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In Kenya the NGO SODNET reports that “the widening gap between the rich and the poor continues to undermine confidence in the institutions of democratic economic governance and, alongside it, the imperative of social cohesion as a condition for sustainable development”. According to Edward Oyugi, J. Ocholla and Mwaura Kaara “Kenya still lives uneasily with a colonial past and its legacy of unequal development, arising from acute asymmetry of power relations associated with the continuation of a colonial system that had merely engaged a strategic retreat gear against the false belief that the post-colonial dispensation marked a systemic transformation of the colonial societies.” The report concludes that democracy and sustainable development remain “a dream” because “the culture and practice of corruption has grown deep and enduring roots in Kenyan society and become endemic” and allows for concentration of wealth within the ruling circles. The political and bureaucratic leadership benefit from it “and the existing governance institutions either kick the can down the road or lack both the will and capacity to stop them from doing so”.

In France, a High Level Steering Committee for the implementation of the SDGs held its first meeting in April 2018 as a forum to debate and collectively build, with public and private actors, a ‘roadmap’ to be issued in the fall of 2019.This move was applauded by the ATD Fourth World Movement for being inclusive, but also criticized as “coming late”.

ATD Fourth World finds “very little effort to synergize the various objectives, and "not a major concern" for poverty in France.

The Movement hopes “that the enforcement of each SDG reaches the poorest, on the national territory as well as in the international development cooperation by France” and it campaigns in particular on the issue of unemployment (currently 9 percent in France) demanding “access to work as a right, just as the right to education or the right to social security”.

Three years into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, concerns continue about stalled indicators, missing indicators and proliferating and potentially competing data sources, which makes it difficult to assess progress (see GPW Briefings #22: The Ups and Downs of Tiers: measuring SDG progress; #23: SDG Indicators-the forest is missing).

Initiatives abound in the shifting terrain of the generation, validation and use of data to satisfy the demands of a growing market of players. In addition to the work of the UN mandated Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), these concerns and challenges have drawn the attention of a number of official statisticians and practitioners.

KEPA; the Finnish platform of civil society organizations, worries about the extraterritorial impact of Finland's production and consumption patterns.

“Almost half of Finland's water footprint is caused by production chains outside Finland” they argue as an example. Kepa reports that “there is no reliable or even partially comprehensive information available in Finland on the external impacts of Finnish consumption, i.e., how we exploit natural resources outside of our own country”. The Finnish Ministry of Finance initiated an assessment of the national budget from a sustainable development perspective. However, the initial work is judged “quite modest”. The budget proposal for 2019 is going to be estimated mainly from the climate change perspective, and will focus on the plans for Finland to become carbon neutral after having reached a historic high in carbon emissions in 2017. Kepa considers it “necessary to widen the approach of taking sustainable development into account in the budget planning” to cover other issues and “to look courageously at tax support for fossil fuels and other activities that may even conflict with sustainable development.”

Photo: CONGCOOP

In Guatemala the main complaint about the State is its absence. “We have the sensation that there is no government,” reports Helmer Velazquez, director of the cooperatives and NGOs association Congcoop, “because taxes are so low and the 'state captors' don't even pay them, thanks to tax exemptions or plain avoidance, which leaves the exploitation of natural resources as the only funding source.” “This wouldn't be a problem if we didn't have seven million people living in poverty: Half of the population! And poverty is extreme for three million of them. Very calm, the government reported in 2017 ‘institutional progress’ by linking the SDGs with the national development plan K'atun 2032. In substantive terms, nothing.”

There is no doubt that social protection is a key instrument to end poverty and to give people access to opportunities for a self-determined life in dignity. National social protection systems can also contribute to achieving other SDGs, including food security, good health, decent work, gender equality, reduced inequality and cohesive communities.

Even for countries that have the political will to close the gap and the organizational capacity to implement the required policies, a major challenge is to mobilize and maintain the necessary resources to cover the cost in a sustainable way. Social protection spending is not a short-term effort but needs to be planned and guaranteed for the indefinite future.

Introduction: the rise of corporate malpractice
Over the last months multinational corporations have jumped from the ‘economy and business’ pages of world newspapers to the sections on ‘crime and police’: Volkswagen was found guilty of programming its cars to cheat on emission tests enabling it to contaminate while on the streets way beyond the acceptable limits. The sugar industry was exposed as having a long record of fake scientific research aimed at blaming other factors for the health problems that they create. Goldman Sachs helped the Greek government in 2001 to lie about the state of its economy, in order to be admitted into the Eurozone. Between 2012 and 2015 the most powerful banks of the world, including Barclays, Chase Morgan, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland and others, paid billions of dollars in fines for having manipulated for their own benefit the exchange rates among global currencies and the Libor interest rates that determine the cost of billions of credit operations around the world every day.

Civil society organizations from Ecuador have brought to the attention of human rights bodies several cases of conflict between extractive industries and indigenous communities. In August 2017, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was urged to investigate the situation of several families from the Shuar community displaced unlawfully by the copper mining project San Carlos Panantza in the Amazon region. Four Amazonian provinces (Napo, Orellana, Pastaza and Morona Santiago) are affected by oil explorations over a total surface of four million hectares. The Center on Economic and Social Rights (CESR) is concerned that the consultation process with hundreds of indigenous communities in that huge area has not been conducted properly.

In 2015, with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), governments acknowledged the mutually enforcing power of peace and development. The 2030 Agenda represents a paradigm shift in terms of universality and interlinked goals, including across borders and affirms the need for a rights-based approach to peace and security, one focused on prevention. At the same time, most governments are still producing, trading and spending more on arms, thereby fueling a militarized approach to peace and security. Dominant power talks on how to achieve peace continue to silence those impacted most by conflicts and wars, including women and children. Profits made under war economies and through the arms trade continue to deepen inequalities and violate the rights of those with enormous humanitarian and development needs.

In the Czech Republic the most pressing social issue is the degree of household debt and the frequency of debt-related property seizures, which affects more than 8 percent of the population. Aggressive by private collection agencies, initiating actions for often minor sums have deprived hundreds of thousands of people of their property and often forced them to the edge of the society or even into homelessness.

Nevertheless, Ondřej Lánský and Tomáš Tožička report on behalf of Social Watch-Czech Republic that “the conservative and liberal political right that dominates the public discourse keeps repeating that we are living in the best of times and that everybody’s well-off. It therefore forgets a large part of the society that lost in the transformation towards a market economy. They lost in the sense of lacking economic securities that used to be in place, and as a result of direct social degradation. But the major part of academia and the cultural elites refused to pay attention to social issues. Most of the churches and NGOs focused on providing paternalist assistance to the most vulnerable while keeping with the logic of individualistic responsibility. ‘New politicians’ coming from oligarchic circles are preying on such sentiments, promising more dignity to the low and middle classes, often outside of the urban centres.”

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