APWLD’s Reflections on the HLP Report– “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development”
5 June 2013: The report takes the approach of broadening the MDGs to include sustainable development, governance and some human rights. These inclusions are valued but they don’t sit well with an MDG+ approach and at this stage aren’t backed up with proposals for strengthened accountability. While there are some useful inclusions like a stand-alone gender goal and the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights and some useful narrative on tax evasion, the report promotes existing economic orthodoxy and fails to address growing income inequalities.
The report takes the approach of broadening the MDGs to include sustainable development, governance and some human rights. These inclusions are valued but they don’t sit well with an MDG+ approach and at this stage aren’t backed up with proposals for strengthened accountability. While there are some useful inclusions like a stand-alone gender goal and the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights and some useful narrative on tax evasion, the report promotes existing economic orthodoxy and fails to address growing income inequalities.
It presents a picture of poor people in developing countries in need while failing to address responsibilities of those monopolising wealth, resources and power. The report, for example, identifies the need for more food, more funds, more growth but does not touch on the need for re-distribution of resources or wealth or the distortions created by pro-multinational economic policies.
The report repeatedly points to the economic value in addressing human rights and development issues rather than in the intrinsic value of rights enjoyment.
POOR RESPONSE TO WEALTH INEQUALITIES
The report fails to address the enormous wealth and resource inequalities between countries and between rich and poor. Most glaringly it failed to include a target to reduce growing wealth inequalities and suggests that this should be the decision of countries. That suggestion ignores enormous wealth inequalities between nations. It fails to acknowledge, even in the narrative, the large body of research that demonstrates neo-liberal policies of economic growth: privatization, de-regulation and reduced government spending have increased inequalities and fueled human rights violations.. The report promotes the WTO as the most effective tool to promote development despite the sustained opposition of civil society to the WTO’s role in promoting wealth accrual for multi-nationals (pg 54).
NO PROPOSED ACCOUNTABILITY FRAMEWORKS
The report promotes the private sector as the engine of development but does not propose accountability for the sector. Instead it gestures toward self-regulatory and weak systems that have failed to ensure the private sector is accountable for any environmental, social and human rights harm.
There are multiple development and human rights obligations that are currently ignored. This framework should ensure there are stronger accountability frameworks and policy coherence. The existing indicators also fail to require any concrete policy or legislative measurements. Civil society groups had called for stronger actionable goals, not just symptom based measurements.
The report continues to use the discredited World Bank poverty measurement of PPP1.25 per day (Goal 1: eradicate poverty). This is not a poverty line but a starvation line. It measures how many people are likely to soon die of malnutrition, exposure etc. rather than a measurement of living with dignity which is what eradication of poverty should indicate. An indicator measuring % living below national poverty lines is added but there is no requirement for that poverty line to require a life of dignity or other collective measure.
If governments support using this figure they should do so transparently and reveal what the amount is actually measuring. What could be consumed in the US in 2005 for $1.25 that would indicate an end to extreme poverty.
CONTROL and ACCESS OVER LAND AND RESOURCES
Goal 1.b) Increase by x% the share of women and men, communities and businesses with secure rights to land, property, and other assets
While the report acknowledged the importance of land to development it focuses on security of tenure and the commercializing potential of land rather than the fact that landlessness is the largest single indicator of poverty.
The inclusion of ‘businesses’ in the goal reduces the goal to a target than can be easily distorted and enable land-grabbing and forced evictions to follow. Measuring the distribution of land and resources and aiming for more equitable distribution amongst people, rather than corporations, would be meaningful. The report presumes a neo-liberal purpose for land which is not the experience nor aim of most small land-owners “ smallholder farmers’ incomes might be rapidly raised by giving them land security and access to credit, but even more so if they are able to transport their produce to market and have mobile phones and electronic banking”
We welcome the stand-alone goal on gender equality but hope that more work can be done to make the goals meaningful. We are pleased to see violence against women recognised as an impediment to development but suggest that at least policy indicators are included as well as data gathering. The Child Marriage indicator is welcome and should also include a policy indicator (We suggest that the term child in 2.b be explicitly defined by the CRC). While 2.c is useful it should be recognised that women’s movements have advocated for more than the right to equal ownership but to track how many men and women are able to have control and access over land. Women are disproportionately affected by land-grabbing and forced evictions that come not simply from the lack of legislated equality right. 2.d is too broad to be meaningful. It would be useful to convene further discussions on how to make 2.d a useful indicator.
The report recognises the importance of jobs to development but again reduces labour to the value it brings to economic growth and consumption, not the right to dignified work. The report undermines the Decent Work agenda by creating a reduced category of ‘good jobs’ for the developing world while the developed world can expect the broader decent work agenda (8a). While it’s suggested that these good jobs need to be secure and ‘fairly paid’ (but presumably without other labour standards), they have not specified what fair pay would amount to.
It is suggested that labour market flexibility is required to stimulate growth, which appears to contradict the notion of labour security. Women are most often subjected to ‘flexible’ labour markets and erosion of labour rights and benefits that come with flexibility. The section fails to aspire to increased dignity for workers or their value to functional and inclusive communities beyond their contribution to profit and capital.
The report failed to include reference to a living wage which was advocated by civil society and at least one of the members of the HLP (Gunila Carlsson) but doesn’t even make it into the list of issues brought to the attention of the HLP.
The report suggests that favourable business environments are required for entrepreneurialism but ignores the experience of small, women led enterprises who are often unable to compete with foreign multi-nationals who are given favourable investment incentives, exempt from taxes (or use off-shore registration). Re-directing subsidies from multi-nationals to local micro-enterprises and cooperatives would be preferable.
The increased focus on civil participation and voice is welcome (Goal 10) however stronger specificity is required around this indicator and participation should not be restricted to engagement but decision making, particularly over development rights that most effect livelihoods. The freedom of information inclusion is a useful indicator. The right to legal identity is welcomed as are the references to speech, association, protest, communication but again this needs a clearer target. However the section doesn’t include any reference to good governance of the private sector, their role in influencing decision making, their role in corruption.
Goals around education, health, water and energy fail to situate the responsibility of delivering these services free of charge. These are universal rights and should be recognised as such.
Goal 12 fails to recognise the sustained critique of international financial systems and the need to reform existing economic systems. The narrative suggests, despite evidence to the contrary, that increased trade and foreign investment leads to more equitable growth. The panel has failed to recommend any substantive changes to tax systems that would ensure corporations make some contribution to development and the communities that sustain them.
While there is a reference to tax evasion the narrative appears to assume the majority of this is in the developing world and only to illegal tax evasion rather than the need to establish agreed tax systems globally in fields like financial speculation, shipping, arms trading etc.
The indicator (9a) to use and publish economic, social and environmental accounts will be useful only if it is regulated, independent and arbitrary.
While there is a target to keep warming to 2c there is no target for countries to reduce carbon emissions. This target fails to locate the responsibility of global warming lies with large scale historical emitters.
An indicator to end fossil fuel subsidies is welcome but the indicator is too vague and wont compel change. The indicator should at least cover the eradication of subsidies to fossil fuel industries and should ideally be an end to subsidies to carbon emitting multi-national corporations.
PEACE and SECURITY
The report includes a goal on peace and security but does not aim to reduce militarism and military spending. A goal to reduce military spending and increase social spending would be of singular value. Again the report focuses here on symptoms but not causes.