Spotlight on Inequalities at High-Level SDG Forum 2019

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July 8, 2019

Spotlight on Inequalities at High-Level SDG Forum 2019

From July 9th-19th, CESR will attend the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) at the United Nations in New York. A key issue on the agenda will be inequality, the focus of CESR’s contributions to the Spotlight Report on Sustainable Development 2019 to be launched at the Forum.

New York, July 8, 2019-- “The implementation of the 2030 Agenda is not just a matter of better policies. It requires more holistic and more sweeping shifts in how and where power is vested, including through institutional, legal and political commitments to realizing human rights.” 
 
This is the main message of the Spotlight Report on Sustainable Development 2019, the most comprehensive independent assessment of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, co-published by eight international NGOs, networks and trade unions, including the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR). 
 
The theme of the 2019 Spotlight Report is “Reshaping governance for sustainability: Transforming institutions – shifting power – strengthening rights.” It presents a range of analyses of  how current global and national governance arrangements are hindering implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and it puts forward recommendations for the structural reforms needed. In doing so, it draws from a variety of reports from the national level, summarized in the first section of the report. It also builds on the 2018 report which explored the alternative policies necessary for truly rights-aligned sustainable development, and the 2017 report which interrogated the role of the private sector and private financing.
 
“The hard wiring of human rights in the SDGs is a potentially powerful corrective to the serious governance deficits which have emerged around the 2030 Agenda since 2015,” argues CESR’s Executive Director Ignacio Saiz in a special contribution to the report on the role of human rights in governance of the SDGs. 
 
In the chapter on Goal 10, CESR’s Kate Donald and Mahinour El-Badrawi, along with Grazielle David of Red de Justicia Fiscal de América Latina y El Caribe, critically reflect on the International Monetary Fund’s outsized role in economic governance, and how it affects prospects for achieving SDG commitments on inequalities, looking in particular at the impacts of its policies in Egypt and Brazil. 
 
Reforms supported or demanded by the IMF in these contexts have further entrenched inequalities and wreaked devastation on the rights of many groups, raising serious questions according to the authors. Should the IMF’s advice and strictures have more weight than human rights obligations? Should the current system of global economic governance, which is dominated by the richest countries and has led to the inequality crisis, be trusted to play a constructive role in the transformation needed? 
 
The Spotlight Report, released today, a day before the opening of the High Level Political Forum, provides an important complement and counterpoint to the official discussions at UN headquarters. This year’s HLPF—with the overall theme "Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality"—marks the first time that SDG 10, which commits to reducing inequality within and among countries, is up for special scrutiny. This marks a particular milestone for CESR, as the inequality-related aspects of the SDGs have been a major focus of our work in recent years. As argued in CESR’s 2016 publication on Goal 10 From Disparity to Dignity, there is an urgent need for realistic, critical assessment of how and why progress on Goal 10 is lagging seriously behind, stymied by lack of political will to significantly shift power at national and global levels, and implement the necessary redistributive policies. CESR will be closely following the discussions on Goal 10, inequalities and financing, as well as hosting and participating in events on the sidelines of the official agenda (see list below).
 
As usual, CESR’s advocacy at the HLPF will draw on its array of work at the national level with partners, to raise awareness of the systemic obstacles that impede global and national SDG progress. This year, we will give particular attention to South Africa, whose representatives will present their first Voluntary National Review on SDG progress. Their appearance in an HLPF year focused on inequalities is particularly apt, given that South Africa is the most economically unequal country in the world, where systemic inequality is currently being exacerbated by a range of regressive austerity measures. The disparities and deprivations linked to austerity are highlighted in the 2018 submission and factsheet CESR and South African partners Section 27 and the Institute for Economic Justice made to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 
 
Despite its many deficiencies, which CESR has documented in previous years, the HLPF continues to be the only real chance to scrutinize SDG implementation at the global level. It offers an important space to take the pulse of implementation so far, interrogate the official narratives, and propose alternative solutions. Therefore, CESR is dedicating its efforts at this year’s HLPF to seeking a revitalized recognition that fulfilment of the SDGs—and the human rights obligations underpinning them—demand urgent and concrete action to remedy inequalities, without which progress across all the Goals will blocked. As critical tools in this endeavor, CESR will highlight the need for rights-based, redistributive fiscal policies, major reform of global economic governance to remedy the extreme imbalance of power between countries, and the primacy of human rights norms and principles as a roadmap and litmus test for assessing progress. 
 
 
CESR events and appearances at the High-Level Political Forum, 2019:
 
HLPF side-event, organized by UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) and the Freidrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). Presentation by Kate Donald, Director of Economic and Social Policy Program at CESR.
Wednesday, July 10th, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m., Church Center, 777 UN Plaza, New York 
 
HLPF Training, Learning and Practice event, organized by the Danish Institute for Human Rights and co-sponsored by CESR. The SDG 10 session will be introduced by Ignacio Saiz, CESR Executive Director.
Wednesday, 10 July, 3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m., Conference Room 5 (UN pass required).
 
HLPF side-event to launch this year’s edition of the Spotlight Report, co-published by CESR. Presentation by Kate Donald, Director of Economic and Social Policy Program at CESR.
Thursday, 11 July, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m., Baha’i International Community conference room, 866 UN Plaza. Please RSVP here.
 
HLPF side-event, co-sponsored by CESR, Civicus, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Oxfam, ActionAid, ICNL, Article 19, Action for Sustainable Development, Global Call to Action Against Poverty, government of Finland. 
Friday, July 12th, 1-3 p.m., Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice, 320 East 43rd Street. Please RSVP here
 
HLPF side-event, co-organized by CESR, Fight Inequality Alliance and Oxfam, co-sponsored by OHCHR.
Ignacio Saiz, Executive Director of CESR, will chair the discussion.
Thursday, July 18th, 9-11 a.m., Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice, 320 East 43rd Street. Please RSVP here.
 
HLPF side-event co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Germany and Switzerland to the United Nations
Thursday, July 18, 2019, 1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m., Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations, 871 United Nations Plaza, New York, Auditorium 
 
 
 
The Spotlight Report is published by the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Global Policy Forum (GPF), Public Services International (PSI), Social Watch, Society for International Development (SID), and Third World Network (TWN), supported by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.