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Austerity policies have all too often gone hand-in-hand with undermining economic, social and cultural rights, while at the same time increasing inequalities in income and wealth within the European Union and its member States.

This is one of the main conclusions highlighted by Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky (from Argentina), the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, in his report (A/HRC/34/57/Add.1) to the UN Human Rights Council, which meets here from 27 February to 24 March.

The United Nations Human Rights Office has launched an appeal of nearly US$253 million in extra-budgetary funding for its work programme in 2017, with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights lamenting that his Office is "dramatically and chronically underfunded".

The UN Human Rights Office described this extra-budgetary funding as its most ambitious funding appeal yet, and that it would be in addition to the UN regular budget funding of US$107.56 million that is provided to the Office.

Austerity-related labour market reforms promoted by multilateral and regional financial institutions in many developed and developing countries have been shown to not help economies recover after crises, and have instead inflicted substantial harm on working people, which will be felt for many years.

This is one of the main findings of the UN Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt on the enjoyment of all human rights, Mr  Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky (from Argentina), in his latest report to the thirty-fourth session of the UN Human Rights Council, which meets here from 27 February to 24 March.

In his report, the rights expert observed that many States with unsustainable levels of debt or experiencing a financial crisis have implemented austerity policies and labour market reforms with a strong deregulatory impetus, either on their own initiative or at the behest of external creditors, including international or regional financial institutions.

The Trade and Development Board of UNCTAD on Monday held a discussion on the Least Developed Countries Report 2016 which amongst others had argued that graduation of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) is "not the winning post of a race to cease being an LDC, but rather the first milestone in the marathon of development."

The number of new countries becoming LDCs, the near doubling of the size of the group in the last 45 years in part reflects the small number of countries graduating out of the category - just four in the 25 years since the principle of graduation was established (Botswana in 1994, Cabo Verde in 2007, Maldives in 2011 and Samoa in 2014).

Sovereign debt restructurings, as can be seen from examples like Greece and Argentina, are difficult, often traumatic experiences for the sovereign debtor and its citizens. It is invariably the case that in a sovereign debt restructuring (SODR), the sovereign, because it either has lost access to financing or can only obtain it on more expensive terms, will be forced to reduce its expenditures in order to try and meet its renegotiated debt payments.

On March 9, the OECD's  Development Assistance Committee will decide on how to include what are known as ‘private sector instruments’ (PSI), in aid. This could mean a dramatic increase in the use of aid to invest in or give loans to private companies, or to agree to bail out failed private sector projects, through guarantees. However, without strong safeguards and transparency standards there is a real risk that aid could be used as a backdoor subsidy for corporations with powerful lobbies in donor countries. 

TUDCN has undertaken three national case studies in Ghana, Indonesia and Uruguay to analyse social dialogue within the countries in its various forms, with particular focus on the formalisation of these dialogues at different administrative levels and its contribution to development. The studies are authored by national trade union specialists and include examples of good practice as well as of limitations of the different contexts.

The global unemployment rate is expected to rise modestly to 5.8 per cent in 2017, representing an increase in the number of unemployed globally of 3.4 million compared with 2016, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has said.

In its World Employment and Social Outlook - Trends 2017 report released recently, the ILO said that this will bring total unemployment to 201.1 million in 2017.

The ILO further said that the global unemployment rate is then expected to hold relatively steady in 2018, as the economic outlook improves, although the pace of labour force growth will still outstrip employment creation, resulting in an additional 2.7 million unemployed people.

The "refinement" of the SDG indicators by experts can dilute the goals agreed by the governments, said civil society representatives as preparations advance to the 48th session of the UN Statistical Commission in March 2017. For example, under target 10.5, to improve the regulation and monitoring of global financial markets, the proposed indicator #10.5.1: “Adoption of global financial transaction tax (Tobin tax)” was changed to “Financial Soundness Indicators”, developed by the IMF.

Trade unions representatives at the United Nations consider it "positive" that "the indicators can still be improved" but warn that in not totally transparent processes, the targets can be distorted in the choice of indicators.

Monitoring of the SDGs is to begin in 2017, and the Inter Agency Expert Group (IAEG-SDG) held its fourth meeting at the United Nations Grounds in Geneva on 17-18 November. The discussion was not conslusive. Trade unions analyse what is at stake.

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