What is at Stake for the People in the Post-2015 Negotiations?

Saturday 14 June 2014

Date: 9 June 2014

Type: News

Source: Campaign for Peoples Goals for Sustainable Development

Keywords: Post-2015 development agenda, development justice

Azra Talat Sayeed, Roots for Equity

Presented at the Workshop on Development Justice, (Campaign for Peoples Goals for Sustainable Development, APWLD), Asia Pacific Feminist Forum, Chaing Mai, Thailand, 31 May, 2014

Decades of Crisis

The past couple of decades has shown us that the Earth and its inhabitants have been slapped by one crises after another. These include the economic crises, the energy crises, the food crises and worst the climate crises. No doubt, the multiple crises facing the people and the Earth are a result of the exploitative mechanisms entrenched in the capitalist production system. It needs to be also emphasized that the industrial mechanized form of production that is the heart of capitalism is entirely dependent on fossil fuels: no doubt the wreckage of the Earth’s ecological systems are a result of the constant expulsion of carbon gases from fossil fuels.

The capitalist system suffering from over production, and decreasing profit margins has gone into a panic mode and the result have been on one hand the brutal implementation of neoliberal policies and on the other, the wars being carried out by imperialist forces to ensure their control over the natural resources, markets and labour movements across the globe.

Manifestations

The manifestation of the neoliberal policies is the intense militarization of local communities, nations and regions. The globalization era has been marked by the presence of military and para-military forces of our own nations guarding the interest of the international corporations. In addition, there has been occupation of countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan for control over a key natural resource: oil.

The result have been atrocious human right abuses, with all sectors of small producers being pushed out of their communities, losing control over their productive resources and livelihoods. Murder and plunder of the communities is now a routine facing the most marginalized across the globe. They suffer from malnutrition and hunger; the indignity of being without decent work forced into migration and many new forms of bondage.

The steep rise in prices of energy sources, food, housing and transportation has resulted in stark inequalities among the people. The Occupy Movement emphasized the marginalization of the 99%, with the global elite being just 1%. No doubt, women whether they are factory workers, domestic workers, migrant workers, peasants, fisher women are the worst off. The violence faced by women has increased manifold. Both state and non-state actors are responsible for the brutal violence faced by women. The forced implementation of privatization, deregulation and liberalization policies has resulted in the intense increase in violence faced by women at home, in the communities and their work places.

Sustainable Development Framework

It is at this critical point in history, there is this unique collective opportunity for both our governments and the people to engage in the new framework of development that is being envisioned under the Post 2015. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that had been developed by governments with specific goals and targets for national development were for the 2000-2015 time period. Currently, governments from the developed and developing nations are engaged in negotiating for a new development framework, popularly known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Post-2015.

Privatization of Sustainable Development Goals

Given the multitude and scale of the crises facing humanity, it would have seemed that the multilateral negotiations would have focused on implementing immediate, holistic measures that would bring about a transformative structural change in addressing rising tragic inequalities within and among nations and the fragile ecological balance; Instead, the spirit of the Globalization agenda continues to be implemented. Indeed, the Post-2015 negotiations are now considered to be the privatization of development.

The strong brutal push towards implementation has been obvious through the many policy documents that have been put forward by the OECD. An important document brought out by the OECD in 2006, namely “Pro-Poor Growth”, clearly places the private sector as a critical contributor to economic growth and employment creation. This is the pattern that has been followed by all Northern governments pushing a private sector development strategy. For example, the final document that came as a result of the Fourth High Level Forum for Aid, December, 2011, South Korea. The Busan Partnership for Effective Development has acknowledged the central role of the private sector in innovation, creating wealth and contributing to poverty reduction.

The Private Sector which basically means the transnational corporations that have been responsible for the plunder of the Earth’s natural resources and massive exploitation and oppression of the people are now being projected as those who will play a key role in alleviating poverty as well as saviors from the debacle facing the planet Earth.

The Development framework has made the private sector role central to delivering all programs may they be related to the energy, agriculture, transport, or any other sector. The Public Private Partnership (PPP) is the model that is being pushed at the people to be used for implementing so called development programs, projects and schemes. The PPP basically means that the private sector will sell all goods and services to the communities. The government infrastructure or other services are used for delivery of a service: but the price of the service is now based on profit motive of the private sector. Poor marginalized communities are forced to access services at a much higher price than they could afford. The result is the poorest suffer further marginalization. The private sector is able to expand its market mechanism in communities. At the same time, governments back off from delivering basic services to the people.

Following the privatization of development a favorite method for working with communities, particularly women are microfinance programs. There is now plenty of evidence to show that loans given to women come with high interest rates and increase their indebtedness as they will borrow from various sources in order to keep paying the exorbitant monthly interest.

