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UN financing forum: A bitter awakening after 2015’s party of multilateralism

P1020394Aldo Caliari, Director of the Rethinking Bretton Woods Project at the Center of Concern, reports on the outcomes of the first ECOSOC Financing for Development Forum that took place April 18 to 20, 2016 in New York. The Forum was intended to be the centerpiece of a reinvigorated follow up to the Financing for Development process created by the Third Financing for Development Conference held in Addis Ababa in 2015. "[...] those observing the first event to follow up on [2015's] commitments were suddenly awakened to the bitter reality of transitioning from paper to the realities of implementation."

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'Panama Papers': When tax abuse is human rights abuse

CESR_Official_LogoI"As revelations in leaked documents from Panama’s Mossack Fonseca law firm send shockwaves around the world, the threat to human rights represented by international tax abuse has been thrown into stark relief. Dozens of political leaders from all corners of the globe have been implicated in large-scale tax evasion and avoidance through secrecy jurisdictions (tax havens), effectively robbing government coffers around the world of much-needed resources that might otherwise be used to fulfill the human rights of ordinary citizens," writes the Center for Economic and Social Rights in a recent blog.

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Regional Commissions should not set International PPP standards

On the occasion of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's Forum on Public Private Partnerships, the Addis CSO Coordination Group, a broad coalition of NGOs working on the issues of the Financing for Development Agenda since the first International Conference on FfD in Monterrey in 2001, has published an open letter. The authors challenge the attempt by UNECE to define international standards on PPPs as illegitimate and call for the issue to be raised during the upcoming FfD Forum in New York in April. There, contrary to the UNECE meeting, all country governments, including those from the global South will have a say.

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Obstacles to Women’s Rights and to the SDGs

20160308-UNSC-GWP-PanelDuring the United Nations observance of International Women’s Day 2016, Barbara Adams from Global Policy Forum and Social Watch addresses the obstacles to Women’s Rights: the unfair global trade and investment system and the lack of a debt workout mechanism deviate the resources that should ensure an universal social protection floor.

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SDG targets risk missing the mark on inequality

CESR_Official_LogoIThis 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. Various civil society groups have expressed their concern about particular indicators or missing indicators, as well as the opaque decision-making process. The Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) is particularly concerned that SDG 10 (‘Reduce inequality within and between countries’) does not include a robust measure of economic inequality, and as such this indicator set is woefully incomplete.

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Switzerland’s financial secrecy brought under human rights spotlight

Switzerland_CEDAW_Submission_TaxFinance_1mar2016Tax avoidance and evasion represent a systemic drain on government revenues needed for the fulfillment of women’s rights and gender equality. 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. 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 — will meet on March 7 – 11 in Geneva to identify the list of issues on which Switzerland’s review before the treaty body will focus later this year. In a joint submission, the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law, the Tax Justice Network (TJN) and Berne Declaration have asked CEDAW to examine the extra-territorial impacts of Switzerland’s opaque financial legislation on women’s rights and gender equality, particularly in developing countries.

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In the Footsteps of Dag Hammarskjöld

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Photo: UN Photo/Milton Grant

On 16 February 2016 Egyptian diplomat Boutros Boutros-Ghali died aged 93. He was so far the only Secretary-General of the United Nations, who served in office one term only (1992-1996). In his homage, Henning Melber (among other things Policy Advisor to Global Policy Forum) remembers the first African Secretary-General and draws a comparison between him and Dag Hammarskjöld. "As different as Hammarskjöld and Boutros-Ghali might have been in their background, their socialization, their character and personality, as much alike was their approach as regards the independence of their office."

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Indicators of success: how best to measure Agenda 2030

CESR_Official_LogoIFour months have now passed since Agenda 2030 was agreed at the UN in New York. Targets have been set under each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but the crucial matter of designating indicators to measure progress remains in the balance. In a new article, the Center of Economic and Social Rights reflects on the difficulties to choose indicators that really measure progress of the Agenda 2030. CESR is concerned over those indicators that have already been defined by the Inter-agency Expert Group on SDG Indicators, as several of them may lead to skewed and/or inadequate tracking of progress. This reality is problematic because indicators are not only measures by which progress can be judged; they also focus attention on particular groups or issues and create incentives for policy action. If an indicator is reductive and of questionable relevance, then it implicitly allows governments to get away with doing little to achieve the target, and this in turn undermines accountability.

