Stalled implementation at national level – unhelpful international environment

Civil Society sees ‘room for improvement’ in national implementation of 2030 Agenda as well as an unfavourable international environment

New York, 18 July 2017: During the Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) of 44 countries at the 2017 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, many civil society activists raised questions, criticizing government (in-)action as well as crippling framework conditions that slow down implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the national level.

Ziad Abdel Samad, Director of Arab NGO Network for Development, highlighted the situation in his region: “Foreign occupation, armed conflicts and wars are key challenges, even before talking about stability and essential political reforms. It is obvious that there is no development without peace and no peace without development. Moreover, systemic challenges, which are the result of persisting neoliberal authoritarianism after the Arab uprisings, are going side by side with austerity measures and neoliberal economic policies imposed and promoted mainly by the International Financial Institutions and other partners

“Conditionalities imposed by lenders and demanded by foreign investors, together with a lack of genuine political will and an ignorance towards rights based approaches at national level, decrease policy space which in turn increases tensions between decision makers and societies at large. Additional restrictions are imposed on civil society and social actors, limiting participation and civic engagement in public policy making.”

In a different part of the world, Brazil, a deep economic recession – aggravated by political uncertainty in the wake of a corruption scandal rooted in PPPs – is being used as an excuse for further privatization.  Dramatic cuts in social security and government spending, as well as a reform of the pension system have had no immediate positive economic effect. The logical conclusion is that “in this context it is highly unlikely for Brazil to achieve proper implementation of the SDGs,” as a civil society report from Brazil explains. To make things worse, the country is left with an acting president charged with corruption, as are several of his ministers and parliamentarians. All this after the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff in what many have called a “legislative coup”, as no criminal charges have been brought against her.

Brazil is not the only country hit by the scandal of PPP-related bribes that emerged after a pattern of systematic corruption by infrastructure giant Odebrecht was revealed across Latin America. In Peru, ex-president Humala joins the list of former leaders under legal prosecution or in exile. All political parties are implied in the Odebrecht scanal. To add a global level: The World Bank had guaranteed at least six major Odebrecht infrastructure projects in Peru with a combined financial volume of more than US$ 2 billion. When questions were raised by NGOs in Washington, the Bank – tasked with supporting national governments in SDG implementation – replied in a brief released February 2017 that “the new PPP framework adopted by Peru strengthens governance”.

Uruguay,by contrast, has every reason to brag about its achievements in the last years: 100% renewable energy, 100% coverage with broadband internet access for virtually everybody, universal health access, including reproductive health understood as a right of women, declining levels of poverty and inequality. Roberto Bissio, director of Montevideo based Third World Institute explains, that “these achievements were possible not despite, but exactly because Uruguay refused to privatize and provides energy and telecommunications through state-owned enterprises.” His country also has institutionalized collective bargaining of salaries and working conditions with unrestricted rights to unionize, demonstrate and strike, including by civil servants. Real-term increases in salaries and improvements in social protection are introduced at the same time as greenfield direct foreign investments are rising. “This fact is not featured in the country’s Voluntary National Review, perhaps out of politeness to neighboring countries and international financing institutions that defend an opposing logic.”

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