Green Economy, a key new term for development is now being introduced and promoted. It addresses urban and rural development, emphasizing renewable sources of energy. Green Economy has introduced a whole range of new technologies that will in essence replace all fossil fuel based technologies. Thus whether it be energy, transport or agriculture an entirely new range of technologies is being offered. For instance, in the agriculture sector, climate smart genetically modified seeds, biogas, aeroponics and hydroponics for food production all are based on the Green Economy model. Green energy using renewable energy that include windmills, solar panels, and agro-fuels is the back bone of Green Economy. These technologies in themselves are still not entirely independent of fossil fuel. In addition, they all will now be exploiting natural resources on a very large scale; no doubt, creating further havoc on the ecological systems, globally. All biomass that is an intrinsic part of the subsistence living of rural communities is being eyed as a source of renewable energies. An example is of animal manure: rural communities all over the third world use animal manure widely for a whole range of services. For instance, women will make small patties out of animal manure to be used as household cooking fuel. It is also used as a major source of increasing soil fertility in agriculture production. This age old practice is now being used by the business sector by installing biogas plants using the biomass available in rural communities. Many microfinance schemes are being promoted which provide biogas to communities as kitchen fuel. All of this is to be sold at a price. These were already being used by women as a good provided by nature free of cost. A simple example is of an old woman living with a young woman suffering from psychiatric disorder. Both were unable to collect wood to be used for fuel for their kitchen use. So they bought a calf. The sole purpose of the young animal was to collect its manure and use it as fuel.

Further, it must be emphasized that these technologies will not be shared for the good of humanity. On the other hand, they will be sold at high profit rates. All technologies are protected under intellectual property rights owned by the mega-corporations of the North. In fact, the Green Economy model is in considered to be a method designed to bring out the North from the acute economic crisis that it is currently facing. The whole range of products being offered under the Green Economy are geared to extract further profits for the transnational corporations through the payments and huge royalties for these new technologies. The formula being provided for development through Green Economy is no more than the old cycle of debt ad poverty faced by the people of the third world economies and is to be further exacerbated. The Green Economy is clearly still based in the neoliberal framework of capitalist production system based on extracting profits by exploiting labor and natural resources.

In addition, a dangerous emphasis of Green Economy is the commodification of ecological services; which are the many services performed by nature that allow humanity to survive. These include food and seed production, pollination, land conservation and many others. There is now a strong push to quantify the types of ecological services provided by nature and to put a price to these services.

Positioning of the Third World Governments

Given the thrust of the privatization by Northern governments, how are our governments, who represent the two-third of the world’s humanity, responding?

The response can only be termed as disappointing which falls very short of bringing about a transformative change to redress the imperialist policies and nullify the acute inequalities that sharply plunges a very vast majority of the people into debt, hunger and poverty.

The G77 nations and China are using the “Future We Want” document as the basis for their negotiations. This document was the result of the Rio+20 conference held in June, 2012 in Brazil. Though, ‘Future We Want’ does acknowledge various human rights including women, rights and the right to food, it is still a document which also fails to repudiate the Intellectual Property Rights as spelled out by the TRIPS agreement of the WTO. And it provides no clarity on the institutional framework that is needed for the implementation of the Post-2015 agenda. Therefore, the use of development tools and mechanisms such as capacity building and transfer of technology should be critically assessed for their real worth: these are mechanisms which will be used to sell very expensive technologies at high royalties. No doubt, then northern consultants will provide trainings and know-how to the southern governments also at premium consultancy fees.

Another area where third world governments have as yet failed to negotiate clear terms is for “Common but Differential Responsibilities.” Though Third World governments have affirmed CBDR there is still a need to demand a clear target setting for the responsibilities of first world nations as is the basic context of the Principle 7 of the Rio Principles commonly known as the ‘Common but Differentiated Responsibilities’ (CBDR).

The context of CBDR is that the acute destruction faced from climate change has a historical background. Climate change is a result of the industrial development pathway followed by the developed world that has resulted in huge carbon emissions and resulting global warming. Hence, no doubt the responsibility of restoring some ecological balance falls on all those inhabit this world but the developed world has a primary responsibility and obligation to provide clear targets and timelines for not only decreasing emissions at a higher and faster rate than the third world, but also to provide progressive policies which allow for a just development. Some demands that have been articulated by People’s Campaigns for development justice include elimination of tax havens, reform of trade and investment rules to protect and promote local production and employment, especially of small producers.

In addition, with respect to means of implementation (MOI) there is no clarity and lacks direction. MOI is the basic framework that will detail the means and methods of accomplishing and implementing the negotiated sustainable development goals. They cover interdependent areas such as financial resources, technology transfer, capacity building as well as a national enabling environment required to implement the new sustainable development framework.

Peoples Position

The weak positioning of our governments is clear. The negotiations for sustainable development goals will provide the development framework for the next 15 years. The globalization era, the beginning of which was marked by the lethal implementation of the neoliberal policies in the 1980s has pushed the Earth and the people towards ongoing multiple crises as has been discussed above.

The Northern governments push for further liberalization and privatization is clear. Given that our governments have not taken any clear steps to change the direction of the path taken by the North, it is clear that the people will have to take proactive and multi-pronged methods of engagement.

It is also critical that all segments of civil society are a part of the people’s campaigns. The media, academia, health care professionals, lawyers among others are all part of our communities and are needed to build a peoples movement to ensure that a truly just model of development is eked for the coming decades.

And of course, there can be no people’s movement without the masses. All small producers including the fisher folk, peasants, small and landless farmers, pastoralists, women, indigenous people, minorities, as well as women and youth need to be key players demanding for development justice. The example of two women given above, seemingly helpless and dependent on others, show clearly that people know how to look after themselves, and make decisions which will provide long term solutions to their issues. There is no way forward for the people that does not include not only our voices but our central role in decision making and implementation.###

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