Governments have dedicated a pivotal role to the private sector in the implementation and financing of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. This has pushed a turn towards the private sector, the promotion of multi-stakeholder partnerships between public and private actors. However, far too often there is a considerable gap between the social and environmental commitments companies make publicly in political fora like the UN and the actual effects of their production patterns and investment strategies on people and the environment.

Recent discoveries of hydrocarbons in various African countries and the massive investments in energy generation capacity have created expectations that the blackouts and brownouts that several African countries have endured for the past decades will soon be a thing of the past. In East Africa, national economies have in recent years also been recording stellar growth rates which promise new opportunities and discontinuity with the past.

Despite this record, in its Africa Energy Outlook 2014, the International Energy Agency remarked: “More than 200 million people in East Africa are without electricity, around 80% of its population. Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda are among the most populous countries in East Africa and have the largest populations both with and without access to electricity.”

In Argentina over 10 percent of households are not connected to a clean water supply network and over 30 percent lack sanitation. Investment in water and sanitation was stable at around 2 percent of public expenditure between 2012 and 2015. It dropped to 1.4 percent in 2016 and 0.3 percent in 2017, months before President Mauricio Macri announced in May 2018 the request for an IMF emergency loan that may result in fiscal austerity with further cuts to budgets.

Writing from Thailand, Ranee Hassarungsee from the Social Agenda Working Group finds it impossible to constrain the analysis within national borders because “trade liberalization in the process of globalization has enabled transnational corporations to exploit natural resources widely and deeply across borders, in collusion with domestic elites. National-level natural resource policies have implications in other countries as State agencies, domestic monopoly capital and transnational corporations have assumed key roles in framing various aspects of development policies, in manufacturing, energy, environment, land use, etc.” The other side of the coin is that “people’s rights to self-determination is being restricted as their participation in decision-making is curtailed”.

A common theme that ran through the 50th Session of the UN Statistical Commission, March 2019, was the often tense interface between data and policy-making and the asymmetrical power dynamics that shape it. This was evident in the several reports submitted for consideration by the Commission. One from the UN Statistics Division (UNSD) reported on the federated system of data hubs, designed to integrate new data sources into a platform which is accessible to National Statistics Offices (NSOs) and creates comparable data among users. Another was a proposal by the High-Level Group for Partnership, Cooperation, and Capacity Building for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for a UN Chief Statistician to enhance the voice of statistics in UN policy processes.

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