This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom. We recognize that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. All countries and all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership, will implement this plan. We are resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet. We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets which we are announcing today demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda. They seek to build on the Millennium Development Goals and complete what these did not achieve. They seek to realize the human rights of all and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.
– From the Preamble to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
UN records reveal that the intergovernmental body has already marginalised the very groups it claims to be rescuing from poverty, hunger and climate disaster.
Records from the SDG process reveal that insiders at the heart of the UN’s intergovernment engagement negotiations have criticised the international body for pandering to the interests of big business and ignoring recommendations from grassroots stakeholders representing the world’s poor.
Formal statements issued earlier this year as part of the UN’s Post-2015 Intergovernmental Negotiations on the SDGs, and published by the UN Sustainable Development Division, show that UN ‘Major Groups’ representing indigenous people, civil society, workers, young people and women remain deeply concerned by the general direction of the SDG process — whereas corporate interests from the rich, industrialised world have viewed the process favourably.
This allegation is borne out by UN records, which show that its own Major Groups representing the very people the global institution professes to be empowering — poor people in developing countries — are increasingly sceptical of the SDG agenda.
– From Nafeez Ahmed’s recent article: UN Plan to Save Earth is “Fig Leaf” for Big Business
On September 25th, Pope Francis will address the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. To much fanfare, the Pope will celebrate the unveiling of the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda 2030.
A key plank of this agenda relates to the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals,” or SGDs. While this sounds all warm and fuzzy, several well meaning participants have become horrified by the extent to which multi-national corporations have influenced the entire process. So much so, that insiders are claiming the UN is actually marginalizing the very people it claims to be saving. The poor, the weak, and the voiceless.
In an invaluable piece of investigative reporting, Nafeez Ahmed writes the following:
UN records reveal that the intergovernmental body has already marginalized the very groups it claims to be rescuing from poverty, hunger and climate disaster.
At the end of this month, the UN will launch its new 2030 Sustainable Development agenda for “people, planet and prosperity” in New York, where it will be formally adopted by over 150 world leaders.
The culmination of years of consultations between governments, communities and businesses all over the world, there is no doubt that the agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer an unprecedented vision of the interdependence of global social, economic and environmental issues.
But records from the SDG process reveal that insiders at the heart of the UN’s intergovernment engagement negotiations have criticised the international body for pandering to the interests of big business and ignoring recommendations from grassroots stakeholders representing the world’s poor.
Formal statements issued earlier this year as part of the UN’s Post-2015 Intergovernmental Negotiations on the SDGs, and published by the UN Sustainable Development Division, show that UN ‘Major Groups’ representing indigenous people, civil society, workers, young people and women remain deeply concerned by the general direction of the SDG process — whereas corporate interests from the rich, industrialised world have viewed the process favorably.
Among the ‘Major Groups’ engaged in the UN’s SDG process is ‘Business and Industry.’ Members of this group include fossil fuel companies like Statoil USA and Tullow Oil, multinational auto parts manufacturer Bridgestone Corporation, global power management firm Eaton Corporation, agribusiness conglomerate Monsanto, insurance giant Thamesbank, financial services major Bank of America, and hundreds of others from Coca Cola to Walt Disney to Dow Chemical.
Despite claims that the UN’s previous Millennium Development Goals (MDG) have succeeded in halving global poverty since the 1990s, there is good reason to question this narrative.
Today, 4.3 billion people live on less than $5 a day. Although higher than the World Bank poverty measure at $1.25 a day, the development charity ActionAid showed in a 2013 report that a more realistic poverty measure would be under $10 a day.
Yet far from decreasing, since 1990 the number of people living under $10 a day has increased by 25%. Global poverty has not reduced — it’s got worse.
But all we know what has gotten better…a lot better. Corporate profits.
I asked Hickel why, despite so much internal criticism from UN stakeholders within the SDG process itself, these concerns had not impacted on the text of the SDG ‘Zero Draft.’ “In an early version of the Zero Draft, there was a commitment to replace GDP with an alternative measure of economic well-being. But somehow that disappeared from the final text,” said Hickel. “I don’t know what happened behind the scenes.”
This allegation is borne out by UN records, which show that its own Major Groups representing the very people the global institution professes to be empowering — poor people in developing countries — are increasingly skeptical of the SDG agenda.
The civil society statement also points to parallel efforts by Western governments to forge new ‘free-trade’ agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) along with proposed Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses.
Yep, sounds exactly like the “free trade fraud” being perpetrated on the global populace at the moment. The current status quo strategy is to put a “nice spin” on what are essentially corporatist takeovers. See:
These new trade and investment frameworks are being negotiated by governments in secret without public accountability. The UN’s civil society group notes that the ISDS clauses “empower corporations to sue governments for reducing the value of investments through regulations that promote human rights, the environment, and labor standards.”
Yet the SDGs offer little to protect vulnerable communities in the face of such corporate encroachment.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. This whole thing is just corporatist PR.
On 25th March, the Indigenous Peoples Working Group told a Major Group dialogue hosted by the Trusteeship Council Chamber at UN headquarters that the SDG process “is in jeopardy of excluding Indigenous Peoples from the agenda.”
The SDGs make no clear reference to the human right to water, for example, effectively providing “an open door for turning water into a commodity.”
The UN workers group particularly opposes the emphasis on public-private partnerships, which it describes as “an expensive and inefficient way of financing infrastructure and services, since they conceal public borrowing, while providing long-term state guarantees for profits to private companies.”
As I have maintained for years, the moment you hear “public-private partnership” run for the hills. You are being screwed over in unimaginable ways. See:
In fact, despite overwhelming support from UN member states for a more robust and transformative approach, the report reveals that “a vocal minority, including the Vatican and Saudi Arabia, has once again blocked consensus.”
The failure of the SDG process to incorporate such criticisms from the UN’s own Major Groups representing marginalized communities, is a direct result of entrenched power disparities within the UN itself.
According to an expert report circulated to UN officials, a detailed analysis of SDG documents reveals that the entire process has been “fundamentally compromised” by corporations with a vested interest in continuing business-as-usual.
In addition to mis-framing the structural origins of poverty, the report shows that the very concept of “development” deployed within the UN’s SDG documents derives from a “specifically neoliberal and corporatist conception of how the world does and should work.”
Despite acknowledging “deep problems and contradictions when relying on GDP growth to tackle poverty”, the SDG agenda still leaves “undifferentiated, perpetual growth” as the prime basis of development.
Hidden between the lines of the SDG vision, then, is a great delusion — the unflinching blind faith of the rich industrialised elite in the unquestionable perfection and immortality of neoliberal capitalism as a ‘way of life.’
According to Brewer, by removing all discussions about power from the SDG process, “the increasingly unpopular neoliberal agenda remains fully in place.”
The total omission of corporate and banking power from SDG texts, despite their unprecedented prevalence in the UN process, “is very telling in its own right,” he told me. “We know that multinational corporations are the most powerful political actors, and that they are profoundly concentrated vehicles for wealth consolidation.”
This is why, Alnoor Ladha explained, TheRules.org did not engage in the formal UN civil society SDG process.
“The process is a sham,” he said. “They will co-opt our engagement and say they have consulted us. All of the civil society groups that have tried to reform the SDGs have been co-opted by the UN, including the more critical voices.”
In other words, the SDG stakeholder engagement process draws selectively on the input of civil society groups to promote its public legitimacy, while systematically ignoring the voices that challenge the wider political and economic structures in which the entire process is embedded.
The above represents only excerpts from Dr. Ahmed’s piece, which can be found in its entirety here.
I previously highlighted his excellent work in the post: