New York City, 14 July 2017: With the first week of deliberations at the 2017 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development coming to a close this Friday at the UN in New York, civil society activists are criticizing a piecemeal approach to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Especially worrisome to activists is a growing gap between aspirational goals and a lack of proper and comprehensive means of implementation.
On many occasions – during side-events as well as in official sessions – civil society experts pointed out that relying on financial means alone to implement the SDGs represented a reductionist view. “It is important to question whether ‘trillions’ are really needed to achieve the goals. More fundamental are the policy and regulatory challenges,” explained Stefano Prato, Managing Director at Society for International Development.
Rather than looking for ever-new financial products to pay for ‘sustainable investments’, he added, there was the need to challenge production models, with their “externalities” and ossification of gender inequalities in the division of labor. Furthermore, the excessive focus on national level implementation – with the subliminal message that implementation primarily was a job for developing countries – diverted attention away from international economic, environmental and political circumstances. These central pillars in means of implementation for the SDGs continue to restrain the policy and fiscal space of developing countries and provide structural obstacles to their development efforts.
Chee Yoke Ling, Director of Programmes at Third World Network, reiterated: “The HLPF should not just be a space for presenting ever-new schemes for how to funnel money into the place perceived to be the right one”. She added: “Rather, the Forum should give space to a debate around what normative framework is needed to create the necessary policy and political space for countries, particularly in the global South. Only in this way will the renewed global Partnership be able to avoid PPPs increasing costs and worsening inequalities, or trade rules that impede the abilities of smallholder farmers to produce food locally.”
“The rates of return promised on some of the proposed ‘innovative’ financing mechanisms just don’t make any sense. In fact, rather than showing sensible ways of tapping into much needed long-term financing instruments, the suggested ‘bundling’ of risky loans into AAA packages to be sold to pension funds reminds me of practices that are proven to have led us into the latest global financial crisis.”