Social Watch news

“Data is the new Gold” headlined a 2014 article in the business press on the marketing power it offers. “Each click, like, and share creates new data in the world, much of which can be used to deliver relevant marketing information and bring increased value to consumer audiences.” Picking up on the potential of so-called Big Data to measure national and global progress on development goals agreed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the 2030 Agenda has driven a variety of new initiatives, bringing together a vast array of global corporations, foundations, and CSOs ready to mine this new seam.

Three of these new data initiatives are the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD), Data 2X and the Digital Impact Alliance, all of which are housed at the United Nations Foundation (UNF) and which therefore claim only to advance UN goals and priorities, not the UN itself. Most of them are financed by a few major donors, public and private.

Photo: UNHCR/F.Juez

Achieving sustainable development in Lebanon requires addressing the root causes of Lebanon’s structural problems at political, economic and social levels and, additionally, to address the challenges presented by the huge influx of Syrian refugees in the country. The refugee crisis sheds light on the structural and systemic problems of Lebanon and aggravates them. In this context, the private sector, as in many other countries, must play an active role in achieving SDGs in Lebanon, along with other development actors. At the same time, they all should remain accountable for their contribution to sustainable development.

Photo: Wolfgang Obenland

How can we ensure that implementation of the Paris Agreement truly helps foster more just and sustainable development, and what is standing in the way of this progress?

It is no secret that a dual relationship exists between climate change and sustainable development. While climate change influences the environment and has deep impacts on human living conditions and therefore affects the cornerstones of social, economic and environmental development, the way society chooses to develop has implications on greenhouse gas emissions.

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Water is a key concern in Mexico, where 100 civil society organizations submitted a joint report to the UN documenting how “privatization policies benefit extractive industries and mega-projects instead of reducing inequalities in access to essential services”. Users with difficulties in paying the increased tariffs are being denied their human right to water and the quality of the water distributed has deteriorated so much in many places that in Aguascalientes 95 percent of the water people drink is bottled.

The report points out that water issues affect women disproportionately. “When there is a shortage, irregular delivery or bad quality water, women spend more time to bring water to their homes, boil it, filter it and deal with the authorities, frequently adding up to 30 hours a week to their domestic work.” The Mexico Social Watch report emphasizes that “insufficient and ineffective regulations on environmental and social impact, have led to numerous cases of violation of fundamental rights due to business activities”.

In Egypt the World Bank argues that the gains in mortality rates and life expectancy levels achieved since the beginning of the last century will not continue if the private sector is not involved, due to the government's failure to devote more resources to the health sector and a lower possibility of improving unhealthy daily habits of poor people.

The Social Watch report notes that while the government has announced the creation of PPPs in the Smouha Maternity University Hospital and Blood Bank and Al Mowasat Hospital, the PPP central unit has not made public the details of the projects, nor the nature of the investors’ responsibilities. Nor has it announced the main investors in the projects or the improvements that they are expected to achieve. All that is known by civil society is that the PPPs will be implemented and partially managed by Bareeq Capital, DETAC Construction & Trading, Siemens Healthineers and G4S Company.

The informal economy comprises half to three-quarters of all non-agricultural employment in the developing countries, Roberto Bissio, coordinator of the Social Watch international secretariat in an article on "Past and future of informal workers" published by the Arab NGO Network for Development as part of its report on informality in the Arab region.

The study combats the notion that informality in developing countries is associated with "traditional" or "backward" sectors in the economy, and exposes as contributors to present-day informality the pressure to reduce the state and its control by international financial institutions like the World Bank, the benefits obtained by multinational corporations from cheaper labour and flexibility in workers' contracts and the "uberification" of the economy through online outsourcing of small pieces of work.

Photo: Times of Malta

The lack of any substantive cohesion in Malta between a number of policies, such as education or health, with sustainability is a worrying factor, according to the Maltese Social Watch report. The general absence of statistical data, particularly of disaggregated data by various social and economic criteria, resulting from a lack of collection or from the prevalent praxis of not making it public makes the reporting difficult. Yet, there is an obvious lack of coherent and comprehensive approach to the legal and policy framework relating to the SDGs. This also belies a weak vision both on the action required at a national level and in terms of Malta’s role within the international community and its contribution (despite it being a small country) at the global level.

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In Morocco, the Social Watch team informs, the kingdom’s supreme auditing body has reported a systematic lack of compliance with their contractual obligations by private providers of public services in water, electricity and sanitation: In the city of Tangier, the “Amandis” Group, affiliated to the French group “Veolia”, carried out less than one third of its commitments during the first five years of its operations. In Casablanca, only 45,806 ‘social connections’ (benefiting people in poverty) were carried out in 10 years (1997-2006) out of 90,000 promised by the French company Lédique of the Suez group.

The Global Justice Center, the Eyzidi Organization for Documentation, the Iraqi Al-Amal Association, the Iraqi Women Network, Madre and Yazda sent an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, to the chief of High Judicial Counil and to Mr. Ibrahim Jaafari- Foreign Minister regarding the Terms of Reference for UN Security Council resolution 2379 (2017) on Daesh accountability.

The CSOs demand that those ToR, which are currently being drafted, have a gender justice and a victim-centered approach. In particular, the recommendations stresses the need for identifying an applicable legal framework for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, legal reform, ensuring investigative efficiency, gender expertise, due process, victim and witness protection, community outreach and civil society engagement.

A recently launched report by the Arab NGO Network for Development aims at defining the gender dimensions of informal labor in the region. The study on the gender dimensions of informal labor, written by Dr. Howaida Adly, Political Sciences Professor at the National Center for Sociological and Criminilogical Research (Egypt), focus on commonalities between all Arab countries in terms of labor and gender, and on the differences among them. The analysis is based on national reports received from the different Arab countries. A common limitation is that data is lacking to allow for a comprehensive assessment of the gender dimensions of informal labor.

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