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After more than five years, the conflict in Syria represents a catastrophic failure of the “international system” in terms of maintaining basic human rights (including the right to live), peace and stability. This system, including the UN as well as influential world states and organizations, has failed to reduce the escalation of conflict, let alone create effective mediation processes to reach a decent solution. Furthermore, many international and regional actors have fueled the conflict by providing political, military, logistic and financial support to the warring parties, investing in identity politics to deepen polarization and strengthening hostility and a spirit of revenge in their local affiliates.  The conflict has largely destroyed Syria’s economic structure, foundations and institutions, severely depleting resources and capital, human capital, social capital and economic governance. Economic priorities shifted as all subjugating powers reallocated resources to fuel violence and its related activities. This economic environment came along with the absence of rule of law, property rights, and accountability, in addition to a surge in corruption. It generated new actors and/or changed the behaviour of previous actors to be part of new rules of game: that of imposing hegemony by force and building new political economies to sustain the conflict. Effectiveness and equity, as goals of economic policy, have been diminished as the authorities sacrificed the core development goals and achievements to serve the new “development in reverse” dynamics.

Photo: DECIDAMOS

Paraguay faces strong challenges in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with their focus on reducing inequalities and their complex links to production and growth. The right to health has not been met yet and social protection is still not a right for everyone. Even if there is a systematic improvement of the indicators of the past decade, these positive results were achieved only after years. After more than a decade of economic growth, lost opportunities in terms of welfare, the lack of productive transformation and tax justice place the country in an unfavourable position to meet the goals of reducing inequalities and ensuring socially and environmentally sustainable growth.

Social protection is still a right to aspire to. Current contributory programmes are fragmented, incomplete and have a low level of coverage. The coverage of non-contributory programmes has increased significantly in recent years, but the lack of comprehensiveness hinders the possibility of substantial impact in reducing the risks that people face throughout their lives.

In August, the World Bank concluded a major policy review process to adopt a new Environmental and Social Framework to replace its suite of “safeguard” policies – the policies designed to ensure that development activities financed by the Bank do not cause harm to communities or the environment. The outcome of this four-year review can be summed up in ten words: The safety net got bigger, and so did its holes.

First, the good news. The new framework covers a broader scope of social issues than the old one. The policy now places social impact assessment and management more on par with that of environmental issues which historically have received greater attention in development projects. The framework now also has provisions to prevent discrimination in Bank-financed activities and requires assessment and mitigation of impacts on “vulnerable or disadvantaged” groups.

India is one of the world’s emerging economies, with impressive economic growth. While this growth has increased the income of a very small section of the population, India has the largest number of poor people in the world. The country has the world’s third largest number of billionaires and still millions of children are out of school; many millions of children do not live to the age of five; many millions of mothers die in childbirth. Despite economic growth, the country faces challenges of social and economic inequalities, urban-centred economic growth and shrinking civic spaces. While economic growth indeed made a difference to the large middle class, it is yet to ‘trickle down’ to rural poor, farmers and a vast number of poor and marginalized people, including Dalits (Scheduled Castes) and Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes), which make up 25 percent of the population. The environment is under increasing stress and there is a vibrant discussion about the consequences of mining and other disruptive activities on forests and environment and the implications for climate change. On the one hand, economic growth provides resources for greater investment in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and on the other, the urban-centric growth model, and increasing instances of crony capitalism also result in rising inequality and shrinking democracy and civic spaces and pose a challenge to effectively realize the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs.

Bulgaria has come a long way from its turbulent political and economic transition in the 1990s to becoming a member of the European Union (EU) in January 2007. Today, it is an upper middle-income economy of 7.2 million people with a per capita income of USD7,420. (GNI per capita, 2014).

