As the dust settles on the recent July meetings in Geneva of the new UN Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) on transnational corporations and other business enterprises, which kicked off negotiations towards a treaty on this topic, there are some interesting developments to consider. These developments concern how the human rights narrative at the UN related to business activities might finally be shifting toward recognition and interaction with important traditional human rights principles.
For a brief ted-talk on social protection as social commons, with thanks to think-tanks.tv
The latest book by Naomi Klein is essentially a call to share the world’s resources, but its thesis on social transformation is missing a crucial factor: a profound awareness of the reality of hunger and life-threatening deprivation. While Pope Francis’ recent encyclical calls on us to prioritise this global emergency in our efforts to combat global warming, Mohammed Mesbahi proposes a people’s strategy for how we can finally end the moral outrage of extreme poverty amidst plenty.
1. More than 30 organizations comprise the UN Development System (UNDS). Virtually all are members of the UN Development Group (UNDG), but comprise a ‘system’ in name only since each operates autonomously. Many, therefore, set aside the word ‘system’ in favor of ‘family’, because the UN is, in that sense, a bit dysfunctional. Each organization guards its independence fiercely, even though most report to the General Assembly and many are under the authority of the Secretary General. Funding patterns are the prime cause of atomization. As core resources have stagnated, all UN organizations have pursued ‘extra-budgetary’ funding for operational activities, often from the same donors, in reality thus chasing what, in reality, are earmarked (specifically assigned) monies.*
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.