sustainable Development Goals a reality is hidden in tax havens and stowed away in the pockets of vulture funds, as world leaders gather at the UN to sign the climate treaty and discuss the new goals.

More public investment in caring infrastructure is well warranted under existing evidence, is the message that emerges from a new study released recently by the ITUC (“the study”).

The study shows that investment into the care economy of 2 per cent of GDP in just 7 countries would create over 21 million jobs and help countries overcome the twin challenges of ageing populations and economic stagnation. Investing in care narrows the gender pay gap, reduces overall inequality and helps redress the exclusion of women from decent jobs.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) concept of interdependence between countries and policy areas can be employed in the follow-up and monitoring of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, says a recent policy brief of this international agency.

UNCTAD argues that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development substantially increases the demand for evidence-based analysis and integrated and coordinated policy support.

The two-day UNCTAD expert meeting (16-17 March) on investment, innovation and entrepreneurship will be taking stock of recent developments in investment policy at the national, bilateral, regional and multilateral levels, in particular reform efforts related to the International Investment Agreements (IIA) regime.

According to UNCTAD, the Multi-Year Expert Meeting on Investment, Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Productive Capacity-Building and Sustainable Development will also address policy perspectives with regards to science, technology and innovation (STI) and provide an update on entrepreneurship policies, in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This week, the UN Statistical Commission convenes for its annual meeting in New York. At the top of its agenda will be the latest report of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), which presents a final proposal for global indicators to monitor the SDGs. In the run-up to the Commission, various civil society groups have expressed their concern about particular indicators or missing indicators, as well as the opaque decision-making process. 

There are strong indications that inequality may substantially contribute to and exacerbate the emergence and the course of financial crises, even if other factors, in particular financial deregulation, obviously also play a crucial role, according to a United Nations human rights expert.

This finding has been highlighted by Mr Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, in a thematic report for the UN Human Rights Council, currently holding its thirty-first session.

Tax avoidance and evasion represent a systemic drain on government revenues needed for the fulfilment of women’s rights and gender equality. As the international human rights system begins to grapple with the consequences of tax policy for human rights, a groundbreaking initiative is about to shine a bright light into the dark corners of financial secrecy.

Switzerland – arguably the world’s most important tax haven — may soon face scrutiny from the United Nations human rights system over its role in facilitating cross-border tax abuse. A coalition of civil society organizations has asked the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) — the UN body mandated to oversee compliance with governments’ legal obligations related to women’s human rights — to examine the extra-territorial impacts of Switzerland’s opaque financial legislation on women’s rights and gender equality, particularly in developing countries.

The global supply chains of 50 companies employ only six per cent of people in a direct employment relationship, yet rely on a hidden workforce of 94 per cent of their labour needs, according to new research from the International Trade Union Confederation.

“Just 50 companies including Samsung, McDonalds and Nestle have a combined revenue of $3.4 trillion and the power to reduce inequality. Instead they have built a business model on a massive hidden workforce of 116 million people,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.

The ITUC report, Scandal: Inside the global supply chains of 50 top companies released on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos exposes an unsustainable business model, with a global footprint that covers almost every country in the world and profiles 25 companies with headquarters in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

Ministers and senior officials of developed countries agreed mid-February major changes to what can be counted as Official Development Assistance (ODA, or ‘aid’), opening the door for greater use of aid to subsidise private companies. A push by some states for greater aid spending on military and security costs was partly rebuffed, after strong campaigning from civil society organisations, while discussions on how to reduce the huge amount of foreign aid being diverted to cover spending in donor countries to support refugees will culminate later this year. 

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