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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.

Under the motto "Imagining Gani", Social Watch Philippines gave tribute last March 11 to Isagani Serrano, who passed away last February 22nd. Gani was a Co-Convenor of Social Watch Philippines and a contributor to the national Social Watch reports for several years. He was president of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and author of numerous papers and reports on climate and social justice.

Roberto Bissio, from the international secretariat of Social Watch, contributed a personal testimony: "Guiding Gani through Montevideo at his first visit to my hometown was not an easy a task, as his curiosity was insatiable. He definitely had to visit the places where tango was born, and impressed me with his knowledge of the songs and biography of the legendary singer Carlos Gardel. And he insisted on visiting the old jail of Punta Carretas, then already transformed into a shopping center, out of which over a hundred political prisoners escaped in the early seventies through a tunnel. "That episode costed me six months of solitary confinement" remembered Gani to my surprise. In those times Gani was a prisoner himself in the Philippines "and when we heard the news of the tupamaros escaping, we started digging ourselves... but got caught!"

The push for greater private sector involvement in the implementation of SDG 6, the Sustainable Development Goal on water, flies in the face of growing evidence that the privatization of water and sanitation has been detrimental, especially to the most marginalized and vulnerable communities in the world.

Evidence shows that private investors have largely ignored the most underserved regions of the world while favouring more lucrative markets requiring less capital and promising greater returns. For instance, in Chile, where 95 percent of the water and sanitation services are in private hands, the State invested significant public funds in order to achieve extensive coverage before it was sold to private investors with the promise of a 7 percent return. Corporate utilities operating in Chile have not expanded networks outside profitable urban centres.

The report on Switzerland by the NGO coalition Alliance Sud emphasizes the negative spillovers of policies: “Swiss foreign economic policy and its international financial and fiscal policy are still far from taking sufficient account of the requirements of the 2030 Agenda.” After a visit to Switzerland, UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and other financial obligations Juan-Pablo Bohoslavsky drew attention in a report to the Human Rights Council to deficiencies in the prevention of unfair financial flows and problems in the area of international corporate taxation: “The existing Swiss tax privileges for the foreign profits of multinational corporations ... create massive incentives for profit transfers to Switzerland and help to deprive developing countries of potential tax revenues in the hundreds of billions.”

Peru was affected by natural disasters more than a year ago, when heavy rains and floods affected 21 of its 25 departments. As of May 2018, thousands of families still lived in tents and many schools and hospitals had not recovered completely. In fact, many families still have not recovered their houses, destroyed by an earthquake in 2007, more than ten years ago!

Peru is part of the “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific Ocean, prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity. It is further vulnerable to the climate change-induced alterations in ocean currents, causing floods in the north of the country and drought in the south and centre. According to the report by Grupo Red de Economia Solidaria del Perú (GRESP) and the Intercontinental network for the promotion of social solidarity economy (Ripess) “lack of planning in the use of land for housing and criminal-led occupations of unsuitable terrain to set up slums make the problem worse.

Statisticians from around the world, meeting at the UN Statistical Commission in March, will again take stock of progress in the world of data over the previous 12 months, largely driven by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The official report on filling the gaps in the global indicator framework—a clear priority of the 2018 Commission—show that while some progress has been made much has stalled. Gaps and tensions continue over the selection and interpretation of indicators, the data to fill them, the selection of partners as well as control of the process and ownership of the results.

These struggles go back to the negotiations over the 2030 Agenda and its goals and targets, and have continued into the effort to define the global indicator framework.  A special edition of the Global Policy Journal details the complex power dynamics involved throughout this process. Contributors show that the selection of indicators does not depend purely on technical considerations but ultimately concerns political questions of competing priorities among a range of different players. One proposal, outlined below, argues that national statistical systems urgently must take charge of this process, and shows how they can do it.

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