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Where next for the United Nations Development System?

gpwbannersThe UN has released the advance unedited version of its report of the UN Development System (UNDS), lightly entitled the “Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 67/226 on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review [QCPR] of operational activities for development of the United Nations system.” The UNDS comprises the activities of some 30 agencies – coordinated by the UN Development Group – and the intergovernmental bodies that provide guidance and oversight, such as the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and its commissions. This report is the key input for the ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment to be held at the UNHQ on 22-24 February 2016.

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Transatlantic regulatory cooperation in TTIP – a business-driven lobby project

regulatoryduetA new report by Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl examines the origins and impacts of TTIP's proposals for regulatory cooperation and shows that the process has been dominated by big business right from the start. This part of the talks involves dismantling existing “regulatory barriers” and preventing new ones from emerging with public interest regulations having to go through lengthy procedures, including vetting by business for possible impacts on trade. The TTIP talks cover a wide range of policy areas from chemicals regulations to employment policy, data protection to agriculture and are thus the biggest focal point for lobbying efforts right now in Brussels.

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Wirtschaft Macht Politik

DeckblattIn den vergangenen Jahren haben sich die ökonomischen, sozialen und ökologischen Krisenerscheinungen weltweit verschärft. Immer deutlicher wird, dass eine Politik des business as usual keine Option sein kann. Gefordert ist eine aktivere Rolle der Politik auf nationaler und internationaler Ebene, um die „große Transformation“ hin zu einer zukunftsgerechten Entwicklung weltweit zu ermöglichen. Aber bislang blieben die dazu notwendigen politischen Durchbrüche weitgehend aus. Die Beharrungskräfte gegen die „große Transformation“ haben häufig weiterhin die Oberhand. In einer neuen Publikation zeigen Brot für die Welt, das Global Policy Forum und MISEREOR an konkreten Beispielen, wie privatwirtschaftliche Akteure den Diskurs in bestimmten Politikprozessen beeinflussen und damit immer wieder versuchen, die Durchsetzung verbindlicher Unternehmensstandards im Umwelt-, Sozial- und Menschenrechtsbereich zu verhindern. Folgende Themenbereiche stehen dabei im Zentrum: Die Diskussionen über die 2030-Agenda für nachhaltige Entwicklung sowie über Wirtschaft und Menschenrechte in den Vereinten Nationen, die internationalen Klimaverhandlungen, die Verhandlungen über TTIP und die internationale Agrarpolitik.



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Implementation of the Global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in and by Germany

csopapergermany201603Following a participative and comprehensive process over several years, in September 2015 the United Nations (UN) adopted the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs must now be implemented in and by all countires, including Germany. A wide coalition of Civil Society Organizations there thinks that fundamentally different approaches must be taken in areas of political action. "Germany must accept its responsibility for sustainable development and implement the 2030 Agenda in accordance with its five principles (people, planet, prosperity, peace, partnership)."

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Multi-stakeholder partnerships in the 2030 Agenda

In support of the upcoming ECOSOC Partnership Forum (March 31, 2016), researchers Marianne Beisheim and Nils Simon have prepared an independent paper to inform and stimulate a debate around "ways to improve, inter alia, transparency, accountability and the sharing of experiences of multi-stakeholder partnerships and on the review and monitoring of those partnerships." The paper defines and differentiates types of multi-stakeholder partnerships, identifies reasons for their successes and/or failures, briefly recaps the history of the UN’s involvement in those partnerships and points out recent developments in the context of the 2030 Agenda. Finally, the paper outlines options for improving the overall governance and specifically the accountability, transparency, and measurement of results of multi-stakeholder partnerships at the UN.

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PPPs and the 2030 Agenda

2288desaworkingpaper148In light of the emphasis given to public-private partnerships as a mechanism to finance infrastructure projects and highlighting the need for capacity building and knowledge sharing at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, a recently published working paper by the Department of Economic & Social Affairs at the UN Secretariat reviews the extant literature on the subject and identifies areas requiring better understanding and institutional innovation for ensuring value for money, minimizing contingent fiscal risk and improving accountability. "An institutional capacity to create, manage and evaluate PPPs is essential to ensure that they become an effective instrument of delivery of important services, such as infrastructure. There is also a need for a common definition of PPPs and internationally accepted guidelines, including uniform accounting and reporting standards."
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The zombie ISDS

zombie_coverThe European Commission’s “new” investor protection proposal brings controversial corporate super rights back from the dead according to a recent Corporate Europe Observatory report: “The zombie ISDS – rebranded as ICS, rights for corporations to sue states refuse to die”. It shows how the push for foreign investor privileges in EU trade talks such as the proposed EU-US ‎TTIP‬ deal continues as the Commission attempts to rebrand the politically untenable investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) as an “Investment Court System”.

