The United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are about to replace the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), are getting a lot of hate these days.
The Economist recently called the 169 proposed targets “sprawling and misconceived,” “unfeasibly expensive” at $2–3 trillion per year, and so unlikely to be realized that they amount to “worse than useless” — “a betrayal of the world’s poorest people.” An article in the Humanosphere reports that the SDGs were ridiculed as “No targets left behind” during a high-profile meeting of Gates Foundation partners. One development expert I know likens the SDGs to “a high school wish-list for how to save the world.”
These critics accuse the SDGs of being vague and aspirational, and of trying to cover too much ground; they prefer the old MDGs, which were more focused on absolute poverty.
Laws affecting funding, requiring registration and prohibiting protest are among controls that are making it difficult for NGOs and other campaign groups .
If you haven’t been paying attention, I don’t blame you for at first not believing this. After all, companies go to great lengths to greenwash their image and present themselves as progressive and environmentally responsible, even while they turn your land to deserts and your oceans into dead zones. Unfortunately, as Mark Twain once famously said: “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”
The truth is that our current system allows pretty much every corporation to externalize both environmental and social costs. In this article, we won’t even be touching on social costs. If you don’t know what cost externalization is, you can imagine it as making someone else pay part or all of your costs. For example, BP externalized the environmental costs of the Deepwater Horizon disaster by consuming all of the profits but making the government pay for anything beyond the most shoddy and superficial attempts at stopping the crisis.
In Ethiopia, the World Bank helps fund a program that provides food and cash to people who work on public infrastructure projects. It's a popular program and many people need the work. But a poor farmer said that when he went to sign up for the program he was turned away. "This doesn't concern you," the program coordinator told him.
Three other farmers said they registered and did the work, only to see their names taken off the distribution list to receive the promised two sacks of wheat and 400-500 Birr (US $35-$44). All four were members of Ethiopia's opposition party. "There is not a single opposition person in the safety net program with me," a member of the ruling party who took part in the program admitted.
On August 20, the European Central Bank (ECB) is expecting Greece to repay another € 3.2 billion. Drawing on the conclusions articulated in the report of the Truth Commission on the Greek Public Debt |1|, the government could refuse to pay this creditor, which has acted unlawfully and behaved much like a vulture fund.
Global food shortages will become three times more likely as a result of climate change according to a report by a joint US-British taskforce, which warned that the international community needs to be ready to respond to potentially dramatic future rises in prices.
Food shortages, market volatility and price spikes are likely to occur at an exponentially higher rate of every 30 years by 2040, said the Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience.
The South Centre is pleased to announce the publication of Investment Policy Brief No. 5 entitled “Ecuador’s Experience with International Investment Arbitration” by Andres Arauz G., currently Minister of Knowledge and Human Talent in the Republic of Ecuador. At the time of writing the article, Mr. Arauz was serving as Deputy Secretary for Planning and Development of Ecuador.
The brief reviews Ecuador’s experience with investment treaties and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). The paper explains the historical and geopolitical context of the decisions Ecuador has taken in regard to bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and ISDS. The author notes that a number of treaties did not fulfill the constitutional and legal ratification processes.
The brief also explains the role of the audit commission on BITs and arbitration set up by Ecuador. It discusses some of the most contentious provisions in investment treaties, including the definition of investor, indirect expropriation, and fair and equitable treatment. It also reflects on some of the ISDS cases Ecuador has faced in the last decade.
The brief highlights a series of national, regional and global alternatives currently pursued by the Ecuadorean government. It describes how the world is transitioning to an alternative investment regime, concluding that there is always an alternative.
The brief is part of a new investment policy brief series by the South Centre that focuses on developing country experiences with international investment treaties and the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism. This policy brief series also tackles lessons learned from ISDS cases, including how international investment agreement provisions have been approached and interpreted by arbitral tribunals.
To access the policy brief directly, go to this webpage: http://www.southcentre.int/investment-policy-brief-5-august-2015/.
With the outcome document for the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now submitted, the development community turns to the final piece of the SDG agenda: the indicators. While the goals and targets have endured unending negotiations, from the Open Working Group to all UN member states, the underlying indicators have largely remained a big question. It’s now time to turn to that question.
After more than half a decade of debate dominated by the global financial crisis, 2014 saw a departure from this singular focus. Thomas Piketty started a global discussion about historical patterns of inequality and their negative repercussions. And looking to the future rather than back in time, The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed how the digital revolution is about to transform our economic and social lives. The key problem for policymaking is that these technology-driven developments are certain to further increase existing inequalities and to create new ones at a time when, as Piketty has shown, we have already returned to historically high levels
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Just ten days after the UN’s International Conference on Financing for Development, and just in time for the endorsement of the new sustainable development agenda, a UN Committee has agreed on a set of principles to guide further sovereign debt restructuring processes. The new UN principles were inspired by the devastating bank bailouts in Greece, and by the vulture fund lawsuits that Argentina faced at US courts. They build on preparatory work done by an expert group convened by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and, subject to approval by the UN General Assembly (UN GA) in early September, will be the first step towards a new multilateral debt restructuring framework that aims to prevent future debt crises, or at least manage them better.