Social Watch news

Hungarian civil groups headed by the Hungarian United Left (MEBAL) called for a demonstration for 10 a.m. on 8th October 2017 in the heart of the previous Jewish ghetto of Budapest (i. e. on Klauzal Square, where 3 thousand killed Jews were piled up in 1944) in order to protest against the presently very powerful autocracy of the right-wing ruling power of FIDESZ and KDNP and the brutal police violence committed against Attila Vajnai, President of the European Left Workers Party 2006.

Demonstration against mining.
(Photo: Upside Down World)

El Salvador is the first country in Latin America and perhaps in the world to strictly prohibit all exploration and exploitation of underground metals, as well as open-pit mining. The Social Watch coalition of El Salvador welcomes this decision as “a triumph of the struggle carried out by different social organizations, which now have this legal tool to defend the environment and the lives affected”. However, they remind that “there has historically been a vacuum in the effective implementation of laws and agreements that guarantee the protection of the environment and vulnerable areas, mainly because of the lack of citizen participation in monitoring and implementing the laws”. They also demand with urgency a “comprehensive fiscal reform to effectively combat tax evasion and avoidance, thus guaranteeing needed revenues for implementing the SDGs”.

The government of Bangladesh has announced an inclusive approach to development so that the poorest and the most vulnerable populations can be integrated into its national development efforts. This "whole society approach" requires the engagement of all stakeholders in the process. Civil society organizations envisage a strengthening of democratic institutions and participatory governance to achieve the SDGs in Bangladesh, with participation of civil society in all levels of implementation, from the national to the grassroots level.

They therefore demand that "IFIs and the WTO must respect policy spaces for LDCs and developing countries so that national sovereignty in decision-making and the very nature of the State in respect to welfare and redistributive justice can be protected".

The Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) launched a book on the enabling environment of civil society in the Arab region. The publication aims to present an overview of the current situation of civil society organizations in Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Palestine. It uses several country-specific indicators regarding the establishment of civil society organizations and their success. The current conflicts raging in the Arab region constitutes a serious challenge, especially in lack of attention to laws regarding the work of civil associations, in addition to the shifts faced in funding.

The publication highlights several legal challenges, especially those resulting from the lack of commitment to the principles of the separation of powers, as applied by democratic societies, as laws and regulations are often politicized. The book includes several recommendations to invigorate the work of civil society organizations in the regional, in order to consolidate the values of justice, equality, and sustainable development.

On 7 and 8 July 2017, the summit meeting of the G20, the group of 19 major economies and the European Union, was held in Hamburg, Germany. Media perception of the event was marked by the US President’s appearance and the conflicts in climate and trade policies. In contrast, other topics, including the G20 activities regarding the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, took a backseat. Hardly any attention was given to the Hamburg Update of the G20 Action Plan on the 2030 Agenda.

Many observers representing academia and civil society viewed the Summit resolutions as insufficient or even counterproductive. Above all, they criticized the blind faith in economic growth reflected by the Summit documents and the one-sided focus on private investments to finance development.

The Kenya Social Watch report registers “heavy and unprecedented investment in mega-infrastructure projects.” Instead of spurring equitable economic growth these initiatives are placing on the national economy an unbearable debt burden of some US$ 50 billion.

The report states that “the growth-leading sectors have not only been broadly based but also have performed poorly, particularly in respect to poverty-reduction and equity-inducing policy dispensations and accompanying strategic instruments. Decreased activity in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors have induced a jobless growth that has had the effect of a flood in the wake of which not all the boats could be lifted. Instead it has rendered Kenya one of the most unequal societies in the world.”

When the democratization process started, quarter of a century ago, the Czech Republic hoped to raise its social, environmental, economic and legal realities to “First World” standards. The Czech Social Watch coalition concluded in its alternative report to the United Nations that “we are back in the Second World”. The chapters on People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Justice and Partnerships provide evidence of an increasing gap between East and West in Europe.

“Apart from indisputable internal responsibility, international cooperation has been lacking and it is not surprising that trust in the EU is decreasing in new member states”. The report complains about underrepresentation of Eastern Europe internationally and sees “ethnically motivated murders of Czech and Polish workers in Great Britain by neo-Nazis in connection with Brexit” as “only the tip of the iceberg”.

New Census numbers released this week show that overall incomes have risen in the past ten years in Canada. This is excellent news. Economic growth driven by rising wages is growth we can feel, growth that translates into a better life.

However, not all Canadians are having the same experience. When you look at different parts of Canada, and different Canadians, you see some important differences. This Census release doesn’t include the differences in income and poverty experienced by racialized, indigenous, and immigrant groups. For that information, we have to wait another month. However, you can already see differences in the wages of men and women and very different levels of poverty depending on which city you live in (or if you live in a city at all).

It will not be possible to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Brazil. This sad prospect is a consequence of the lack of the necessary budgetary allocations, resulting from the current austerity policies of the Temer administration. Such policies establish a cap for social expenses and promote budgetary cuts of over 50 percent in many governmental bodies, along with other reforms that lead to social exclusion, increase inequalities and relinquish the national wealth via privatization processes.

The current government of Brazil lacks legitimacy to promote actions and thus it uses the SDG discourse to justify its policies while at the same time rendering these same SDGs unattainable as a result of its political and economic decisions.

In its civil society shadow report a wide coalition of civil society organizations from Germany formulates analyses, criticism and recommendations for action in 17 areas, from poverty in old age to German foreign policy. The report opens with cross-sectoral analyses on areas that cannot be sufficiently located within the logic of the 17 SDGs, as for example, on the subject area ‘populism’ or the issue of international tax cooperation. The report also addresses the policies of the German government, whatever political configuration may come out after the federal election in September of 2017. The report concludes that "relying on a change in awareness of consumers and producers alone will not bring us closer to the goal of sustainability fast enough."

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