However, since 2008, economic growth has been sluggish and income gains of the bottom 40 percent of the population have been weak. Supported by prudent macro-fiscal management, Bulgaria showed resilience during the global economic crisis with reduced imbalances and a sound public debt level (27.6% of GDP in 2014). Yet, convergence has slowed and Bulgaria’s income per capita are just 45 percent of the EU average in 2013. Eurostat data show that in 2014, Bulgaria holds second place in the at-risk-of-poverty-or-social-exclusion scale: Romania (40.2 %), Bulgaria (40.1 %) and Greece (36.0 %). The crisis and the measures taken to freeze income exacerbated social inequality and the chances of nearly half of the population to get out of the trap of poverty and social exclusion. Given this situation, what must be done to implement the 2030 Agenda?

Are a country’s obligations under international human rights law relevant in interpreting its potential liability under investment treaties? Does a company’s responsibility to respect human rights come into play when assessing which of its expectations should be protected in an investment dispute? When important public interest implications of investment treaty interpretations are at stake in the resolution of a company’s treaty-based claims against a government, can amicus curiae –“friend of the court” –briefs help fill in gaps in the parties’ own submissions?

These and similar questions are increasingly being asked as international lawyers grapple with the implications of investment treaty disputes for public policymaking and the fulfillment of human rights, as well as with the continued fragmentation of international law. These questions are particularly important in the context of specific investment disputes that stand to affect the rights of third parties.

Spain is in a period of uncertainty about its future government and its institutions, political parties and citizens have not yet decided on a sustainable development strategy. To adapt and implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Spain would need to renew its commitment to freedoms, rights and equality. The country has the capacity to transition towards renewable energy, but it needs to change social and economic policies to cope with dramatic unemployment. There is room to expand fiscal policy given its low tax revenue in relation to neighbouring countries, and domestic rates of poverty and inequality require prioritizing specific policies in order to reduce them.

Canada's newly-elected federal Liberal government has committed to working towards achieving the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda “both at home and abroad.” However, the Government inherits a country that has been profoundly shaped by the conservative economic and social policies of the past decade. The new government will have to overcome the challenges posed by a much-diminished federal government, social and income inequality, and an economy based on growing wealth rather than wages in order to deliver on its commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

In sharp contrast to the previous federal Conservative government, the current government has committed itself to resumed deficit spending. However, even with the increases seen in their first budget, federal programme spending remains at a historic low. Today, federal programme spending as a share of the economy stands at 13 percent of GDP, its lowest point in the past 60 years.

Photo: IAA

Iraqi Al-Amal Association (IAA), Social Watch focal point in Iraq, conducted its second workshop in Beirut, to discuss the draft bill on “Protection against Domestic Violence".

Activist Hanaa Edwar head of IAA said "Our aim is to explain and discuss the important bill, and to work with the MPs and consultants, in order to reach the full conviction required to adopt and defend this bill, which we hope that the current session of the House of Representatives will be able to vote on and pass it”. Adding: "this law will be a real shield against domestic violence, committed by one family member against another reaching to a relative of the fourth degree, mostly women and children are the victims of such practices, which constitute a hidden crime. The bill includes mechanisms for the protection of victims such as creating safe centers and providing the necessary care and rehabilitation, and to punish the perpetrators of these crimes. Also, there are other steps that could be taken by the media and civil society organizations and other parties to limit the phenomenon of domestic violence, which escalated to levels that cannot be tolerated”.

The coup currently on course in Brazil, with great chance of succeeding in the next 30 days, has many faces and short- and long-term effects for the Brazilian population. In little over 100 days of interim government, the politically conservative and economically liberal agenda is being rapidly designed and raising fear among the most vulnerable sectors of the society, such as workers and retirees. It is now clear that the nebulous process of impeachment endangers historical achievements and the very capacity of the Brazilian state to deal with its historical ills.

Regarding workers and retirees, sweeping reforms of the labor and welfare systems that would produce significant regressions on their rights are already well under way to implementation, without any concern about the legitimacy or the screen of the ballot boxes. Indeed, many take for granted their approval if the impeachment process goes ahead in the Federal Senate.

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