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New Report: Die 2030-Agenda

Agenda_2030_onlineAm 25. September 2015 verabschiedeten die 193 Mitgliedsstaaten der Vereinten Nationen auf einem Gipfeltreffen in New York die 2030-Agenda für nachhaltige Entwicklung. Sie bildet den globalen Rahmen für die Umwelt- und Entwicklungspolitik der kommenden 15 Jahre. Kernstück der Agenda sind die 17 Ziele für nachhaltige Entwicklung, die SDGs, mit ihren 169 Zielvorgaben. Grundlage für das kritische Engagement politischer und zivilgesellschaftlicher Akteure im 2030-Prozess ist die ausreichende Information über die SDGs, ihre Zielvorgaben, die Herausforderungen und Kontroversen, die mit ihrer Umsetzung verbunden sind, sowie mögliche Indikatoren, um Fortschritte bei der Verwirklichung der Ziele zu messen. Die 2030-Agenda – Global Zukunftsziele für nachhaltige Entwicklung leistet dazu einen Beitrag und bietet neben einer politischen Einordnung der 2030-Agenda überblicksartig grundlegende Informationen und Analysen von SDG 1 bis 17.

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Better Regulation - TTIP under the Radar?

better_regulation-ttip_under_the_radarThe EU’s “Better Regulation” agenda, despite being less known than TTIP, seeks to improve Europe’s competitiveness by reducing the regulatory costs for business through instruments that closely resemble those discussed under TTIP. In a new report, the European Environmental Bureau, Bread for the World and Forum Umwelt & Entwicklung raise concerns over the “Better Regulation” project proposed by the Juncker Commission. According to the organizations, such a measure to curb regulation is unlikely to achieve its primary aim of improving Europe’s competitiveness. Efforts to reduce the burden of environmental regulations on business will simply subsidize Europe’s least competitive businesses by allowing them to dump part of their production costs on the environment, leaving taxpayers and citizens to pay for this through increased health care costs and efforts to clean up the environment. The “Better Regulation” agenda fails to take into consideration the benefits to society as a whole deriving from regulation. Addressing global challenges will require the EU to adopt new, effective and often legally binding policies. A blanket requirement to offset any regulatory burden arising from new policies by slashing regulatory burdens elsewhere irrespective of the benefits arising would seriously hamper these efforts. Both under TTIP and through its unilateral “Better Regulation” agenda, the EU’s governance system is changing significantly with a stronger role for well resourced regulated industries to write their own rules.

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How trade deals threaten tax justice

taxes_on_trial_briefing_web"Governments should be able to change their tax systems to ensure multinationals pay their fair share and to ensure that critical public services are well funded. States must also be able to reconsider and withdraw tax breaks previously granted to multinationals if they no longer fit with national priorities. But their ability to do so, to change tax laws and pursue progressive tax policies, is limited, thanks to trade and investments agreements", says a new briefing paper by Claire Provost for transnational institute and Global Justice Now. The system of investor to state dispute settlement (ISDS) has become increasingly controversial during the negotiations over the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Because control over taxes is seen as core to a country’s sovereignty, many states have included tax-related ‘carve-out’ clauses in these trade and investment treaties to limit ability of corporations and other investors to sue over such disputes. But a growing number of investor-state cases have in fact challenged government tax decisions – from the withdrawal of previously granted tax breaks to multinationals to the imposition of higher taxes on profits from oil and mining.

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Gated Development - is the Gates Foundation always a force for good?

gated-development-global-justice-nowA new report by Global Justice Now demonstrates that the trend to involve business in addressing poverty and inequality is central to the priorities and funding of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The authors argue that this is far from a neutral charitable strategy but instead an ideological commitment to promote neoliberal economic policies and corporate globalization. Big business is directly benefitting, in particular in the fields of agriculture and health, as a result of the foundation’s activities, despite evidence to show that business solutions are not the most effective.



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Rights for Business, not for People: the EU's Agenda

ttip_un_treaty_report_v11_spreadsA new paper by Friends of the Earth Europe explains how the European Union is aggressively pursuing special rights for businesses whilst hampering efforts to hold corporations responsible for the human rights violations they commit. The European Commission and the EU member states have been pushing for special rights for European investors whose operations are internationally enforced by secretive, business-friendly tribunals in trade agreements such as the EU-US TTIP deal. Yet, the European countries and the European Commission are derailing attempts to develop a legally binding treaty at the UN level which would give citizens the opportunity to get access to justice and defend their human rights when these are being violated by corporations.

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