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The missing link

  • Published at 12:03 am April 3rd, 2019
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A shared responsibility BIGSTOCK

Without the means, SDGs will remain aspirational, and not in a good way

The Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) is the most inclusive regional platform on sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific. The sixth forum served as a preparatory event for the 2019 high-level political forum (HLPF) on sustainable development that was recently held in Bangkok from March 27-29, 2019. 

The APFSD also engaged member states, United Nations bodies, and other institutions, major groups, and other stakeholders in highlighting regional and sub-regional perspectives on the 2019 theme of the HLPF: “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.”

This year is going to be the fourth year of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which came at a time in 2015, when our world was facing multiple and interconnected crises of worsening inequalities and increasing climate threats as well. Combined with hiking food and energy prices, rising insecurity, attacks on participatory democracy, and growing fundamentalism posed a threat to the global scenario, and unfortunately, the trend still continues. 

In this backdrop, the SDG goal 17 has the potential for prompting regional and global partnership by leveraging adequate resources through sharing a common concern for all, particularly for the most marginalized. 

However, for years, wealth and resources have continued to flow out of developing and poor countries to rich and developed countries. It has been estimated that developing countries have already lost about $7.8 trillion in illicit financial flows from 2004 to 2013.  

Finance, fair and equitable trade, technology, capacities, partnerships, and data are among the primary tools for achieving global partnership, gender equality, and all other dimensions of sustainable development. If we look deeply into the key financing strategies that have been prioritized and promoted, we see it fundamentally in contradiction with the commitments, with even a risk to jeopardize any progress the grassroots and women’s rights movements have been able to achieve to date.  

It is, therefore, necessary to strengthen, promote, and invest in an effective, meaningful, and transparent public policy that integrates human rights, gender perspective, and supports the mainstreaming of people aspects in financing, budgeting, and taxation. 

Public-private partnerships and other forms of corporate engagement have so far failed to address implementation, legitimacy, and participation gaps in sustainable development policy-making and can compromise objective public governance. We are wary of a “socialization of costs and privatization of profits.” 

There was a call for Human Rights Impact Assessments and SDG Compatibility Impact Assessments of trade and investment agreements in the region from the People’s Forum on SDGs, which was organized by Asia-Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism (APRCEM) with UNESCAP prior before the APFSD. 

On the technology aspects of goal 17, there is a need for the re-energizing of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism and to fulfil its mandate. SDGs MoI recognized the roles of civil societies as representatives of the people, and downward accountability. 

However, accountability can only happen when data is made available and public -- when the people and CSOs can demand answers and transparency on state policies, budget allocation, on gender equality and women’s empowerment.  

Without means, the SDGs will be “aspirational” not in the best sense -- of something that will inspire all people to act to bring it about, but in the worst sense -- distant, remote, with no visible path. 

Member states must collectively rise to this challenge -- they must affirm the means to achieve these ends, and so prove themselves serious about a global partnership for development in the interests of all the world’s people.

Therefore, we need to invest, as a priority, in the formulation, generation, and analysis of sex, and gender-disaggregated data, including the commitment to the collection and reporting on deliberate action to mainstream all of society approach and perspective in the Voluntary National Reviews. 

The focus should be on how to come up with locally driven environmental solutions, empowering people to decolonize local governments to value the roles of grassroots movement free of foreign economic pressure and prejudice. 

It is also imperative to support the development of a legally binding treaty on the responsibilities of transnational corporations, including in the field of environmental human rights. The targets for the SDGs also cut across all three dimensions of sustainable development -- social, economic, and environment. 

These integration challenges can be overcome through appropriate policies that are carefully designed and implemented based on the principle of indivisibility of human rights, and with an active participation of the people. 

The importance of collective planning supported by shared responsibility of implementation through a coordinated process at a micro and macro level must not be undermined. Governments must conduct proper policy coherence mapping and plan for institutional coherence at all levels of governance. 

Shaila Shahid is the Senior Advisor-International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and Zakir Shahin is Chief, Krisoker Sor (Farmers’ Voice).