Global multi-stakeholder partnerships and initiatives between public and private actors, which move beyond traditional nation-state multilateralism, are now perceived as the future of international cooperation. The UN is already involved in hundreds of partnership initiatives with individual companies and business associations. ‘Rules of engagement between the UN and private actors,’ a paper by Jens Martens and Karolin Seit from Global Policy Forum, demonstrates that the existing guidelines are weak and highly heterogeneous. Effective and comprehensive rules for such cooperation are still missing.

The non-regulated engagement between the UN and the private sector could result in a loss of reputation, increased influence by private actors on political decision-making, and could divert scarce public resources away from UN goals.

Last week, the UN General Assembly 74th Session’s first full week in New York City met amid High-level meetings on climate, health, the SDGs, financing for development, and Small Island Developing States. Over 90 Heads of State or Government convened at UN Headquarters for this political moment, described by the outgoing President of the General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés as “inextricably linked strands of DNA that make up our ‘blueprint’ for the world”.

Integral to this year’s session has been the heightened participation of corporate, philanthropic and financial actors in both the official, High-level meetings themselves and a variety of concurrent meetings including the SDG Business Forum, the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit, UN Global Compact events, the Bloomberg Global Business Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Goalkeepers event.

UN High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development – 26 Sept

Civil society groups call for urgent reforms to combat illicit financial flows, abolish tax havens, introduce a global wealth tax and an intergovernmental body on tax cooperation.

New York, 26 September: The High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development which follows the SDG Summit, must urgently find ways to access the funds governments need to achieve the SDGs, say members of the Reflection Group*.

“The 2030 Agenda cites the enormous disparities of opportunity, wealth and power as one of the immense challenges to sustainable development. And yet governments are not doing nearly enough to tackle these challenges, despite a plethora of robust policy proposals emanating from civil society, academics and others”, say Kate Donald from the Center for Economic and Social Rights and Jens Martens from the Global Policy Forum.

The so-called ‘Climate Action Summit’ was an odd affair. It began with a youth dialogue, including a speech from Greta Thunberg, who called out the audience of heads of state and CEOs of some of the companies known for their inaction in the face of the climate emergency.

“How dare you say it is business as usual”, “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth, how dare you”, she said. This public telling off was greeted with tumultuous applause – perhaps showing that it was going to be business as usual after all.

UN SDG Summit: 24-25 September

The need for gender equality is being referred to throughout discussions on the SDGs as an important prerequisite to achieving the goals

25 September New York: “There is simply no way we can achieve the 17 SDGs without achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls”. Who said this? A feminist polemicist? No, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pointing out that gender equality is the thread running through the 2030 Agenda.

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