Is the UN fit for the ambitious new Sustainable Development Agenda?
New study highlights private funding and corporate influence in the United Nations
New York City, 22 September 2015. More than a hundred Heads of State and Government will gather in New York this week to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda is intended to make the UN ‘fit for purpose’, but it is important to ask, ‘whose purpose will it be fit for’?
A new study from Global Policy Forum warns that the United Nations is embarking on a new era of selective multilateralism, shaped by intergovernmental policy impasses and a growing reliance on corporate-led solutions to global problems.
The changing funding patterns of the UN and its funds, programmes and specialized agencies reflect these alarming trends. Key features are the growing gap between the scale of global problems and the (financial) capacity of the UN to solve them; the growing share of non-core contributions and earmarked trust funds in UN finance; increased reliance on the corporate sector; and the outsourcing of funding and decision-making to exclusive global partnerships.
“Funding of all UN system-wide activities is around US$40 billion per year. While this may seem to be a substantial sum, in reality it is smaller than the budget of New York City, less than a quarter of the budget of the European Union, and only 2.3 per cent of the world’s military expenditures,” said Jens Martens, co-author of the study. He added: “As the World Bank calls on the global community to move from ‘Billions’ to ‘Trillions’ to meet the investment needs of the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations still has to calculate in terms of ‘Millions’.”
Barbara Adams, co-author of the study said: “Member States have failed to provide reliable funding to the UN system at a level sufficient to enable it to fulfill the mandates they have given it. Many Member States, particularly the large donors, pursue a dual approach of calling for greater coherence in UN development activities while at the same time increasing their use of earmarked funding, which furthers fragmentation.” She added: “This pick- and- choose dynamic, together with ongoing financial constraints, has opened the space for corporate sector engagement. Increasingly the UN is promoting market-based approaches and multi-stakeholder partnerships as the business model for solving global problems. Driven by a belief that engaging the more economically powerful is essential to maintaining the relevance of the UN, this practice has harmful consequences for democratic governance and general public support, as it aligns more with power centres and away from the less powerful.”
Fit for Whose Purpose? Private Funding and Corporate Influence in the United Nations, released today, gives a comprehensive overview of current UN funding trends and ends with a summary of findings and policy recommendations to counter the new ‘business model’ of global governance and to make the United Nations really ‘fit for purpose’, fit for the purpose of a democratic and inclusive global governance. Detailed and specific, the demands range from adopting measures to limit earmarked funding as a percentage of total funding, to strengthening the rules and tools governing engagement with the business sector, and to establishing an intergovernmental framework for partnership accountability.
Fit for whose purpose?
Private funding and corporate influence in the United Nations
Published by: Global Policy Forum
Authors: Barbara Adams and Jens Martens
Bonn/New York, September 2015