Social Watch News

The year 2019 is starting full of uncertainties and also of hopes. In a fast changing and unpredictable world, our voice and the voices of the people that we try to express and amplify need to be heard. Our governments and the powerful of the world need to be made accountable.

In 2019, as we have been doing since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, the Social Watch network will contribute to the global Spotlight report and we will help disseminate the independent reporting of civil society and bring those findings to the United Nations' High Level Political Forum (HLPF).

The HLPF is the United Nations body mandated by the 2030 Agenda to have a “central role in overseeing a network of follow-up and review processes at the global level.” The HLPF will meet at ministerial level in New York, next July 9 to 18 for an in-depth review of Goals 4, 8, 10, 13, 16 and 17 (the so called “political goals”, including inequalities, governance and implementation). The theme will be "Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality".

Under the motto "Imagining Gani", Social Watch Philippines gave tribute last March 11 to Isagani Serrano, who passed away last February 22nd. Gani was a Co-Convenor of Social Watch Philippines and a contributor to the national Social Watch reports for several years. He was president of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and author of numerous papers and reports on climate and social justice.

Roberto Bissio, from the international secretariat of Social Watch, contributed a personal testimony: "Guiding Gani through Montevideo at his first visit to my hometown was not an easy a task, as his curiosity was insatiable. He definitely had to visit the places where tango was born, and impressed me with his knowledge of the songs and biography of the legendary singer Carlos Gardel. And he insisted on visiting the old jail of Punta Carretas, then already transformed into a shopping center, out of which over a hundred political prisoners escaped in the early seventies through a tunnel. "That episode costed me six months of solitary confinement" remembered Gani to my surprise. In those times Gani was a prisoner himself in the Philippines "and when we heard the news of the tupamaros escaping, we started digging ourselves... but got caught!"

The push for greater private sector involvement in the implementation of SDG 6, the Sustainable Development Goal on water, flies in the face of growing evidence that the privatization of water and sanitation has been detrimental, especially to the most marginalized and vulnerable communities in the world.

Evidence shows that private investors have largely ignored the most underserved regions of the world while favouring more lucrative markets requiring less capital and promising greater returns. For instance, in Chile, where 95 percent of the water and sanitation services are in private hands, the State invested significant public funds in order to achieve extensive coverage before it was sold to private investors with the promise of a 7 percent return. Corporate utilities operating in Chile have not expanded networks outside profitable urban centres.

The report on Switzerland by the NGO coalition Alliance Sud emphasizes the negative spillovers of policies: “Swiss foreign economic policy and its international financial and fiscal policy are still far from taking sufficient account of the requirements of the 2030 Agenda.” After a visit to Switzerland, UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and other financial obligations Juan-Pablo Bohoslavsky drew attention in a report to the Human Rights Council to deficiencies in the prevention of unfair financial flows and problems in the area of international corporate taxation: “The existing Swiss tax privileges for the foreign profits of multinational corporations ... create massive incentives for profit transfers to Switzerland and help to deprive developing countries of potential tax revenues in the hundreds of billions.”

Peru was affected by natural disasters more than a year ago, when heavy rains and floods affected 21 of its 25 departments. As of May 2018, thousands of families still lived in tents and many schools and hospitals had not recovered completely. In fact, many families still have not recovered their houses, destroyed by an earthquake in 2007, more than ten years ago!

Peru is part of the “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific Ocean, prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity. It is further vulnerable to the climate change-induced alterations in ocean currents, causing floods in the north of the country and drought in the south and centre. According to the report by Grupo Red de Economia Solidaria del Perú (GRESP) and the Intercontinental network for the promotion of social solidarity economy (Ripess) “lack of planning in the use of land for housing and criminal-led occupations of unsuitable terrain to set up slums make the problem worse.

Statisticians from around the world, meeting at the UN Statistical Commission in March, will again take stock of progress in the world of data over the previous 12 months, largely driven by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The official report on filling the gaps in the global indicator framework—a clear priority of the 2018 Commission—show that while some progress has been made much has stalled. Gaps and tensions continue over the selection and interpretation of indicators, the data to fill them, the selection of partners as well as control of the process and ownership of the results.

These struggles go back to the negotiations over the 2030 Agenda and its goals and targets, and have continued into the effort to define the global indicator framework.  A special edition of the Global Policy Journal details the complex power dynamics involved throughout this process. Contributors show that the selection of indicators does not depend purely on technical considerations but ultimately concerns political questions of competing priorities among a range of different players. One proposal, outlined below, argues that national statistical systems urgently must take charge of this process, and shows how they can do it.

Social protection has surfaced to the top of multiple agendas, from human rights to the promotion of economic growth, from decent work to economic, social and gender equality. Its champions, particularly at the global level, include a host of different players, with different priorities, institutions and policy streams, all competing to define the concept and own the discourse.

A majority of the 3.3 billion people employed globally in 2018 experienced a lack of material well-being, economic security, equal opportunities or scope for human development, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found.

In its latest World Employment and Social Outlook report released last week, the ILO pointed out that being in employment does not always guarantee a decent living.

"Many workers find themselves having to take up unattractive jobs that tend to be informal and are characterized by low pay and little or no access to social protection and rights at work."

Gani passed away last February 22nd. Gani was a Co-Convenor of Social Watch Philippines and a contributor to the national Social Watch reports for several years. As a president of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), visit http://www.prrm.org/isagani-r-serrano.html.

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