Germany

A snapshot of the ongoing work at the United Nations in times of crisis

This briefing paper looks at the financing for development (FfD) work at the United Nations in 2020, an exceptional year due to outbreak of the global coronavirus crisis in the spring. Following this shock, FfD became a highly relevant issue on the UN agenda. The FfD process as originally scheduled was redesigned, with the FfD Forum originally scheduled for April cut down from four days of face-to-face meetings to a virtual session that lasted for just one hour. An official outcome document was adopted anyway, however free of concrete commitments that would match the needs of coping with the crisis.

In addition to the health aspects of the virus, the global coronavirus crisis also has financial, socio-economic and developmental consequences. For this reason, a large number of policy measures have been announced by governments and international organizations, on the one hand to contain the pandemic, on the other to mitigate the economic consequences.

These measures contain for example fiscal stimulus and aid packages of various shapes and sizes, intended to cushion the serious economic and social consequences of the coronavirus outbreak worldwide. The main target groups of planned loans and cash injections are the healthcare system, as well as larger banks and companies. However, some strategies are also aimed at small and medium-sized companies as well as groups of individuals, their savings, private pensions and other private assets.

In the 2030 Agenda governments committed to a revitalized Global Partnership between States and declared that public finance has to play a vital role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But in recent decades, the combination of neoliberal ideology, corporate lobbying, business-friendly fiscal policies, tax avoidance and tax evasion has led to a massive weakening of the public sector and its ability to provide essential goods and services and to fulfill its human rights obligations.

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are promoted as the most efficient way to provide the necessary means for implementing the SDGs, but many studies have shown that privatization and PPPs involve disproportionate risks and costs for the public sector and can even exacerbate inequalities, decrease equitable access to essential services and jeopardize the fulfilment of human rights. An analysis by Jens Martens, from Global Policy Forum.

Between partnerships and regulation – two diverging ways to tackle the problem at the UN

The new briefing paper “Extractive Industries and Women’s Rights: Between partnerships and regulation – two diverging ways to tackle the problem at the UN”, by Karolin Seitz and published by AWID, DAWN, Global Policy Forum and Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, presents how women are disproportionately affected by negative social and environmental impacts of extractive industries. The briefing also explains why a new partnership between UN Women and BHP Billiton, launched in June 2018, is very problematic. Similar to UN Women, other United Nations (UN) entities are trying to attract partnerships with the corporate sector. As the case of UN Women shows, potential risks and side-effects of such partnerships are often not properly addressed.

Global multi-stakeholder partnerships and initiatives between public and private actors, which move beyond traditional nation-state multilateralism, are now perceived as the future of international cooperation. The UN is already involved in hundreds of partnership initiatives with individual companies and business associations. ‘Rules of engagement between the UN and private actors,’ a paper by Jens Martens and Karolin Seit from Global Policy Forum, demonstrates that the existing guidelines are weak and highly heterogeneous. Effective and comprehensive rules for such cooperation are still missing.

The non-regulated engagement between the UN and the private sector could result in a loss of reputation, increased influence by private actors on political decision-making, and could divert scarce public resources away from UN goals.

Governments have dedicated a pivotal role to the private sector in the implementation and financing of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. This has pushed a turn towards the private sector, the promotion of multi-stakeholder partnerships between public and private actors. However, far too often there is a considerable gap between the social and environmental commitments companies make publicly in political fora like the UN and the actual effects of their production patterns and investment strategies on people and the environment.

The Private Sector and the Sustainable Development Goals
At the United Nations (UN) summit in September 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was adopted by all UN member states. The Agenda gives a comprehensive framework for a global socio-ecological transformation.

In its civil society shadow report a wide coalition of civil society organizations from Germany formulates analyses, criticism and recommendations for action in 17 areas, from poverty in old age to German foreign policy. The report opens with cross-sectoral analyses on areas that cannot be sufficiently located within the logic of the 17 SDGs, as for example, on the subject area ‘populism’ or the issue of international tax cooperation. The report also addresses the policies of the German government, whatever political configuration may come out after the federal election in September of 2017. The report concludes that "relying on a change in awareness of consumers and producers alone will not bring us closer to the goal of sustainability fast enough."

At the High-Level Political Forum which takes place at the United Nations in New York several events, for instance an SDG Business Forum, are devoted to the critical role of business and public-private partnerships (PPPs) in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

A new report states that various forms of privatisation and corporate capture have become obstacles to implement the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs but many civil society organisations and trade unions warn in their joint report Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2017 that the various forms of privatisation and corporate capture have become obstacles to implement the 2030 Agenda and its goals.

BONN, Jul 13 2017 (IPS) - At the High-Level Political Forum which currently takes place at the United Nations in New York several events, for instance a SDG Business Forum, are devoted to the critical role of business and public-private partnerships (PPPs) in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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